Australasia Preserves at IDCC 2019

The Australasia Preserves digital preservation community of practice had a strong presence at the 2019 International Digital Curation Conference (IDCC 2019), which was held at the University of Melbourne, Australia (February 4-7 2019). This was the first time this conference has been held in the southern hemisphere.

The Australasia Preserves community of practice was founded in February 2018. During IDCC 2019, we celebrated the first year with an innovative ‘digital’ cake (made by our resident baker extraordinaire Kirsten Wright) and with dedicated sessions at the IDCC Unconference. The aim of these sessions was to brainstorm topics and ideas for the community to engage with during 2019. We discussed the challenges of providing sustainability for communities of practice and issues in digital preservation. We also reflected on how important it is to have people from multiple different sectors getting involved in Australasia Preserves. This diversity of people and organisations allows us to be open to new ideas and different opinions, something we feel is a real strength, and pivotal to the ongoing success of the community.

During the IDCC Unconference sessions, we decided to continue the successful monthly virtual online meetups that we held throughout 2018, featuring diverse speakers who shared their experience and challenges with digital preservation. Potential topics for 2019 included: tools and technology, training, policy and process.

The idea of initiating an Australasia Preserves digital preservation conference was proposed, particularly due to our geographical distance from many key digital curation and digital preservation conferences that take place internationally. We also reflected on the value in sharing works-in-progress, and the importance of finding ways to share failure – what happens when things don’t work, and how we can learn from this.

Many people at the Unconference sessions mentioned the safe space that Australasia Preserves provides for inquiry and interaction. We developed a code of conduct during 2018 with community input. We strive to make the online forum and the face-to-face events inclusive, supportive and enriching environments, where everyone can feel free to contribute and ask questions. We are a community of people at all levels of digital preservation knowledge and expertise, with emphasis on respect and collegiality through all our communications.

In other busy IDCC 2019 conference happenings, a small group of Australasia Preservers put together a digital preservation carpentry workshop. We are in the process of determining next steps for this work. I also shared more about the community in a lightning talk.

Within this emergent community of practice, we are discovering that the collective issues involved in digital preservation are bringing together people from a broad range of public and private sector organisations and institutions in Australasia. There are many differences between how these institutions are governed, how they run, and what their needs are for digital preservation, but there are also similarities. It is by fostering conversations about these differences and similarities that we are slowly but surely building connections to help drive digital preservation practice in our region for everyone.

Although most of our events have an Australasian focus, we welcome international members who are interested in contributing to our online forum and conversations, and learning more about happenings in this region. Local connections are important, but equally important is our connection to global efforts in digital preservation.




Digital preservation carpentry workshop at IDCC2019

At the very first meeting of the Australasia Preserves digital preservation community of practice in February 2018, there was discussion around the idea of developing “digital preservation carpentry” lessons. These lessons would be taught in the Library Carpentries style, focussing on hands-on activities and experimentation with tools to manage digital content for long-term preservation.

Throughout 2018 more discussion and activities revealed the importance of making sure we tightly coupled digital preservation concepts with tool experimentation, so that essential digital preservation elements such as authenticity and integrity could be clearly demonstrated. We also created a survey to find out what people were interested in learning most.

As a next step, a small group of us have put together some potential content for a digital preservation carpentry lesson. We are trialling this at a workshop as part of the 14th International Digital Curation Conference (IDCC2019).

Registration for the workshop is open until 21 January 2019 (you don’t have to be attending the whole IDCC conference to participate in the workshop). We encourage anyone with an interest to come along and contribute to the development of digital preservation carpentry.

Engaging with our future: the role of educators, practitioners, professional associations and employing organisations in the co-creation of information professionals

In this article for the last issue of the Australian Library Journal LIS educators Sue Reynolds, Bernadette Welch, and Mary Carroll investigate a passion-based approach to student learning. Their vision of enabling new information professionals by cultivating in them ‘passion, engagement, and citizenship’ is a bold and welcome one. They consider the shared role of library and information studies (LIS) educators, practitioners, employing organisations and the professional associations in the development of LIS graduates and new professionals.

Exploring alternative models for professional LIS

In this article for the last issue of the Australian Library Journal, Brenda Chawner and Gillian Oliver aim to stimulate discussion about whether the current structure of postgraduate library education, largely unchanged for over sixty years, is still the best option, given the ways in which professional library positions increasingly require specialised knowledge and skills.

Brenda and Gillian touch briefly on the history of training for librarians in education before discussing the changing nature of library work today, offering alternative models for LIS education to meet this changing landscape.

New Professionals’ Perspectives (3 of 3)

In her paper for the last issue of the Australian Library Journal, Celia Drummond writes about diversity in the library profession (Embracing diversity: when is a librarian not a librarian?) and about using traditional library skills in non-traditional roles.

Celia argues that LIS educators should better showcase the wide range of roles in different sectors that are available to librarian-trained graduates.

Slack and dispersed community building #digitalhumanities

Today I came across an article in the LSE Impact Blog titled How the Digital Humanities are using Slack to support and build a geographically dispersed intellectual community.

We’re still figuring out how Slack can be useful: Can it allow different kinds of conversations than Twitter? Can we use it to teach and support people interested in DH who don’t have mentors geographically near them, or who aren’t inside academia? Like Twitter, Slack allows coexisting formal use (posting job opportunities, discussing theories) with informal socializing (which is really part of professional work, since it lays good foundations for future collaboration and problem-solving).

Dr. Amanda Visconti

It got me thinking about the digital preservation world and global communication channels. I’ve had great Twitter conversations that result in sometimes weird but fun things. I actively follow worldwide developments, events, and conferences online from afar here in Australia. I’m lucky this year to be attending iPres 2016 to present the University of Melbourne’s digital preservation strategy which means I’ll get to meet and talk with the international digital preservation community in person.

But what if there was a dedicated global online channel for digital preservation discussion, debate, and mentoring? A two-way discovery and sharing flow?

Dr. Visconti reports on interesting uses of the digital humanities Slack channel:

A user creating a channel around their specific research interests, and chatting in that channel as a sort of live-blog of the different approaches they’re trying and how they address issues as they arise (other Slack members can read or ask questions in the channel, too)
If an interesting discussion on Twitter starts to feel stifled or miscommunicated because of Twitter’s size constraints, moving the conversation to the DH Slack allows more freedom while also keeping the conversation semi-public (it’s more public than moving to an email conversation, but anyone wanting to follow the conversation does need to join the DH Slack first)
Mentoring and socializing: I’ve seen Slack members walk each other through fixing a coding bug or suggest lesson plans, and we use the #weeklies channel for weekly sharing around a fun theme (e.g. what’s a book that changed your way of thinking?)
A user sharing a digital humanities method tutorial, then offering to be available on the DH Slack for a certain evening to answer any questions about the tutorial (with the idea that people are encouraged to try working through the tutorial, knowing they will have help if they get stuck or have a question)

I’m wondering, does anything like this exist for the digital preservation community currently? And if it doesn’t, would it work? Would it flourish?

Digital forensics and digital archiving

Computers today function as personal environments and extensions of self—we inhabit and customize our computers, and their desktops are the reflecting pool of our digital lives. The digital archivist, therefore, has much to learn from techniques that model the computer as a physical environment replete with potential evidence…(Kirschenbaum, Ovenden, & Redwine, 2010, p. 7)


Click to access pub149.pdf


I’m six years late getting to this publication, but the parallels drawn between the processes involved in digital forensics and the work of digital archivists makes for fascinating reading. It’s a great example to me of how to keep looking outside your own backyard for novel and interesting strategies that can be made useful for organising, preserving, and providing access to information.

Something that really spoke to me was this:

Perhaps the strongest point we can make is to reinforce the distinction between tools and procedures…Technology is expensive, but methodology is free.

This paper also mentions a JISC/NIPO study (written by Seamus Ross and Ann Gow) from 1999, called Digital Archaeology: Rescuing Neglected and Damaged Data Resources, calling it the:

…starting place for any cultural heritage professional interested in matters of forensics, data recovery, and storage formats… Although more than a decade old, the report remains invaluable.

The Forensics Wiki has a wealth of information for anyone interested in dipping into this field – Ross & Gow cite this as a possible avenue for encouraging cross-disclipline collaboration and sharing of practitioner skills between forensics and the cultural heritage community.



The National Library of Australia deserves better than this.

This is a backwards step that encourages a return to siloed, hard-to-find resources – not just for Australians, but for a growing worldwide cohort of supporters.

For the last year and a half, I was working to help support the collection and preservation of public policy research for a digital repository called Australian Policy Online (APO) based at Swinburne University of Technology.

The Australian National Innovation and Science Agenda is one of the many resources catalogued at APO. Being exposed to national agendas like this one has made me highly aware that a government that cannot support a significant service like Trove is not a government that supports innovation.

The National Innovation and Science Agenda states that innovation is:


…not just about new ideas, products and business models; innovation is also about creating a culture where we embrace risk, move quickly to back good ideas and learn from mistakes.


In December 2015 I was able to visit the Trove headquarters at the National Library of Australia. I got to see innovative projects being created with passion, dedication, and buckets of enthusiasm by a very small team more than willing to look outside the box when faced with inevitable digital challenges. Challenges that arise when you attempt to aggregate digital content from many disparate cultural sources and systems.

Tim Sherratt points to the value of Trove as being not just a portal, but a platform:


Portals are for visiting, platforms are for building on. All those hundreds of aggregated collections, all those millions of digitised newspaper articles are available in a form computers can understand via an API (Application Programming Interface). That means clever developers, innovative industries, hackers and tinkerers can take Trove’s data and BUILD NEW THINGS. BOOM! Ideas have to start somewhere, and Trove offers plenty to play with.


This lack of support from our political leadership signals a crisis for our nation’s knowledge workers. It will make access to information even harder for those in remote cities and towns, or those who are disadvantaged by social status. It will mean that some of our brightest minds who use the technical capabilities of Trove to improve society will be hampered.

If our government – our leaders – do not recognise the invaluable gateway to knowledge that Trove is, we must make some noise as cultural heroes and make them realise that knowledge is power, and those of us who can wield it will not go out without a fight.




OCLC Asia Pacific Regional Council Conference 2015

The seventh OCLC Asia Pacific Regional Council Conference was held at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, on 3-4 December 2015.

Over two days information workers from over 19 countries gathered to share success stories, challenges, and ideas about the future of libraries.

Bringing ideas from business and the world of corporate advertising, keynote speaker Dan Gregory asked an important question that can be useful to all GLAM sectors:

What is the tangible value that you are offering beyond the utilitarian, the merely functional? What is your value proposition?

Gregory also spoke of the importance of engaging communities in ways that enable them to feel ownership, rather than just obligation, and talked of the changes that hyper-connectivity has brought about, in particular how communities and groups can form from shared common values, rather than simply ethnic connections, or geographic location.

Global collaboration was a big theme of the conference, especially with so many different country representatives in attendance, including some from Europe and Canada.

Peter Green asked a great question on Twitter about librarians being good at collaboration generally, but wondering whether we are good at it outside our own circles? I’d love to see this question debated by a lively group of information people.

Lorcan Dempsey‘s thoughts on the networked world and the evolving scholarly record, especially new roles for publishers in thinking about and creating systems that provide workflows and services for the entire research lifecycle, were thought-provoking. I was especially struck by the notion that coordination at scale is required to build and maintain One Big Global Library.

One of my favourite moments of the conference was the answer to an audience question by David Whitehair.

Rather than engaging in an endless debate about schemas and standards, this answer for me succinctly demonstrates a flexible, forward-thinking approach to the challenges that metadata can create for digital records and discoverability.

For me the strongest theme running throughout the conference was that global collaboration is key to building our value propositions and our services so that our cultural institutions do not become extinct. To do this we must be able to foster creativity and innovative ideas by building spaces and time for them into business practices.