iPRES conference reflections: People, connections, and opportunity

This blog post was originally written for the iPRES 2019 blog as part of the “WhyPRES” feature series, aiming to share experiences from past iPRES conference goers with the wider digital preservation community. 

Jaye’s iPRES belt notches

I feel very privileged to have three notches on my iPRES digital preservation conference belt: Bern (2016), Kyoto (2017), and Boston (2018) – thus completing one full iPRES conference-zone hop around the globe (Europe to Australasia to the Americas).

Bern, iPRES 2016

When I reflect on my iPRES conference experiences, three interrelated elements are in play: people, connections, and opportunity. At the time of Bern’s iPRES2016, I was new to the digital preservation field, sharing a poster presentation of the University of Melbourne’s ten-year digital preservation strategy and attending as many conference sessions as possible (while trying not to embarrass myself with overexpression of awe at sightings of various digital preservation superstars). After contributing 12-odd years of my life to a very different career, I was grateful for the many digital preservation colleagues who willingly offered me their time and made me feel that my contributions to the field were welcomed.

The University of Melbourne’s poster submission for iPRES2016

I attended valuable sessions on stewardship that directly contributed to my work at the University of Melbourne – notably “Will Today’s Data Be Here Tomorrow? Measuring the Stewardship Gap” and “What Makes a Digital Steward: A Competency Profile Based on the National Digital Stewardship Residencies”. Also particularly of note was the model for a National Approach to Digital Preservation in the Netherlands (with a workshop also presented the following year at iPRES 2017 focusing on practical implementations of the model for a network of distributed facilities). I still find the Dutch approach an impressive piece of work, one that I consider to be a potential starting point for any national investigations of how digital preservation services could evolve. iPRES excels at providing a forum for high-level thinking on the future of digital stewardship and preservation for the benefit of many different people and organisations.

Kyoto, iPRES 2017

By 2017 the University of Melbourne’s digital preservation project was in full swing, and the university invested in membership of the Digital Preservation Coalition. We were thus eligible to apply for a DPC Leadership Programme scholarship, which I was delighted to be awarded. The scholarship enabled me to attend iPRES2017 in Kyoto, where I experienced the enthusiasm and drive of the DPC team and all they seek to achieve on behalf of the digital preservation community. I was able to attend valuable sessions on preservation storage and acquisition and appraisal. I discovered Lauren Work and Heidi Kelly’s “Documentation to the People: Building Empathy into Technical Documentation for Digital Archiving” – their case “that by creating documentation that is underpinned by empathy for ourselves, our users, and those in our archives, we will improve our community, our tools and software, and our practices” is one that resonates strongly for me.

DPC Scholarship Holders at iPRES2017

Boston, iPRES 2018

For iPRES2018 in Boston, my iPRES experience changed again following an invitation from Nancy McGovern to join the organising team. Working behind the scenes of a conference is both challenging and rewarding, particularly in terms of the innovations that the team generated in 2018: the first code of conduct, ad hoc sessions (lighting talks, digital preservation graphics), the game room sessions, and digital-only posters.

The iPRES2018 Organising Team busting out some epic celebrations

iPRES is the best (educational) excuse for a shindig I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in my professional career. I look forward to it every year, particularly as it enables me to extend and strengthen my connections in the digital preservation field. I’ve gotten a better handle on who likes gin, who likes beer, and who likes tea (these things are important). I think that iPRES2019 in Amsterdam is the next great opportunity to be energised by the passion and dedication that digital preservation people bring to the grand challenges of curating and preserving the earthly record in all its bits and pieces.

 

Image credits

  1. iPRES belt notches, image designed by Rhys Weatherburn
  2. Ten-year Strategy for Digital Preservation poster, The University of Melbourne
  3. DPC Scholarship holders, picture by William Kilbride 
  4. iPRES2018 Organising Team, picture by Jaye Weatherburn

An Apprenticeship on Steroids: Preserving Digital Materials The Third

I was inspired to write this blog post thanks to New Cardigan’s Glam Blog Club October 2017 theme, “How I Ended Up Here”. When I saw the theme, I immediately thought: how did I end up co-writing a book, just a year after finally graduating from information management school? How did I get here? This post seeks to answer this question, and introduce a project I’ve been working on for the last year: a tome called Preserving Digital Materials (the third edition).

I am not a new professional in the strict sense of the phrase, having had a long-ish first career in television broadcasting. Writing the third edition of this book has been an apprenticeship on steroids – a great way to learn a lot about the important and exciting digital preservation field, in a very short time frame.

The short version of how I got here involves serendipity, luck, and perseverance. The perseverance part involved a meandering career change while still paying the bills with television work. I first studied teaching English as a foreign language, then professional writing, before settling on a Master of Information Management degree, with a lot of volunteering thrown in to help me best find my corner of the info universe. I love wrangling digital information, and I’ve always been fascinated by long-term thinking, so digital preservation is a perfect fit for me. As for serendipity and luck, one of my (many) volunteering gigs with the Australian Library Journal introduced me to then-editor Ross Harvey. When Ross was contemplating kicking off with the third edition of Preserving Digital Materials and looking for a co-author, I was in the right place at the right time. I was able to bring to the book different professional experience, and different ways of thinking – television is a colourful, competitive, and challenging world, with many transferable skills (collaboration and communication are two of the most immediate that come to mind).

The first two editions of this book were written by Ross. The first was based on interviews he undertook with Australian information professionals in the year 2005, thus it had a very national focus. The second edition in 2012 branched out further afield – it added various international projects and perspectives. It has been a fascinating experience, looking back over 17 years and seeing what has changed in the digital world – and what is still the same.

PDM3CoverThis third edition (to be published in March 2018 by US-based publisher Rowman & Littlefield) is an altogether different beast again. It has had a significant structural overhaul, and it is very internationally focussed. New stakeholders feature as a key focus, as digital preservation is no longer a niche area mainly of interest to cultural heritage institutions. New players are entering the scene and it is a welcome change, bringing many opportunities and also inevitable challenges. Initiatives such as International Digital Preservation Day from the Digital Preservation Coalition are increasingly publicly focussed, while still catering to the interests of traditional information organisations. Initiatives like these helpfully drive a positive digital preservation agenda to a wider range of people, and we have documented this changing paradigm in the book.

I very much hope this book is of use to both information professionals dealing with long-term management of digital materials, and others from different fields who are interested in learning more about the importance of stewarding digital materials into the future.

Another big thank you goes out to all my friends and family who put up with me during this process and are still hanging around. I promise one day soon I will have a social life again. Unless the fourth edition of this book needs writing a lot sooner than expected…