16th international conference on digital preservation: iPRES2019 reflections

Amsterdam Skyline: so many vapour trails

During the week of 16-20 September I attended the 16th international conference on digital preservation (iPRES2019) in Amsterdam. The first challenge was the daunting prospect of the 24-hour journey to get to Amsterdam from Melbourne, Australia… For those interested, helpful suggestions I received to combat the effects of jet lag included:

  1. The use of melatonin (thanks Peter Neish!)
  2. Trying out the Timeshifter app (thanks Matthew Burgess!)
  3. Movies, books, alcohol, plenty of water, fruit and sleep (thanks Micky Lindlar!)
  4. Pulling two all-nighters in a row before flying (thanks Ben Kreunen!)
  5. Be like David Boon. “Drink heavily on plane, stay drunk rest of time. David Boon averaged 55 on the tour where he drank 52 cans of beer on the flight over. A lesson for us all.” (thanks David Groenewegen!)

The University of Melbourne enterprise architecture-digital preservation collaboration

The University of Melbourne crew (me & my colleagues Lyle Winton and Sean Turner) put together a presentation on our enterprise architecture and digital preservation collaboration work. Chuffed to see this made it into Jenny Mitcham’s armchair iPRES highlights! And yes. We used personal emoji in our slides. Lots of emoji.



Australasia Preserves poster presentation

I also put together a video and a digital poster all about the Australasia Preserves digital preservation community of practice. The poster got an honourable mention in the poster competition (hooray!) which was won by the fabulous Sarah Middleton and Sharon McMeekin for their poster, Engaging Decision makers: An Executive Guide on Digital Preservation.


A few highlights

A caveat for this section: I didn’t get to half of what I wanted to in terms of sessions during the conference, and here follows, in no particular order, some interesting sessions I was able to get to that made an impression on me. For lots more info on great work being done around the world, take a look at the iPRES2019 program, and browse through the collaborative notes.

Preserving Complex Digital Objects workshop

In this workshop we broke up into groups, self-selecting broad areas (advocacy and building a business case; preservation planning; risk management; depositor agreement) to focus on for preserving Breathe, the digital ghost story by Kate Pullinger, designed to be read on a mobile phone. The many interactive elements and external dependencies that Breathe takes advantage of presents a lot of elements to think about when attempting to usefully preserve such a work. There are collaborative notes for this workshop for more details and outcomes from each of the groups.

FAIR and trustworthy repositories

Working in a university context with research data firmly in our remit for digital preservation, I’m really interested in exploring connections between the FAIR principles and trustworthy repositories so it was good to see some work in this area presented by Mustapha Mokrane (Data Archiving and Networked Services) and Jonas Recker (GESIS Data Archive for the Social Sciences).

Collaborative digital preservation and shared specifications

Together Forever, or How We Created a Common and Collaborative Digital Preservation Service presented by Johan Kylander (CSC – IT Center for science) shared a unified model for digital preservation capabilities in Finland between archives, libraries, and museums. The paper presents how digital preservation services were designed, the visible products from the user’s point of view, and how the services are managed in cooperation with partner organizations. I particularly found interesting the sharing of common specifications, developed in collaboration with data curators, including Metadata Requirements and Preparing Content for Digital Preservation and File Formats.

Bayesian statistical approach to risk by The National Archives (UK)

I actually didn’t get to this poster due to being busy presenting my own poster at the same time, but am fascinated by this work offered by The National Archives (UK). They are aiming to “map and explain the complex and shifting digital preservation risk environment using Bayesian networks…[and to] evaluate a Bayesian statistical approach to understanding, managing and reducing digital preservation risk”. This is one paper of many I’ll be delving into and thinking about over the coming months.

Keynote: Michelle Caswell

Michelle Caswell’s keynote presentation invited us to explore feminist standpoint epistemology, and our positionality in our roles as digital preservationists, particularly given that we deal with issues of selection and appraisal with the work we do in preserving digital materials.


The future of iPRES working group

The iPRES working group is actively exploring the future of the iPRES conference, and the way that it is governed and run. Checkout the recording for more info on this initiative, and take a look at the working group folder for outputs and work to date.

Setting up open access repositories: challenges and lessons from Palestine

I very much enjoyed hearing about this work focussed on methodology, solutions, and challenges developing open access institutional repositories and research data management services at four universities in Palestine, presented by Rawia Awadallah. The lessons learned are aimed to be of use to other developing countries seeking to increase visibility of their research outputs and build researchers’ skills and capabilities in data management and digital preservation, and highlights the value to be gained and further connections to be made by sharing increasingly more diverse international offerings at conferences like iPRES.

Amsterdam City Archives visit

On the last day of the conference week, professional visits were arranged, and I ended up at the Amsterdam City Archives. An austere building well worth a visit if you find yourself in town. I particularly loved hearing about Mirjam Schaap’s (@archivebychance) work with student activists’ archives and participatory archiving experiences.


Other fun stuff

Euan Cochrane spearheaded the creation of a crowd-sourced digital preservation conference bingo card. And of course iPRES wouldn’t be the same without the new addition of games, both last year and this year! This year brings us Ross Spencer’s “Nibble in Cyberspace: #Digipres Adventures, Volume 1” with the inspiring message, “you can’t beat entropy, but you can fight it as long as you try”. Also, good ol’ fashioned in-person conference boardgames.

Digital preservation conference bingo card
Nibble in Cyberspace: #Digipres Adventures, Volume 1 https://twitter.com/beet_keeper/status/1171445095171645440?s=20

In conclusion, iPRES remains for me a conference full of people and projects that inspire me to continue to work in this field, and also to continue to explore the varied research and development work being done by practitioners and researchers all around the world.

The Eye Filmmuseum, host venue of iPRES2019




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