Decoding the Digital

This time last week, Catharine and I attended the joint DPC and BL Preservation Advisory Centre workshop: Decoding the Digital . So, what was it all about? Well, Caroline Peach began by explaining their intentions in putting the event on. Much is similar between traditional collection care and digital preservation, so rather than differentiating between our work, we were encouraged to build on and learn lessons from each other’s practices.

The theme of the day – defining a common language – helped make sure these intersections were addressed. Gareth Knight spoke about InSPECT and their work on significant properties. He acknowledged this to be a very opaque digital preservation term, but promptly gave a clear definition: they’re the characteristics you feel must be preserved for your data to remain accessible, usable etc. Our talk, given by Catharine, also reflected on the language being used, as we’ve found many researchers are bamboozled by terms such as ‘digital curation’ and ‘data management’. As William Kilbride concluded, we’ve spent the last 10 years working on this and have managed to make it harder for other to get started by using such fancy words to express ourselves!

There were several useful talks for our project, specifically Joel Eaton’s explanation of the points to consider when choosing file formats and Alexandra Everleigh’s pragmatic description of how to curate digital material on virtually no budget and little practical experience. I found these a very encouraging case for action. Procrastination and theorising won’t save digital material. Even if we’re not certain of the right approach (and can we ever be?), we need to take some practical action. The kind of guidance and support we’re aiming for will have the same ‘no-nonsense’ approach.

Thanks to DPC, BLPAC and all the speakers for giving us more ideas.

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