[LINK] archive.org.au

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Tue Nov 27 21:37:23 AEDT 2012

Marghanita writes,

> I like the emergence of the role of "Curators" ..

Hooray, we’re digital natives – so who preserves our culture?

By Andrew Wilson & Sue McKemmish, The Conversation 

It’s estimated that in 2011 a truly staggering 1.8 zettabytes of digital 
information was created. Or to put it in more meaningful terms, that’s 
57.5 billion 32-gigabyte iPads full.

Recent articles about this “digital deluge” warn of an approaching 
“digital dark age” if this vast amount of digital information isn’t 
preserved for posterity.

The old refrain that “storage is cheap, just keep everything” was never 
true. Recently the global market intelligence firm IDC estimated that the 
world’s demand for storage is increasing by 60% a year.

Given market research firm IHS iSuppli estimates hard disk storage 
densities will only improve by 19% a yearfor the next five years, and IT 
budgets are growing at an annual rate between 0 and 2%, there is clearly 
a looming storage crisis.

The challenges involved in preserving the huge datasets created by 
governments, businesses and research institutions have prompted some dire 
predictions about the loss of digital history.

Doomsayers suggest the only solution is the frequent transfer of data 
from device to device. Some even propose conversion to paper or 
microfiche. But there are no paper or analogue equivalents for many forms 
of digital information, such as the data generated by environmental 
sensors (e.g. wave heights, river flows) and GPS tracking devices.

The challenges are both more complex and less daunting than depicted.

Clearly, not all digital information can or should be kept – much of it 
is “ephemeral” or of short-term value. But much is of continuing value as 
collective memory, and vital evidence of our identity and our past.

The first of the digital challenges we face relates to what to preserve 
as digital cultural heritage. Who decides, and using which criteria? Once 
we’ve decided, how can we preserve it, keep it secure, guarantee its 
authenticity, ensure its accessibility and maintain its meaning over long 
periods of time?

Trusted digital repositories around the world use a mix of strategies. 
They address pressing issues of software and hardware obsolescence, media 
degradation, and bit rot (changes at the level of individual atoms).

Migration across systems and platforms is being coupled with conversion 
to more stable and long-lived data formats. This strategy lengthens the 
intervals between the format transfers necessary to avoid obsolescence.

Encapsulation techniques wrap digital objects in layers of metadata that 
identify, describe and index them. Accessibility and meaning are thereby 

Audit trails of use, instructions that trigger migration, re-formatting 
and preservation action, and digital signatures that testify to an 
object’s authenticity are also captured.

Australasian archival institutions have been at the forefront of research 
and development efforts to preserve digital information.

The Australasian Digital Recordkeeping Initiative (ADRI) is a 
collaboration between all the government archives in Australia and New 
Zealand. Its innovative specification for transferring digital records 
between recordkeeping systems across organisations will be issued soon 
through CEN, the European standards body.

The Commonwealth Government initiative ANDS (the Australian National Data 
Service) is building theAustralian Research Data Commons. In the Commons, 
once invisible, isolated and unmanaged data collections will be 
structured, connected, findable and reusable.

VERS, the Victorian Electronic Records Strategy, was developed by the 
Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV).

It was one of the first operational digital archives in the world, going 
live in 2005. Innovative features include use of digital signatures to 
guarantee authenticity.

Encapsulation of digital records with metadata carries their meaning and 
context forward through time.

In Europe and the UK, governments have supported the development of 
groundbreaking digital preservation tools and services. In 2008-10 the 
European Commission funded the PLANETS project developed a unique 
planning tool, PLATO, for managing digital preservation workflows.

Also in the UK, from 2005 to 2007, the JISC funded the PARADIGM project 
at the University of Oxford which delivered an exemplar workbook for 
preservation of digital personal archives. SCAPE, co-funded by JISC and 
the European Commission, is developing scalable tools to preserve large 
heterogeneous digital collections.

Cloud computing facilities are seen by some as the solution to the 
massive data storage problems being faced by many organisations. While 
current commercial business models may provide for short-term data 
storage, recent reports by archival authorities point to the associated 

They include lack of business continuity, technology obsolescence, 
threats to data integrity and security and high bandwidth costs.

Information may also be vulnerable to disclosure under legislation such 
as the US Patriot Act, which applies to data stored by any US-owned 
company wherever the storage facility is located.

In the current model, the risks in putting digital information of 
continuing value in the cloud are too high. But in the future the storage 
strategies employed in cloud-computing facilities (multiple locations, 
shared storage, technical adaptability) might combine creatively with the 
features being pioneered in trusted digital repositories (long-term 
access, authenticity, protection against technological obsolescence).

Trusted digital repository and archival services will be delivered 
seamlessly via distributed systems.

The final challenge is perhaps the most daunting of all. Over the 
centuries societies have invested heavily in theGLAM sector, building the 
galleries, libraries, archives and museums that preserve our material 
heritage. Today huge amounts of money are being spent on the technologies 
that create the digital deluge in the short-term.

But, so far, investment in the infrastructure needed to preserve our 
digital cultural heritage is a drop in the ocean.

Many of the solutions to the challenges of digital preservation have been 
developed or are in the pipeline.

More and sustained investment in digital continuity would enable scaling 
of these solutions to support a resilient digital cultural heritage.



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