Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Collaborative Digital Preservation

Members of the MetaArchive Cooperative have published A Guide to Distributed Digital Preservation. From the introductory chapter:
Paradoxically, there is simultaneously far greater potential risk and far greater potential security for digital collections as compared to physical and print collections. Risk, because such collections are as ephemeral as the electrons with which they are written, and can be catastrophically lost because of both technical and human curatorial failures much more easily and quickly than our physical and print-based holdings. Security, because digital collections, unlike physical artifacts, can be indefinitely reproduced and preserved with perfect integrity and fidelity. For all intents and purposes, anything less than perfect continuity of digital collections implies complete corruption and loss of data. Thus we as cultural stewards must create fail-safe methods for protecting and preserving those collections that we deem to be of sufficient cultural and historical importance.

The apparatuses, policies, and procedures for preserving digital information are still emerging and the digital preservation field is still in the early stages of its formation. Cultural memory organizations are experimenting with a variety of approaches to both the technical and organizational frameworks that will enable us to succeed in offering the perfect continuity of digital data that we seek. However, most cultural memory organizations are today underprepared for the technical challenges incurred as they acquire, create, and preserve digital collections. …

The central assertion of the MetaArchive Cooperative, a recently established and growing inter-institutional alliance, is that cultural memory organizations can and should take responsibility for managing their digital collections, and that such institutions can realize many advantages in collaborative long term preservation and access strategies. This assertion is based both on the shared convictions of our members and on the successful results that MetaArchive has achieved in recent years through coordinated activities as a cooperative association (1-2).