Friday, February 27, 2009

Digital Preservation Matters - 27 February 2009

Understanding PREMIS. Priscilla Caplan. Library of Congress. February 1, 2009. [pdf]

This is an overview of the PREMIS, the preservation metadata standard. There are different types of metadata, descriptive, administrative, structural, and preservation metadata which supports activities intended to ensure the long-term usability of a digital resource. Preservation metadata is "the information a repository uses to support the digital preservation process." PREMIS is not concerned with discovery and access, nor does it try to define detailed format-specific metadata. It defines only that metadata commonly needed to perform preservation functions on all materials; the focus is on the repository system and its management. It can also be a checklist for evaluating possible software purchases. It looks at pieces of information, not elements, which are ways of representing information in a system.

“One of the main principles behind PREMIS is that you need to be very clear about what you are describing.” PREMIS defines five kinds of entities: Intellectual Entities, Objects, Agents, Events and Rights. It also talks about file objects, representation objects, and bitstream objects. It expects that information will be transferred in XML formats.

Preservation at the Network Level: Challenges, Opportunities. Constance Malpas. OCLC. ALA Presentation. January 29, 2009.

Institutional value of print collections is being reassessed as scholarly workflows move to the Web. Digital preservation infrastructure addresses the survival of the content, but doesn’t change the value of print as a distribution medium. Large institutions are shifting resources to digital preservation, while smaller institutions rely on agreements for print preservation. The

MARC 583 tag (Preservation Action Note) is under consideration as a disclosure mechanism. There are 400,000 MARC 583 tags in WorldCat, representing 1 million library holdings. The tags indicate titles for which some type of physical or digital preservation action is scheduled or has already been performed (microfilming, digitization, web archiving, assessment, repair, re-housing, de- acidification, etc.) The greatest challenge may be workflow integration between preservation and technical services. Preservation & Digitization Actions: MARC 583

Fresh start for lost file formats. BBC News. 13 February 2009.

A European project intends to create a universal emulator that can open and play obsolete formats. With this, they hope to ensure that digital materials such as games, websites and multimedia documents are not lost. This will require constant updating to make sure that formats are supported in the future. "Every digital file risks being either lost by degrading or by the technology used to 'read' it disappearing altogether." Without this we risk a “blank spot” in history. “Britain's National Archive estimates that it holds enough information to fill about 580,000 encyclopaedias in formats that are no longer widely available.” They believe that in the long term, emulation is a more workable solution than migration to new formats, which also runs the risk of data corruption and loss.

Probing Question: Can we save today's documents for tomorrow? Adam Eshleman. February 12, 2009.

General article about the difficult of saving digital files. At Penn State, preserving e-mail and text messages is one of the University’s greatest priorities, and especially electronic communications from high-profile people, like the university president. “These files will one day become important historical documents.” Previous presidential papers are on paper, but for the future they will be on a server. “It’s a different research paradigm.” Preserving digital files is not a onetime event. It requires ongoing decisions to keep them readable. There are steps we can take to preserve electronic documents, but there are currently no final answers.

Digital Archivists, Now in Demand. Conrad De Aenlle. The New York Times. February 7, 2009.

Pre-digital information and records need to be adapted to computers and current information needs. “The people entrusted to find a place for this wealth of information are known as digital asset managers, or sometimes as digital archivists and digital preservation officers. Whatever they are called, demand for them is expanding.” Much of their effort is devoted to organizing and protecting material in digital form. Familiarity with information technology is necessary, but there is more to it than that. The need for people in these fields is expected to triple over the next decade, in the public and private sectors.