Thursday, March 16, 2017

Creating the disruptive digital archive

Creating the disruptive digital archive. John Sheridan. Digital Preservation Coalition. 1 March 2017.
     The National Archives has been working on a new Digital Strategy. "Digital" is their biggest strategic challenge. Archives worldwide are "grappling with the issues of preserving digital records. We also need to be relevant to our audiences: public, government, academic researchers and the wider archives sector – to provide value to them at a time of change."

Traditional archives are built around the physical nature of the records, but digital records "change all our assumptions around the archive – from selection to preservation and access". Their new Digital Strategy is to move beyond the digital simulation of physical records and to become a ‘disruptive’ digital archive, to be "digital by design".

The National Archives is currently a "fully functioning digital archive with a Digital Records Infrastructure capable of safely, securely and actively preserving very large quantities of data with associated descriptive metadata" which is applying the paper records paradigm of selection, preservation and access to digital records. This is their first generation archive.  The second generation digital archive they are aiming for is to be "digital by instinct and design":

  • rich mixed media content (things like websites), datasets, computer programs, even neural networks, as records not just information in document formats
  • ability to select and preserve all these types of things 
  • digital information has value in aggregate – that it’s not just individually important artefacts that have historical value. 
  • a relentless engineering effort to preserve digital objects that measures and manages the preservation risks
  • transparent in its practices
  • develops approaches for enabling access to the whole collection with regard to legal, ethical and public considerations. 
  • regards the archive as conceptually interconnected data.

"These are ambitious aims and there are many challenges we need to tackle along the way." Collaboration between archives and other institutions is essential in moving forward.

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