Monday, March 28, 2016

Translating theory to practice : defining digital preservation planning in museums

Translating theory to practice : defining digital preservation planning in museum. Emma Palakika James. Thesis, San Francisco State University. January 2016. [PDF, 292 pp.]
    A very interesting thesis looking at digital preservation as an emerging activity in museums today. Some of the chapters discuss Threats to Digital Objects; What is Digital Preservation? (including the basics, OAIS, Trusted Digital Repository, methods; case studies, and Digital Preservation Policy.  Some notes of interest:
  •  The development of technology as a tool for work, research, information capture, and artistic expression, as well as the increasing percentage of important cultural materials created only in digital form, argues that museums must begin to focus on digital preservation.
  • Four key themes are discussed, including 
    • defining digital preservation,
    • integration of digital preservation technology, 
    • collaboration, and 
    • policy development
  • currently, digital preservation remains a new, and not-broadly practiced activity in museums. 
  • The practice of digital preservation will become increasingly important to the museum field, and should be considered with the same responsibility and effort as traditional museum collection management. 
  • If museums are going to continue their role as well-equipped stewards for the cultural heritage of today and of our future, then digital preservation will need to be adopted within the broader scope of museum work.
  • digital preservation in a museum context must be viewed and implemented from a collections management perspective.
  • In some form or another, eventually all museums will adopt digital technology into their institutional assets, museum archives, and museum collections, all of which will continually be expected to be cared for and preserved just as long as any analog collections.
  • While digitization was the very beginning of increased public access to collections, digital preservation is simply the flip side of ensuring ongoing access — providing consistent entry to information that is already manifested in digital form. 
  • If access to collections is becoming a mainstreamed part of the Museum’s responsibility, the ongoing access to born-digital institutional assets is also certainly worthy of consideration. 
  • Storage has been the default long term preservation strategy used by museums for traditional collections, but it is the shortest-term solution for new media
  • American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works: “every institution has a responsibility to safeguard the collections that are entrusted to it. That responsibility includes incorporating preservation and conservation awareness into all facets of the institution’s activities so as to ensure the long-term preservation of its collections”
  • active digital preservation tactics should be accessible, manageable, and realistic solutions.
  • Collaboration is necessary to ensure preservation and especially if the museum field wants to improve itsstewardship of digital materials
  • collaboration between libraries, archives, and museums will be a critical factor for whether the greater museum field can achieve digital preservation to the level of a ‘Trusted Digital Repository,’ which arguably, is the ideal level of preservation for medium to long-term stewardship. 
  • Together, LAMs can ensure that ‘bom-digital’ documents and artifacts become integrated into the cultural record through various levels of digital preservation activity that will help to keep them accessible, and to become a permanent part of the cultural memory of future generations.
  • most museum collection management policies do not address the issues of digital preservation or digital stewardship.
  • the need to draft and implement a digital preservation policy is of equal importance to that of collection management policy for a museum.
  • a full-formed policy is a way for the staff, and hopefully eventually upper management, to organize the overall mission, goals, scope, staff roles, and basic procedures. This may help better define how the staff can tackle digital preservation, making it a less intimidating process and to also document its official initiation 
  • the technology the three case studies falls into three categories: digital asset management systems, OAIS compliant software, and storage media.
  • is a digital asset is not a digital preservation system in of itself, because a DAMS does not usually follow the specific recommendations for metadata, fixity checks, and formats that are put forth by Trusted Digital Repository model, OAIS and other standards
  • Digital preservation systems ultimately are a set of processes, protocols, and policies that are most often mediated with some technological aspect to aid in creating information packages suitable for long-term storage
  • Digital preservation is not just a technology problem, but it is a management issue. 
  • Policy is a tangible method for institutions to outline the management support of their preservation activities
The thesis includes five conclusions concerning the state of digital preservation in museums:
  1. preservation is possible; 
  2. standards, guidelines, and best practices are already available, but use wisely; 
  3. embrace new practices in policy;
  4. collaboration will be key for success; and 
  5. embrace change and act now.
“To create a collection, to inherit one, or to be given oversight of a collection, is also to create, inherit, or accept a great responsibility”

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