Brendan Power

Brendan Power

Last updated on 28 October 2022

Brendan Power is Born-Digital Archive Preservation Librarian at Trinity College Library Dublin.

iPres 2022 was my first in-person attendance at the conference. My first role in digital preservation began a couple of months before the outbreak of COVID-19 so it was great to meet and interact with colleagues at an in-person event. The first thing that struck me when reflecting on iPres 2022 was that being an in-person event really helped to make manifest that community is really at the heart of what iPres and the Digital Preservation Coalition does.

The atmosphere at iPres was welcoming, friendly, supportive. The delegates I interacted with were generous with their time and knowledge and so willing to share their experiences with others. It was clear that as a community there was an acknowledgement that everyone is at different stages of their digital preservation journey. Those further along the journey were open to sharing their experiences, honest about the challenges they faced, and generous with offering their learnings. The attendees I met also highlighted to me that digital preservation is a global concern that impacts upon any industry or sector you can think of. I met delegates from national libraries and archives, universities, businesses, banks, charities, government departments and agencies, and many more. We all face the same challenges, and it was heartening to be surrounded by so many like-minded people working towards a common aim.

When discussing digital preservation practices with others at the conference it was perhaps unsurprising that benchmarking was consistently highlighted as useful to identify points of comparison and areas for development. Numerous presentations mentioned existing resources such as the NDSA’ Levels of Digital Preservation, DPC RAM (Rapid Assessment Model), and the DPC Competency Framework which make the process of identifying strengths and areas for improvement an achievable goal in a reasonable amount of time. From the iPres conference it seemed that there was enthusiasm for these more lightweight models and frameworks in comparison with the other, more formal accreditation models that exist. These lightweight models are easier to implement and can provide more rapid feedback which is very useful in identifying where an organisation is at and as an advocacy tool. From talking with attendees, I think we are often tempted to assess our practices against advanced metrics which can be beneficial in setting our ambitions high but potentially limiting as the scale of the challenge can be seen as overwhelming when the aim is focused on “best practice”. At iPres 2022 there was a lot of mentions of “good practice”, which I think encapsulates a more flexible approach and one more easily achieved. I think “good practice” implicitly acknowledges that your practices must be guided by the ambitions that you have set and not just a pre-defined set of criteria. Those ambitions need to be implemented in your specific institutional context, considering local circumstances such as allocation of staff time, and the resources that are available. Incremental developments have a cumulative effect, and it was great to hear so many delegates sharing their experiences of these. 


The programme of iPres was a great mixture. There were presentations on specific projects, the use of specific tools, and the implementation of specific practices. These were aligned with presentations which situated these practices within larger contexts and socio-political frameworks. It is always important to remember that digital preservation does not occur in a vacuum, isolated from the rest of the world, and that global issues are brought to bear on our practices. There were presentations that touched on the impact of large tech companies, the growth of data centres, and the impact of digital preservation on climate action. Other presentations highlighted issues of race and gender and were a salutary reminder that we cannot divorce our work from the wider social and political contexts in which we are acting. It highlighted to me that in memory institutions our day-to-day practices aim to enact preservation of the content we are charged with caring for, but we need to be cognisant of whose voices are not being represented in our collections. A focus on the practicalities of preservation is vital to ensure their longevity but we must also have a focus on the wider context of our collecting policies. Our conception of what constitutes archival material and who is represented in the archive should be in constant evolution. We need to be willing to play a role in the formulation of new research paradigms and to reimagine traditional ones. Our collecting polices and what we preserve have a massive impact upon future research. Archival collections are the evidentiary base enabling the emergence of new scholarship and as such are active producers of meaning.


In terms of organisation, the hybrid model allowed those who were not in a position to attend in-person and it was great that they could both give presentations and contribute to presentations through their online questions. I think that facilitating this model can aid in opening-up access to those who otherwise may not be able to attend. As an in-person delegate it was also great to be able to revisit the presentations after iPres. In some cases that was watching a presentation that ran simultaneous to one I attended, but also revisiting presentations that I attended to get clarity on a point that was made. The ability to do this is a real benefit to the digital preservation community. It is often the case that the subject of a presentation is not fully relevant to your work until after the event and the ability to go back and revisit a presentation can be really helpful and hopefully making recordings available after the event will become standard practice. I should finally acknowledge and thank the DPC for their outstanding organisation of the event. From beginning to end they were unfailing in their assistance and hospitality. I came away better informed and with renewed enthusiasm about digital preservation and hope to be able to attend iPres again in the future.

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