William Kilbride

William Kilbride

Last updated on 21 December 2021

As the song goes, 'it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas', but not any old Christmas: it’s beginning to look a lot like 2020 again.

Granted I am farther behind this year even than last, in part because we’ve been isolating and just a bit distracted lately. (I’ll spare the details except to say the supermarket delivery driver didn’t want his crates back.) I also don’t really remember the stresses and strains of 2020. My self-preserving brain seems to have erased the worst so all I can bring to mind are the kindnesses and patience elicited by that first pandemic Christmas. As for 2021, I find myself staring at a small pile of Christmas cards for close friends and family completely at a loss as to what to write.

This blog is a poor replacement for the DPC Christmas card this year.

Can DPC help me cheer the cold winter away? Probably yes – it’s been a very impressive year . 2020-21 was the busiest year for new members since the DPC’s foundation, with greater geographic range (for the first time we have members in Finland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa) and greater diversity (including three museums, an audio-visual archive, a local authority, and a financial services firm). The network effect of membership – more members mean a better experience for all – is evident in the expanding capacity of our growing staff team. A slate of development projects (see Fair Forever?, DIAGRAM Evaluation, Novice to Know-How 2 and phase two of our work with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) have allowed us to amplify and extend research and good practice in digital preservation. And did I mention we been granted charitable status, designed the future of our office in Melbourne and almost by accident added an office in the Netherlands? A good year all round.

It’s an appropriate moment to be reflective on the DPC as an organization. Almost 20 years ago to the day, the group which would become the DPC Board wrapped up their work. The meeting in London on the afternoon of the 20th December 2001 reviewed a final draft of the Articles of Association which had been in preparation for several months. No "showstoppers" had been identified by members' legal advisers and minor points raised were incorporated in the revised text which was declared complete. The record states that ‘ALL AGREED to sign as soon as possible.’ Plans were advanced for a launch event in late February 2002 and a work plan agreed for the year.

All of that is prologue for what has followed since, and for what is yet to come. DPC enters its 20th year in good shape. Plans for the year ahead are well formed. Here’s taste of what will follow.

January is sub-committee election month – where we invite new entrants onto the 5 thematic sub-committees that oversee our work in detail. We’ll be looking for volunteers in January and confirming all of that early in February.

We’ll also be in touch in early January asking members if they can share a short video – really very short – about their work in digital preservation and what membership of the DPC means to them. We’ll compile these into a video which we will publish at the end of February.

Also, in January we’ll set up the ‘Twitter World Cup of digital preservation’ – to run for the month of February. If you’re not already following the DPC staff on twitter, then maybe this will tempt you.

We had thought to mark the 20th Anniversary of the DPC’s launch with a reception back at the Palace of Westminster where it all kicked off in February 2002. It’s not just the pandemic which has caused us to think again about that: while a gala reception for members in the grand chambers of Westminster be wonderful, it would also exclude a significant proportion of the membership (did I mention Singapore or Finland or Israel or New Zealand or South Africa?) So, to use last year’s cliché, we’ll pivot to digital: watch this space for an online celebration in the last week of February.

The Digital Preservation Awards will also be back in 2022 with an expanded programme to mark the special anniversary. We’ll open the call for nominations at the end of February too, encouraging members to suggest nominations, vote on favourites and lead the decision-making process.

2022 sees the start of a new strategic plan for the DPC. This is the mandate we have from our members so it’s core to all our work. The draft plan is in great shape already, endorsed by the Council at the start of December, and built on the hard work of our 5 sub-committees over the last year or so. We’ll share it with stakeholders and supporters in the new year for consultation and input, with one final big consultation ahead of endorsement in June and implementation in August.

All of that will lead to the highpoint of the year: iPres here in Glasgow in September. I suppose it’s a gift back to the world from the DPC and its members, inviting the global digital preservation community to our home city to join us as we celebrate twenty years together. The call for contributions opened on 1st December and the conference opens on 12th September. We’ll launch our new strategic plan, celebrate the Digital Preservation Awards and mark our 20th anniversary in a busy but joyous burst of activity. I dearly want that to be a face-to-face event because I am beginning to forget what that is like: but we’re alive to the public health advice and anxieties about travel (not to mention the environmental costs). So there will be strong online components and we’re not averse to hosting online if the situation demands it. In any case, the period between now and then will be paved with announcements, arrangements and reviews to keep us all busy.

It won’t stop there. World Digital Preservation Day at the start of November will give us another chance to mark the work of the last twenty years. Our hope is that we’ll be able to share the published outputs from iPres at the start of November. Six weeks is a tight turnaround but we’ve learned from our consultants that if you don’t set an ambitious and explicit goal the energy can dissipate and the effectiveness of the published proceedings can be eroded.

So here’s to restful holidays for you and yours. A merry Christmas and a Good New Year: we’ve never deserved them more eh? Despite the pandemic and lockdown and false starts and a few false prophets too, it’s been a good year for the DPC.

As with 2002 this is all prologue. The best years lie ahead.

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