William Kilbride

William Kilbride

Last updated on 13 May 2020

Two weeks ago, DPC launched #DPConnect so that the global digital preservation community can stay connected through the lockdown. Last week, with support from colleagues at the UK National Archives, we were able to open our online training platform ‘Novice to Know-How’. This week we'll announce two further initiatives so that, when we return to work, members will be better connected and better informed to meet the digital preservation challenges in their own institutions.

Over the years DPC has generated a significant amount of insightful content in the context of our webinars and briefing days, many of which have been recorded. These are already available through the members’ area of the website and they are a real bonus for anyone looking to update or refresh professional skills while working from home. Add to this the numerous blog posts, the Technology Watch Reports, and numerous standalone guides like the Business Case Toolkit and the Executive Briefing Pack there’s so much content, and in so many different forms, that the size of the opportunity is not immediately obvious. Even members familiar with our work are surprised at just how much material there is. So, starting this week, we’re going to introduce a new series which we’re calling ‘The Greatest Hits’.

We’re calling it the greatest hits, but it’s probably more like a mix tape to share between friends. It’s going to be idiosyncratic and subjective, based on what we have to share rather than anything commissioned specially. It’s also going to be based on raw content, and we’re not proposing to remix things. From time to time you will here the ‘clunk’ as the tape recorder kicks in or the radio DJ talking as songs fade out.

Also, not everything will be available to everyone: by and large webinars and webcasts have been recorded for members and in many cases the presenters have not given permission for wider dissemination. So members will have to login to access some of the content. But we’ll share what we can with everyone, we’ll make sure that each edition includes a few free resources, and we’ll follow up to ask for permission to share more widely when we can.

It started with an OAIS

No line up of the greatest hits of digital preservation would be complete without the Open Archival Information Standard, OAIS, which arguably is the all-time greatest hit of digital preservation. DPC and OAIS are near contemporaries. The same processes which gave rise to the Coalition also gave rise to the OAIS which was published only a few months after the DPC’s first board meeting. So we’ve been tracking OAIS from the start. Our very first, and arguably most important, Technology Watch Report was Brian Lavoie’s ‘OAIS: an Introductory Guide’ which was published in 2004. By providing clear and accessible advice early, it can take some credit for helping get OAIS off the ground. The report was updated with a second edition in 2014 to take account of changes from the major review in 2012.

Here are my highlights from the DPC’s back catalogue on OAIS.

DPC Members & Supporters please log in to watch the recordings noted below

Introducing OAIS

  • Brian Lavoie introduced the second edition of his report at a webinar for DPC members in January 2015. It’s just under an hour long but it’s time well spent, providing a succinct and accessible introduction to OAIS. I recall participating in the webinar and, for the first time, really understanding how the Information Model, probably the least understood of the three models in OAIS, is critical.

  • DPC Technology Bytes: Brian Lavoie, OCLC Research introduces 'OAIS Introductory Guide (2nd Edition)' from Digital Preservation Coalition on Vimeo (please log in to view recording)

  • The full text of the second edition of the technology watch report is published here for follow up reading:


Using OAIS

Using or implementing OAIS has been one of the dominant themes for digital preservation practitioners over the years, and the DPC has hosted any number of webinars and face-to-face gatherings where the strengths and weakness of various approaches have been debated.

For example, a key feature of OAIS has been how to establish and monitor the changing needs of the special class of users called the Designated Community.

  • Nathalie Villeneuve and Faye Lemay of Libraries and Archives Canada described their journey through OAIS compliance at a briefing day in January 2018 (please log in to view recording)

This same topic has exercised me in my own blog, considering how to align OAIS with archival theory, most recently at an afscheid for Barbara Sierman in February 2020 which was also recorded.


Thinking OAIS

OAIS has been critical to the development of digital preservation but has not been adopted uncritically. Two PhD thesis were presented to the DPC in 2016 which looked a lot more deeply into the origin, strengths and challenges of OAIS, and they are well worth a watch.

Rhiannon Bettivia gave a webinar to the DPC in 2016 called 'Encoding Power: The Scripting of Archival Structures in Digital Spaces Using OAIS’ which explored the origin and nature of power relations that are structured by and embedded in the OAIS model. It’s a deep and thoughtful presentation which from a PhD thesis completed immediately before the OAIS review in 2017. And if the message of how OAIS produces, recreates and seemingly disguises asymmetrical relations and biases, it introduced me to the splendid notion that a chicken can be OAIS Compliant.

  • DPC Webinar - 'Encoding Power: The Scripting of Archival Structures in Digital Spaces Using OAIS' with Rhiannon Bettivia (please log in to view recording)

Anthea Seles gave two webinars to the DPC in 2016. The first of these, ‘'The Transferability of Trusted Digital Repository Standards to an East African context,' described how the OAIS standard developed, and presented her thesis which questioned the assumption that technical and repository standards can be exported from one context and imposed in another, especially from the perspective of the developing world. The second, ‘OAIS: its limitations and (how) can they be fixed’ looked more directly at the strengths and weaknesses of how OAIS was developed and therefore how it might be improved, not simply in the terms of the standard itself but also through the review mechanisms that support and publish standards in digital preservation.

  • DPC Webinar - 'The Transferability of Trusted Digital Repository Standards to an East African context,' with Anthea Seles (please log in to view recording)

  • DPC Webinar - 'OAIS: its limitations and (how) can they be fixed' with Anthea Seles (please log in to view recording)

Where angels fear to tread

DPC staff have been involved in very many events and webinars over the years, responding directly to members’ needs and filling the gaps where other advice and support was lacking. There’s something about the DPC which might be described as going where angels fear to tread. The ‘Greatest Hits Collection’ will play that back over the coming months while colleagues and members are working from home and perhaps not able to access other development opportunities. And of course we’re always open to proposals from members who want to mix their own digital preservation themed mix-tape


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