Antonio G. Martinez is CEO & Founder of LIBNOVA and is based in Madrid, Spain

How many times have you heard this question? When it comes to Digital Preservation though, there’s no such thing as “to do or not to do”. Having worked with and advised all kinds of organisations, from the largest to the most compact, we’ve learnt that almost anything can be considered digital preservation. This means that “Do you DP?” is a hugely misleading question. A question that only allows for binary answers – a yes or a no, a 0 or a 1 – and makes the reply totally irrelevant to the truth. Understanding this key concept is essential for organisations to be able to move forward.

We have to take a step back and take in the full picture so we can then make others -colleagues and stakeholders- understand that there is so much depth to this relatively recent newcomer, digital, to the preservation world that it is not a simple yes or no, but a “What D.P. level shall we go?”.  We have to share our vision and make them (colleagues and stakeholders) understand that we can digitally preserve things in so many different ways and on so many different levels that the simple question of “Do you D.P.?” renders the answer obsolete.  You see, we all know that every little bit counts, and the more bits we actively layer our preservation cake with the more safely we preserve. But do our colleagues and stakeholders know this?  We have to make the case that as we move up layers our digital assets are safer and safer. So the question should be, “Up to what level do we need to D.P.?”.

Digital Preservation ignorance has hurt us all as a whole.  For years now we have been digitizing like mad without considering that the whole purpose of digitizing was not to capture…but to preserve the object in digital form for eternal posterity, to share amongst researchers without interfering physically with the original, to overcome geographical distances and access knowledge in the blink of an eye…. So this idea of “Yes we are digitizing everything and storing it in a backup for safekeeping” has hurt us.  For them, colleagues and stakeholders, it is as simple as, “The boxes have been checked, let’s move on to another issue.”  They feel happy and safe but we know we aren’t as safe as we could be. For them it’s been a simple “YES” and we are covered in the Digital Preservation realm but the truth is that “yes, we have a backup but that is not as safe as can be”.

If we want to take our D.P. to a higher level, well, first we will have to make them (colleagues and stakeholders) understand that it is not a question of “D.P. yes or no” but the realisation that there are plenty of levels and that we are at such a level and need to take it further.  The old idea of having digitized madly so therefore we are safe must be banished and a new mental template full of levels and depths must be born.  We have to rescue the ideals that we are preserving for the future, that we spent plenty of scarce resources turning physical into binary, and that we have to preserve those new assets for the future. Remember, the answer is not a binary 1 or 0, but a question of how deep can we go.

We are grateful for the efforts of Digital Preservation organisations -such as the DPC- whose efforts to change the paradigm have brought vast improvements over little time, allowing for a new school of thought to go from green shoots to firmly rooted. We have also noted that in less DP-mature markets the rhythm of change is slowly picking up tempo, blending European, American or Australian beats with local idiosyncrasies to produce equally robust and resilient tunes. We all have our particular historical secrets we need to keep with the fundamental idea that the researchers of tomorrow will discover and unveil them. It is true, we all have so much cultural heritage that it can’t just be a question of “Do you D.P.? Yes or no?” but a question of “So what level do you need to D.P. for the future?”


Joe Kraus
5 years ago
As the Chief Information Officer at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, I came to learn what Digital Preservation really means through an enterprise wide effort we mounted over the past several years. The point Antonio makes goes to the lack of understanding, not surprisingly, there is around the science and the practice of Digital Preservation. This impacts the ability to obtain funding and support for the core back end preservation activities. Overcoming this requires us to embed education and understanding of the full lifecycle of digital preservation into the digitization initiatives we take on with our fund raisers and donors on every digital acquisition activity we take on.

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