William Kilbride

William Kilbride

Last updated on 15 November 2022

The Earth spins. The Sun rises. It’s Friday 4th November which means World Digital Preservation Day 2022 is now over. The Earth will keep spinning and the Sun will keep rising, so the question is what will we do with all those new connections and insights which have been so generously shared? This post is a bit like the morning after election night: it’s too early for the final count but there’s enough to ‘call’ the result.  And I am therefore ready to announce World Digital Preservation Day 2022 a success.  Maybe even the best yet.

Here are a few highlights that have caught our attention. In the last 40 hours there were:

Also, if you didn't notice, we published the proceedings of iPres 2022, with input from more than 300 contributors.  There's enough reading an thinking in their to last you till next year. 

The theme of World Digital Preservation Day this year ‘Data for all, for good, forever’ adapted the title of iPres 2022 (did I mention the iPres proceedings were published yesterday too?). For all the songs and baking, this theme fixes us on some much bigger goals: larger than ourselves, more than just the data, much longer than a day. The digits won’t thank us: digital preservation is for all the many real-world things that can be achieved when the right data is given to the right people in a timely manner and in a format they can use.  It’s a necessary condition for a healthier, wealthier, safer, smarter, greener, more creative, more transparent and more accountable future.

In order to do that, our small but growing community needs to raise awareness of its work and to connect with fellow professionals around the world, many of them working in isolation or in very small teams.  Advocacy is tiring and never done, and the worry has to be that it will only get harder not easier.  If ‘omnishambles’ was the word of 2012 (DPC's tenth anniversary),  ‘permacrisis’ is the word of 2022 (our twentieth), the persistent sense of instability and insecurity arising from a continuing series of catastrophic events.  We’re going to need all that advocacy, not to mention a hopeful vision for the future.  And we will need each other.

On the subject of needing each other, it was a pleasure to welcome Charles Sturt University as the DPC’s newest member.  We also approved another new member – details to follow though I think I'm safe to say that it's our first local authority outside of the UK.  We cheerfully signed them up to all the DPC member lists yesterday morning.  Their first day of membership was a bit like Christmas and New Year and Halloween all rolled into one.  Purely on the experience of day one they might have quite the expectations for day two.  Granted it’s not always quite so hectic, but there’s something new most days at the DPC.

I can’t let the day close without a vote of thanks to the many many (many!) people around the world who have contributed.  It's been a real pleausre working with so many of you and seeing the huge energy and deep joy that participation in the digital preservation community brings.    

If you will indulge me, I would like to single out the DPC staff team – Sharon McMeekin, Jen Mitcham, Paul Wheatley, Michael Popham, Robin Wright and John McMillan.  Amy Currie has delivered on her huge responsibilities as general editor of the BitList, not just making it happen but making it better each time. Let me thank particularly Sarah Middleton who promotes World Digital Preservation Day and keeps the wheels moving.  Ellie O’Leary and Angela Puggioni, who are marking their first World Digital Preservation Day as part of the DPC staff team, contributed and co-ordinated so much of iPres this year not least getting the proceedings published in just slightly more than six weeks (record time?) fulfilling our important but demanding commitment that we’d publish proceedings before the 2023 call for papers was released. I am grateful to them all for their hard work and creativity but even more so for their patience and friendship.  The DPC staff team is a wonder of the modern world.  They have done so much this year: but our best years lie ahead.

DPC has been around the Sun 20 times since its first board meeting.  Twenty years is both a complement and reproach which usefully summarize the experience of the global digital preservation community: an enduring commitment to collaboration set against the surprising obduracy of the problems we seek to resolve. I have no doubt that the DPC’s founders would have been astonished if anyone had predicted the amazing showcase of digital preservation capability which was demonstrated yesterday.  They’d perhaps also be surprised, maybe even disappointed, that the digital preservation challenge still persists. They might not have thought twenty years of the DPC to be something they’d want to celebrate.

In the digital age continuity means a commitment to change, and change means a commitment to learning, and learning means openness to each other. That’s why for all the fun and good humour, World Digital Preservation Day is a deeply practical exercise.  That’s why 20 years of the DPC.   

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