William Kilbride

William Kilbride

Last updated on 6 November 2019

Is it World Digital Preservation Day yet?  Yes it is!  Here are some ways you can tell:

  • Has the sun come up over the National Library of New Zealand on the first Thursday in November? 

  • Is this the first post of a digital preservation themed blog-a-thon on the DPC website?

  • Will there be a new edition of the BitList of Digitally Endangered Species before the end of the day? 

  • Are there an abundance of stickers in more than a dozen languages, and versions of the swooshie logo available to download in even more?

  • Will there be lectures and seminars and workshops and webinars about digital preservation in dozens of countries and perhaps hundreds of venues? 

  • Will there be digital preservation themed cake to share, and biscuits and baking?

  • Will there be singing and videos to match? 

  • Will the fun continue till midnight somewhere out over the Pacific Ocean in about 36 hours from now?

In order, I would guess: yes it’s a 17 degrees and cloudy but with only a low chance of rain; yes there’s a lot more to come; yes I have been working on it for a good couple of months; yes more than I can count, and certainly more than the printing budget had anticipated; yes I know for a fact that many of them are already fully booked; yes, I am looking forward to quite a lot of it myself; I will be sad if there’s not; and yes I will be wanting to visit Honolulu personally by lunchtime on Friday. 

So, it’s as official as these things ever get: Willkommen, Bienvenue and Welcome to World Digital Preservation Day 2019!

WDPD Illustration

But what is World Digital Preservation Day? Is it like a birthday with cake and singing? Or Christmas with digital children threatened with the naughty list?  Is it the Day of Atonement for bits we should have saved? Or a melancholy Hogmanay should auld bitstreams be forgot and ne’er be brought to mind?  Should we expect the Easter Bunny to dish out the chocolates? Or should we cheer the floats of carnivalesque performance as they drift by? Is it an Independence Day from the shackles of proprietary lock-in?  Is it Day of the Digitally Dead? Is it Halloween to scare the little ones with back-from-the dead-data and ghoulishly-painted interfaces?

It has something of all of these, and a bit more besides.

This year the theme of World Digital Preservation Day is ‘At Risk Digital Materials,’ encouraging members of the global digital preservation community to raise awareness about the digital materials which they know to be at risk, as well as the many creative and thoughtful solutions which they have developed to mitigate and minimise those risks. 

In my experience, the technical risks of loss are the easiest to write about and often the simpler ones to solve, admittedly after a healthy effort to understand the challenges and scope the solutions properly.  I will be disappointed if the next few hours don’t showcase many of these, a lot of them new to me and deserving of the attention.  So that’s the Christmas present of digital preservation tools.  But the cultural or organizational issues which delay or deflect digital preservation actions can seem more intractable, compounding the resourcing and skills gaps that many of us face.  These will also be aired today, and may seem a little more like Groundhog Day, with familiar challenges repeating year after year.  But there will also proof is that these can be tackled: discernible progress coupled with a resolute commitment to sustain our momentum towards a secure digital legacy. So it’s a day to take courage, to see what can be achieved and cheer the accomplishments of colleagues and partners around the world.

The audiences for this message about ‘at risk digital materials’ are as diverse as the people who will participate over the next few hours. We will talk to the world in many different languages about digital preservation, recognizing that it is a shared global challenge, and that we are partners in a community scaled to match. 

The simple twofold aims of World Digital Preservation Day have not changed: to raise awareness of the digital preservation challenge and to connect practitioners around the world, especially those that work in isolation or have come to the community recently.  There’s no practitioner so well placed that they cannot find some new contact today; and there’s no programme so well embedded that it won’t benefit from another reminder to policy makers and budget holders.  After all, the better we are at our work the less people realise how much they need it.  Sometimes it helps to to be seen.

And therefore, a very warm welcome to World Digital Preservation Day 2019, our annual opportunity to win friends and influence people. And may we all have many happy returns from our efforts today.

Scroll to top