William Kilbride

William Kilbride

Last updated on 3 November 2023

William Kilbride is Executive Director at the Digital Preservation Coalition

  •  Coda: a passage that brings a piece or a movement to an end.
  • Canon: a theme that is repeated and imitated and built upon by other instruments with a time delay, creating a layered effect.

World Digital Preservation Day 2023 adopted a musical turn of phrase with the theme ‘A Concerted Effort’, emphasizing the need for collaboration and partnership to achieve a shared goal.  As the saying goes, ‘No one can whistle a symphony, it takes a whole orchestra to play it’.  It might be phrased less elegantly: if you’re doing digital preservation on your own, you’re doing it wrong.

In musical terms this blog post is the coda which brings our celebrations to a close.  It’s too early for me to take stock of all the different initiatives and outputs which have been shared over the course of the last 36 (ish) hours. I only have space for a few items which caught my eye so a very limited perspective.  But here are a few things that, if you didn’t already know about, are worth holding on to:

But there’s just so many good things.  If you missed the Montana History Portal’s Lego Digitization Lab, or Sharon McMeekin’s We Will Survive then you have missed out.  I wish I could have joined in in a game of Francesca Mackenzie and Jonathan Isip’s ‘Digital Preservation for Five Year Olds’; and would have learned so much from Tim Allison’s Apache Tika Workshop.  Tim was cheerfully crowned ‘Lord of the Files’ at a DPC event last year, and thanks to World Digital Preservation Day, we now also have Lady Gigabyte.

In musical terms, this blog is the Coda to our concerted efforts but it’s also the Canon: a theme we can repeat in our own style and pass around continuously across all the instruments and voices assembled here. What are the messages we want to sustain and repeat and layer over each other? What are the lessons we want to hand on from World Digital Preservation Day 2023.

A simple lesson is the health of the global digital preservation community.  The many resources and workshops and blogs and publications point to the incredible reach and energy of our community, and they help us form new partnerships and new connections which will reinforce our work and impacts.

That’s welcome because we need all the help we can: help from each other and help from our leaders as we work to bring a sustainable digital legacy through these disrupted times.  The outlook is challenging.  As I write a massive storm is wreaking havoc in the Atlantic Ocean, a potent reminder of the environmental hazards ahead.  Only locally, and only briefly, will this supplant the escalating horrors of war in the Middle East and in Ukraine from the news headlines.  These events point to threats to the digital estate but we also know that digital resources are part of the solution.  Climate action and climate justice need climate evidence: trusted data of long duration with the integrity to be relied on and the capability to be used.  Peace is aligned to justice, justice needs truth, and truth demands evidence: an authentic and authoritative witness to the human condition, both tragic and heroic expressed inevitably in digital forms.  Yes, we deal in bits and bytes; yes, we deal in file formats and emulation frameworks; yes, we deal in storage criteria and metadata standards. But digital preservation is not for the sake of the data.  This is a human project. Yes, we are for people.

As I write, colleagues at the British Library find themselves working to resolve a major cyber-security incident.  The reported involvement of cybersecurity experts implies an external threat. Colleagues and friends at the British Library are hugely talented and enormously dedicated.  They have our unwavering respect and untiring solidarity. They are among so many uncelebrated heroes who maintain the world's digital cultural and scientific memory.  Digital libraries, archives and museums should be off limits for cyber-warfare. Digital cultural heritage is the memory of the world.  An attack on that is an attack on all of us. And on the future.

I cannot bring the curtain down on World Digital Preservation Day without a word of thanks to all involved.  Thank you to everyone who has participated and shared their energy and creativity so generously.  It’s never good to pick names but if you didn’t already know that the DPC staff team were amazing then you’ve not been looking.  I am continually amazed at the impact that such a small and dedicated team can have, and how cheerfully and creatively they support each other: Sharon McMeekin, John McMillan, Jenny Mitcham, Ellie O’Leary, Michael Popham, Paul Wheatley and Robin Wright.  A special call out to Amy Currie who has brought the Bit List to another level in 2023, and to Angela Puggioni and Sarah Middleton who led and co-ordinated the program for us.  Thank you also to the DPC’s members around the world who put their confidence in us and enable all of this to happen, and to their representatives, especially the Advocacy and Community Engagement Sub-Committee of the Executive Board who commission and oversee our work. I am privileged to work with and for all these amazing people and I look forward to adding more members and more staff in the year ahead.

What will the year bring between now and the next World Digital Preservation Day? (By the way, 7th November 2024).  What themes do we want to emphasize and repeat?  We know we want to support and strengthen each other, with many new connections and even greater enthusiasm. But we cannot afford another year in which our leaders are complacent about the risks to digital content.  We cannot afford another year in which leaders do not understand that the precarity of knowledge contributes to the uncertainty of our times.

That’s a tune we can all play, and repeat.


#1 Roger Mills 2023-11-07 01:09
Really nicely written, or 'scored,' to keep the musical analogy flowing, William. You are right about complacency, which is indeed the enemy of progress and something that requires everyone to be aware of, and actively campaign against. Without a preserved history, in the words of Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." This sentiment makes access to the "digital estate" even more crucial and without it, we are bound to repeat past horrors, as it looks, we are doing now.
On a more positive note, I'm sure I not alone in wanting to thank you, and all there at the DPC, for the important work you do in raising awareness of the challenges we face and providing the tools to deal with them. I look forward to what 2024 brings to ensure digital preservation is kept high on the agenda!

Best wishes
Roger Mills
#2 William Kilbride 2023-11-14 08:20
Thanks Roger!

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