Sharon McMeekin

Sharon McMeekin

Last updated on 27 November 2018

Back in February of this year I wrote a post for this blog describing work the DPC was embarking on to formalise our commitment to supporting inclusion and diversity in the digital preservation community. Then followed a lot of reading and research, discussions with people across the community, and numerous drafts and reviews of the document.

But, I am happy to report our Inclusion and Diversity Policy was published in June and launched at our yearly member’s unconference ‘Connecting the Bits’. There are a number of reasons why this is a topic that is important to me and I was honoured to have a chance to work on the policy. I must admit that it is perhaps the piece of work I am most proud of in my career to date.

The work doesn’t stop here though, the policy will now be a touchstone for all future DPC work and will be followed up with supporting activities to ensure we meet the commitments set forth within the policy. As an example, I am currently investigating options for Mental Health First Aid Training for DPC staff members.

It’s also been gratifying to see this being a theme taken up across digital preservation and related communities. I think one of the biggest rounds of applause at this year’s iPRES conference was for the Portico-sponsored initiative to offer places to under-represented students and first-time attendees, which had a significant and welcome impact on the number of countries represented by attendees. Issues of inclusion and diversity also ran through the Archive and Records Association’s Conference here in the UK this year with their theme of ‘People Make Records’. I’m also a great fan of the POWRR project and their work to bring digital preservation training to a wider audience, particularly archives belonging to/representing minority groups.

While we are moving in the right direction, this still feels like the tip of the iceberg. Digital preservation is not as male-dominated as it was when I began my career, but it is still predominantly white and Western. As a community we need to make a concerted effort to broaden our discourse. Digital preservation is happening across the world and, as we tell all the attendees at our training events, we learn the most from sharing and discussing our work with others. I’m not yet sure how best to make this happen, but I am open to suggestions.

I don’t have all the answers about how best to improve inclusion and diversity across the community, but I do have the beginnings of a wish list from my point of view as Head of Training and Skills with the DPC. (This counts as spoilers for my presentation at today’s ‘Memory Makers’ conference in Amsterdam….) Things I’d like to see more of include:

  • Translations of key resources (anyone interested in translating the DP Handbook please get in touch!)
  • An emphasis on free/shareable resources
  • More online training (that is free or with scaled costs)
  • Scholarships
  • More global spaces for information sharing and discussion

I welcome an email from anyone who would like to work on any of these issues!

Finally, I would like encourage others in the digital preservation community to make clear their own commitment to inclusion and diversity. This is already happening through initiatives like the Joint Statement from Collaborating Digital Preservation Organizations in the USA. For those who are interested in making a similar move but not sure where to start, we would welcome starting a discussion around a draft Community Charter that was created in parallel with our own policy. The Community Charter covers the same ground but without the DPC specific. Our hope is that the digital preservation community can take this document forward and make it into something that will be useful for all. Anyone interested in participating is invited to make contact and we can discuss how to take this forward.

In the end, I think we are well on the way to creating a Wonderful (Digital Preservation) World and I’m excited to be involved!

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