Frans Neggers

Frans Neggers

Last updated on 20 November 2018

Frans Neggers is Digital Archivist at Het Nieuwe Instituut, and Project Manager and Trainer for Leren Preserveren

What should teaching heritage professionals about digital preservation be about? Autumn 2016 we - the Dutch Digital Heritage Network (DDHN) and Het Nieuwe Instituut (Rotterdam) - started developing Leren Preserveren (Learning Digital Preservation). We commissioned a professional to make a educational design. Decided was that it should become a blended learning environment for online students and with a group training. The target group was defined as practitioners that maybe don’t know too much yet about digital preservation or don’t know how to apply their knowledge. So it does not serve the more experienced practitioners who already know ‘how to’, nor the ones who are looking for answers to specific problems. Then all things to be learned had to be brought within a logical learning process. This resulted in a three module setup (learning to speak the language of digital preservation, becoming able to consider digital preservation in your own situation and learning to take the first steps). Important part of the group training were the module assignments as well as the expert sessions and exercises.

For us as trainers, learning started with a pilot training in spring 2017. Since, the regular group training has been given twice a year and we served special groups in another four group trainings. In our teaching we were very much encouraged by seeing all the practical learning needs and experiencing our students’ eagerness to learn. The three module structure and especially the module assignments proved to work really well (assessing the digital preservation characteristics of a digital object from your own collection, describing the situation for your own organization and a self-assessment test or making a start with preservation policy). These engaged students and they got to know each other’s practices and needs.

It was mainly here that we succeeded in connecting theoretical concepts to students’ practices. The pilot training saw quite some unidirectional transfer of knowledge and our students’ reactions made clear their desire for a more interactive learning style.

The composition of the groups was quite diverse. Participants were from various domains (archives, government organizations, museums of art, history and photography, etc.). They had different levels of knowledge and competences and the processes in which they were working varied from digitization, being responsible as a caretaker for governmental (hybrid) archives, being responsible for processing digitally born archives to advising governmental organizations in transferring their digital archives to central caretakers. In our teaching we were able to use the diversity to our advantage. The group’s diversity made it easier to incorporate different aspects of and perspectives on digital preservation.

Different issues were felt by the students. There were the more practical preservation issues like

simple measures for safe storage and bit preservation, format issues in digitization and how to organize pre ingest and ingest and what tools to use. Website archiving and email archiving are important challenges. And students wanted to get competent in raising awareness, gaining support and advising caretakers. They also felt the need to learn about setting up a preservation policy and how to make it part of existing information management.

Two gratifying reactions we received from the group training evaluation were ‘I not only learned about digital preservation, but about my own organization too’ and ‘it gave me new insights and I know now how to begin small’. These indicated that students felt very much challenged.

An alumni day in September 2018 gave us some insight in how things learned land in organizations. The importance of co-operative learning was stressed. Reactions from online students show they use the course because of their need to get to know the concepts and risks of digital preservation. They want to be able to participate in the discussion. They hope it will help people within their organization to better understand and manage digital objects, that it will support improvements and development of preservation policies. They want to keep up to date with developments. The website is also valued for its use as reference book. Leren Presserveren is also playing an important role in strengthening the Dutch digital preservation community.

From this point we are considering how to go on. How can we, within our means, serve in-company training?  Can we transfer training capabilities to regional heritage organizations so they can serve the small local heritage organizations? And how to position Leren Preserveren in relation to regular (bachelor and masters) heritage and archival studies? Embedding digital preservation education continues to be a challenge.


#1 Marina Noordegraaf 2018-11-29 16:28
Way to go, Frans! Not only did you learn practitioners “how to digitally preserve”, but also you have learnt a lot about “how to transfer your own skills” into learnable chunks. I admire your eagerness to learn how to teach and involve others. Good luck with the contest and the follow-up.

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