Jenny Mitcham

Jenny Mitcham

Last updated on 12 November 2020

This time last week, World Digital Preservation Day was in full swing. From my perspective a fantastic day of digital preservation knowledge sharing and celebration. So much was going on it was pretty much impossible to keep up with it all and I tended to interact primarily with the tweets and incredible pictures of cake rather than taking time to properly read and absorb all of the information.

So, I like to take a bit of time after World Digital Preservation Day to read through all the blog posts, and get a really good overview of some of the work that is going on across the community.

This task is now complete ( took me a week, yes...I did do other things too!) so I bring you a round up of some of my personal highlights.


Sharing solutions and workflows

Anyone who knows me, knows that I like nothing better than digging into the practical details of how people have solved particular digital preservation problems and challenges - What tools have they used? What workflows have they put in place? What lessons have they learned? All good stuff. 

If you read the posts I list below and don’t come away with at least one useful nugget of information relevant to your own work I would be very surprised!

  • Heather Tomkins from Library and Archives Canada talks about pre-ingest workflows. There is lots of detail here, and I know lots of people will be interested in this window into a pre-ingest workflow. Heather is interested in sharing experiences with others too so do get in touch if you are interested. Preserving the bits : Library and Archives Canada’s Pre-Ingest workflow

  • Moving into the ingest process itself, Anja Mahler from Digital Repository of Ireland blogs about using PREMIS to help map out their workflows for the Atlantic Philanthropies Archive Project and how tools such as BagIt and OpenRefine were also employed to facilitate transfer and ingest. Amplifying Change: The Making of a Digital Archive

  • Digital preservation storage is always a hot topic and particularly so for Lee Hibberd from the National Library of Scotland. In this post he celebrates a big milestone and shares an honest account of the highs and lows of the journey to get there. If nothing else, this is a reminder to us all that implementing digital preservation infrastructures can take many years, but just like climbing a mountain, it is all worth it when you reach the top! Three Copy Nirvana? A Climb into the Clouds

  • Tom Wilson, Charlie Barbe and Patricia Sleeman from the (DP award winning) UNHCR have blogged about preserving a video game. Against All Odds is an educational game about the global refugee experience and has been an important teaching and awareness tool for UNHCR since 2005. The game’s use of Flashplayer was one of the particular challenges for the team as well as being one of the drivers for action. What I like about this particular case study is the way it illustrates the complexity of a real life web archiving/game preservation challenge.The trial and error response to the challenge seemed to focus on the idea that doing something is better than doing nothing. Rather than waiting for a perfect solution to land in their lap, the team tackled the problem from a number of different angles, ultimately leading to a near complete capture of the digital content they wanted to preserve. Against all odds

  • Another nice example of a methodology used to tackle a very specific challenge comes from Evanthia Samaras from the Public Record Office Victoria. Evanthia describes preservation work that has been carried out on emails in Lotus Notes and how this work has continued despite the limitations of working from home. Lotus Bloats: Preserving Legacy Email for Good


Sharing knowledge

World Digital Preservation Day is a great opportunity to dig into a topic and share your thoughts and findings with the community and there are some fine examples of this: 

  • Matthew Addis from Arkivum shares an essay on the meaning of ‘data integrity’. He looks at what the term means in different contexts and how it is defined in the digital preservation world. Summary… “Data is complex and so too is data integrity” What is data integrity? 

  • Amy Rudersdorf of AVP nicely sums up some of the pros and cons of a do-it-yourself digital preservation approach in comparison to an out of the box solution. This post will be helpful for those who are just starting out and considering which direction to go in. The benefits and drawbacks of DIY digital preservation


Building relationships

Of course digital preservation isn’t just about the nitty gritty of preserving particular file formats and getting the right workflows in place. Equally important is advocacy and relationship building. If we don’t do this too we may end up with no content to preserve, no money to do what we need to do and no community to learn from. Here are some blogs that nicely illustrate this:

  • Helen Dafter from The Postal Museum talks about building relationships with relevant departments in the Post Office to ensure that digital records are transferred to the archive where necessary. She highlights the importance of being realistic, pragmatic and persistent (and trying not to be perceived as a pain!). There is an interesting observation that the pandemic related home-working may have made arranging meetings easier - silver linings! Getting the Records

  • Becky McGuiness from the Open Preservation Foundation reports on the ‘All Things Open’ conference and reports on what the digital preservation community can learn from the wider open source communities. Some useful pointers here on building sustainable communities: OPF at All Things Open: What we can learn from open source communities


Environmentally sustainable preservation

It was good to see a couple of blog posts mentioning environmentally sustainable digital preservation this year:

  • Walker Sampson from University of Colorado, Boulder blogs on how tiered storage points can open up new preservation strategies. It is interesting to hear how things are moving on in a really practical way after the previous work Walker and his co-authors have carried out in this area. Tiered Storage and the Case of the Labor-Intensive Derivate

  • Following on from a webinar the DPC organised with Keith Pendlegrass, Walker Sampson, Tessa Walsh and Laura Alguna earlier this year, it was good to read about the impact this had. Elizabeth Thurlow from the University of the Arts London talks about how staff came together after the webinar to talk about the environmental impacts of their work and ensure this angle was taken into account in future decision making. We sometimes wonder what happens after a webinar or publication so it is nice to hear when things have led to wider discussion and action. It’s not easy being green: Evaluating the impact of digital preservation


It has been a funny old year

Of course many of the World Digital Preservation Day blogs this year have focused on the current situation we are in. It is hard to blog without mentioning the changing circumstances that have been forced on us as Covid-19 swept across the world. Some of my highlights on this theme:

  • Bonface Odhiambo from the Kenya Association of Records Managers and Archivists (KARMA) and the ICA puts out a call to action to use the pandemic as an opportunity to advance the digital preservation landscape and asks how the pandemic has shaped the records and archives management community. The duty to document does not cease in a crisis.  COVID-19: Advancing the Digital Participatory Microhistory

  • Natalie Vielfaure from University of Manitoba Libraries reflects on some of the challenges of documenting ongoing social events (such as Covid-19) in perpetuity and how to capture a representation of these events without exhausting institutional resources. We don’t have a clear end point and the goal posts are forever moving so a consideration of resources is particularly important. In Perpetual Motion: Web Archiving Ongoing Social Phenomena

  • Andrea Goethals from the National Library of New Zealand has blogged about the new ways of working during the pandemic. I was interested in not just how they adapted as they moved to home working, but the steps taken to reflect on these new ways of working and consider how to move forward. Ways of working during the pandemic

  • Steph Taylor blogs about one of the unexpected benefits of 2020 - the ability to attend an international conference without having any of the expense or disruption of travel. Taking #WeMissiPRES as an example she discusses the benefits of online participation and asks that post-pandemic the community learns from 2020 and considers reimagining face-to-face conferences to enable online participation. 2020, #WeMissiPRES and the best conference I have never attended

  • Samantha Case from Barcardi summarises some of the ways the company and their archives have responded to the pandemic, including adapting some of their manufacturing sites for the production of hand sanitizers for first responders as part of the global response to Covid-19…(they have kept a few bottles in their archives) and how they marked a historic moment in their organisational history ...with a virtual whisky tasting of course! Digits: For Good.

  • Serena Coates from State Library of Queensland blogs on some of the challenges and opportunities that the pandemic has brought... and if you haven’t already, you absolutely *need* to watch their musical World Digital Preservation Day contribution! 2020: an annus horribilis, but not for our collections

  • Roxana Maurer from National Library of Luxembourg covers a whole range of topics on her blog post that celebrates an impressive set of achievements in 2020 ...things that have happened either because of, or despite of the global pandemic. These range from very practical hands-on digital preservation achievements to a fantastic advocacy win. Also a story about how things don’t always go to plan - we like to hear those stories too! Celebrating 2020’s Digital Preservation accomplishments at the National Library of Luxembourg

  • Lastly, some wise words from Chip German from APTrust who shares some helpful digital preservation principles with us and ends with “The circumstances of this year drive home to us the point that access to the human knowledge and human cultural experience of the past are critical advantages in facing global challenges. Our collective, collaborative work is the essence of “Digits: for Good.”  I’m going to take a moment to celebrate the real progress we’ve all made in our work, despite its daunting challenges.” Hear hear! Acting on Principle


So if you haven’t yet had a chance to look at all the WDPD blog posts from 2020, you should now have some useful pointers as to where to start. Of course there are loads more posts beyond those I mention here. I’d encourage you to have a browse and find your own personal highlights!

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