1 October 2010 Euston Road, London | British Library Centre for Conservation

Email is arguably the most ubiquitous, inexorable and voluminous manifestation of information technology. It is a defining characteristic of our age and a critical element in all manner of communications and transactions. Industry and commerce depend upon email; families and friendships are sustained by email; government and economies rely upon email; communities are created and strengthened by email.  It is sometimes hard to remember how we functioned before the widespread adoption of email in public and private life. But for all the importance of email and the transactions it supports, it is surprisingly absent from much of the digital preservation literature.  Institutions, organizations and individuals have a considerable investment and in many cases statutory requirements to safeguard large collections of email, so there ought to be a strong body of experience and clear workflows to follow.  So why is there so little detailed advice available?

To some extent email encapsulates many of the core challenges of digital preservation.  It would be simple to preserve if it were not for the infinite variety of attachments that go with it; it would be simple to preserve if we could eliminate all the duplicates and spam; if we could remove all the personal details; if we could resolve the copyright issues; if we could resolve access and security barriers. These and other subtle, complex demands mean that the relatively simple proposition of preserving our collected digital correspondence can be blighted by interminable wrangling over procedure, policy and technology.  Nonetheless the preservation of email creates a readily understood basis to engage with the widest possible audience with digital preservation.  It provides a pervasive environment for innovation and assessment of digital preservation tools and services.  It will be a necessary component to ensure our digital memory is accessible tomorrow.

This DPC briefing day will provide a forum for members to review and debate the latest developments in the preservation of email. Based on commentary and case studies from leaders in the field, participants will be presented with emerging policies, tools and technologies and will be encouraged to propose and debate new directions for research.  The day will include a discussion of key topics such as:

  • lifecycle management of email
  • Ingest, documentation and accession of email archives
  • Emerging tools and policies for preservation of email

Who should come?

This day will be of interest to:

  • Collections manager, librarians, archivists in all institutions
  • Tools developers and policy makers in digital preservation
  • Innovators and researchers in information policy and management
  • Innovators and researchers in computing science
  • Vendors and providers of email services

Draft Programme Outline

1030      Registration and Coffee

1100      Welcome and introductions (William Kilbride, DPC)

1105      The Nature of the Problem (Chris Prom, University of Illinois)

1135      Why preserving email is harder than it sounds - theory and practice (Stephen Howard, Information Management Officer, the United Nations)

1205      Receiving and managing email archives at the Bodleian Libraries - a case study (Susan Thomas, Bodleian Libraries)

1235      Discussion and questions

1245      Lunch

1330      Email management: 15 wasted years and counting (Steve Bailey, JISC InfoNet)

1355      Past, present and future in email preservation: practical experience and future directions (Maureen Pennock, British Library)

1420      Emerging tools for email preservation (Tom Jackson, Loughborough University)

1445      Discussion and questions

1500      Coffee

1515      Discussion and panel (led by Tim Gollins, TNA)

By 1600 Close

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