Grey literature

   Critically Endangered small

Semi-published research outputs such as blogs, dissertations, informal conference papers or commissioned reports which are not formally published but which can contain original and insightful contributions within scholarly communications

Group: Research Outputs

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Last update: 2019

Previous category: New Entry

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within twelve months

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to prevent losses in this group, such as the development of new preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Blogs, technical reports, conference papers, dissertations, commercial research

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Originating researcher no longer active or changed research focus; staff on temporary contracts; dependence on single student or staff member; weak or fluid institutional commitment to subject matter; weak institutional commitment to data sharing; complicated or contested intellectual property; encryption; Lack of recognition; non-disclosure agreements;

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Use of persistent identifiers; embedded within repository infrastructure; quality assurance

2019 Review

Research data has been an entry in the BitList since 2017 so the Jury this year has tried to spell out the different complexities that arise in the preservation of research outputs more generally.  This entry represents activities which build towards formal publications and research outputs but which do not typically accumulate in institutional repositories. 

Additional Jury Comments

Loss of material like this would be common in the analogue world, but in the digital age we have the capacity and perhaps something of a responsibility to ensure that it is captured: more of an opportunity lost to extend the available research resource.  The ADS’s Grey Literature Library demonstrates what could be done if information architectures are deployed to mirror and extend professional practice.

Workflows and policies re tagging, collecting and EDRMS may help protect such data into the future. Past materials are almost certainly partially lost

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Legacy research web collections

   Critically Endangered small

Since 1994, people have set up collections of digital content on the web with software now outdated. Those collections are valuable, but loose funding and care as institutions re-configure their tasks and individuals retreat from their task due to retirement or (as volunteers) to old age.

Group: Web

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Last update: 2019

Previous category: New Entry

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment in 12 months

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to prevent losses in this group, such as the development of new preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Academic and institutional website from the first decade of the web containing details of research projects and interests as well as research data.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Inaccessible to web archive; bespoke code; insufficient documentation; uncertain intellectual property right.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Secured by web archive; documentation and rights information published alongside

2019 Review

This is a new entry received from the open submission process and assessed by the Jury.  It has an overlap with the entry with ‘Semi-Published Research’ Data’ which was classified as ‘Endangered’.  The Jury has approved this entry as a means of distinguishing ‘current’ and ‘legacy’ collections: and in this case the fact that materials are no longer actively maintained means that the risks of loss are greater.

Additional Jury Comments

The Internet Archive and other national web archiving bodies have copies of a lot of websites which would fit into this category, but by no means all. There’s also a distinction between the software or code used to deliver the user experience and the data.  Such code is secondary to the content.

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Maritime Archaeological Archives

   Critically Endangered small

These are collection of digital records from maritime archaeological work including photographs, maps and plans, field notebooks, post-excavation finds analysis and other analytical records.

Group:  Museum Data

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List: New Entry

Last update: New Entry

Previous category: New Entry

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within 12 months, detailed assessment is now a priority

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to prevent losses in this group, such as the development of new preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Records of excavations in marine environments which may fall outside the jurisdiction of terrestrial heritage services.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Poor documentation; lack of preservation mandate; dependence on proprietary and non-standard data types

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Preservation planning from the outset; subject specialist repository; user community

2019 Review

This is a new entry taken from the open submission process in 2019.  It is grouped with Museum data sets as archaeological archives typically make their way to museums, but it is also closely aligned to research data.

Additional Jury Comments

There are trusted custodians of this data such as ADS, DANS or the British Museum as well as in oceanographic research agencies, but perhaps hard to integrate good practice at an international scale. The real challenge therefore is in identifying and sustaining a custodian as other bodies have experience with this data. The proliferation of innovative data recording technologies also implies likely problems of format dependence and documentation.

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Media Art by deceased artists or defunct workshops

   Critically Endangered small

Media art where the artists or creative technicians are either deceased or not able to provide guidance on authenticity and installation

Group: Media Art

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Last update: 2019

Previous category:  New Entry

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is now a priority

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve

Loss seems likely: by the time tools or techniques have been developed the material will likely have been lost.

Examples

Works produced by media artists now deceased, such as: Jeremy Blake, Beatriz Da Costa, Heiko Daxl or Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of documentation to enable maintenance; lack of clarity with respect to intellectual property; complex interdependencies on specific hardware, software or operating systems; lack of capacity in the gallery or workshop; lack of strategic investment; complex external dependencies; loss of institutional memory resulting from staff churn; poor working relationship between the gallery and artist/workshop; lack of conservation assessment.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Strong documentation; clarity of preservation path and ensuing responsibilities; proven preservation plan; capacity of workshop to support re-installation; capacity of gallery to conserve; capacity of gallery to re-install; retention of institutional memory including archives of correspondence between gallery and artist/workshop; strong and continuing working relationship between the gallery and artist/workshop; regular conservation assessment.

2019 Review

Media Art was introduced in 2017, though with particular reference to historical media art which was categorised as ‘critically endangered’. The jury has split this to ensure greater specificity in its recommendation.  This entry represents works held in galleries where the artist is deceased or the workshop has closed and there is limited prospect to obtain new documentation.

Additional Jury Comments

This entry includes a point in the lifecycle of all media art so good practice recommendations are likely to become more important over time.

Preservation issues may not become visible until the piece is brought out of storage for loan or exhibition, underscoring the value of continuous or periodic conservation assessment.

The range of data/formats/hardware/software etc. can be new and varied providing organisations with an ongoing technical challenge which they are not initially equipped to deal with. Some loss seems inevitable.

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Media inside paper files

   Critically Endangered small

Media inside paper files occur in records since the 1980s and will continue to do so for many years.

Group: Portable Media

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List:2019

Last update: 2019

Previously: New Entry

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, assessment within 12 months

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on many people and sectors.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a small effort to prevent losses in this group, such as the deployment of proven preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Digital media mixed with paper files in records offices and filing cabinets of almost every kind of enterprise. 

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Unsustainable effort to assess; exotic or obsolete media; poor storage; lack of descriptive labelling;

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Carefully labelled; managed programme of assessment and retrieval; robust media used

2019 Review

This is a new entry submitted through the open submission and validated by the Jury who report the significant amounts of digital media being transferred to archives fold into traditional files.  The Jury noted that it is relatively simple to preserve this material once identified using standard tools, but it can be an ‘unknown unknown’ and that assessment can seem overwhelming.

Additional Jury Comments

Highly dependent on who is looking after the portable formats.  There are good example, for example in libraries, where disks are stored at the back of books or front of magazines and can be processed at the point of acquisition. In archives, however dealing with bit-level preservation of external media (often on legacy formats) is largely an unquantified problem and so resource commitments will not be in place. So there is a method and tools but simply no time committed and no proper assessment either. In other agencies the issue will not have even have been considered and for them it will be much harder over time, with some inevitable loss.

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Non-current Hard Disk Technologies

   Critically Endangered small

Materials saved to storage devices with a variety of underlying magnetic or solid-state technologies that are hardwired into a computer that is no longer under warranty or supported: typically hard disks more than five years old.

Group: Integrated Storage

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Last update: 2019

Previous category: New Entry

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is now a priority

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a small effort to prevent losses in this group, such as the deployment of proven preservation tools or techniques

Examples

Disks installed into computers or servers that are more than fives years old, or out of warranty

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of replication; poor storage; non-standard connections or controllers; aggressive compression; encryption

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Maintenance schedule; renewable extendable warranty; best practice storage and operation; replication

2019 Review

The judges have introduced this entry to ensure that the range of media storage is properly assessed and presented.  The lifecycles of most consumer hard disk technology is stable in comparison to portable devices because they are integrated into systems and therefore inherit the lifecycle and replacement of the entire system.  This is less true at scale however where disks are used in storage arrays and refreshment is more loosely tied to the server architecture.  Storage at scale also means the percentage likelihood of finding a disk failure increases.

Additional Jury Comments

Perversely the greater density of newer disks, as well as encryption and compression mean that they can be more fragile than older disks with less density and less sophisticated read/write technologies.  The age of a disk is not the best or only indicator of its reliability.

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Non-current Portable Magnetic Media

   Critically Endangered small

Materials saved to floppy disks, tape, portable hard disks or other magnetic storage devices where the media is out of warranty and reader devices may no longer be supported or integrated easily into hardware infrastructure: typically more than fives years old.

Group: Portable Media

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Last update: 2019

Previous category: New Entry

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment is in 12 months

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on many people and sectors.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to prevent losses in this group, including the development of new preservation tools or techniques

Examples

Floppy disks; tape; certain kinds of portable hard disks, zipdrives.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Poor storage; inability to access readers; no replication; encryption; aggressive compression

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Active management; dependable access to readers; strong documentation; documentation independent from the media

2019 Review

The judges have introduced this entry to ensure that the range of media storage is properly assessed and presented.  Portable magnetic media was ubiquitous but is fragile not just to physical wear and tear but also to magnetic interference and bit-rot.  The substrates of the disks can prove unstable and in some cases proprietary reader technology means that the disk becomes obsolete before it degrades. Storage at scale also means the percentage likelihood of failure increases

Additional Jury Comments

There is really no excuse for using floppy disks for storage these days.  Tape is a different proposition since it allows high-density back up offline and nearline.  But there are challenges with backwards compatibility of popular and even relatively recent LTO versions.

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Non-current Portable Optical Media

   Critically Endangered small

Materials saved to DVDs, CDs or other optical storage devices where the media is out of warranty and reader devices may no longer be supported or integrated easily into hardware infrastructure: typically more than five years old.

Group: Portable Media

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Last update: 2019

Previous category: New Entry

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment is in 12 months

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on many people and sectors.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to prevent losses in this group, including the development of new preservation tools or techniques

Examples

CDs, laser disc technologies, DVD, HDVD

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Poor storage; inability to access readers; no replication; encryption

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Active management; dependable access to readers; strong documentation; documentation independent from the media

2019 Review

The judges have introduced this entry to ensure that the range of media storage is properly assessed and presented.  Optical media is in some senses a preferred option as it is typically more stable than magnetic or solid state media: but these characteristics have been over-sold.  The substrates of the disks can prove unstable and more importantly the reader technology tends to be proprietary and can become obsolete long before the disks degrade. Storage at scale also means the percentage likelihood of failure increases.

Additional Jury Comments

Highly dependent on who is looking after the portable media but made more difficult over time. There is a lack of granularity in the definition of media types so generic advice like "make sure you're moving your data to new forms of storage every 5 -10 years".

Early generations of this media are not as robust as the current generation and can deteriorate significantly if not stored appropriately.

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Non-current Portable Solid State Media

 

 Critically Endangered small

Materials saved to flash or other solid-state storage devices where the media is out of warranty and reader devices may no longer be supported or integrated easily into hardware infrastructure: typically more than five years old.

Group: Portable Media

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Last update: 2019

Previous category: New Entry

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment is in 12 months

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on many people and sectors.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to prevent losses in this group, including the development of new preservation tools or techniques

Examples

USB sticks and pen drives; Flash storage in cameras and phones; certain types of portable hard disk

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Poor physical storage; inability to access readers; no replication; encryption

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Active management; dependable access to readers; strong documentation; documentation independent from the media

2019 Review

The judges have introduced this entry to ensure that the range of media storage is properly assessed and presented.  Solid state media – typically flash – provides very fast access to data but can fail without warning.  This is because it is typically subject to a limited number of program/erase cycles, as well as ‘read/disturb’ effects. Storage at scale also means the percentage likelihood of failure increases. 

Additional Jury Comments

Early generations of media and cheap giveaways are not robust and can deteriorate significantly over time.

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Offline Gaming

   Critically Endangered small

Interactions and experiences of games and related interactive virtual worlds, representing a significant investment of skill and time by players, and significant elements of cultural output in the late 20th and early 21st century.

Group: Gaming

Trend: No change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2017

Last update: 2018

Previously: Critically Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is now a priority

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve

Loss seems likely: by the time tools or techniques have been developed the material will likely have been lost.

Examples

Single player games, especially those which   feature significant player-character customisation and player choice, including Role-Playing Games (RPGS) such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Games that rely on unique peripherals to play, including rhythm action titles such as Guitar Hero.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Complex hardware dependencies or bespoke hardware; dependence on obsolete, low usage operating systems; no emulation pathway; complex IPR; older magnetic media; free distribution on magazines; loss of underlying code or gaming engine; limited or no commercial interest.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

emulation pathway; source code; trusted repository; large user community.

2019 Review

This is a subset of an entry made in 2017 for ‘Gaming’ which the Jury has split into four more discrete entries.  This entry for older games encourages greater consideration of the technical complexities which arise from preservation of software and hardware environments.  There is an active specialist market for older games which enable preservation but also skews it around commercial interests. The meaning of ‘older’ is open to interpretation but any game more than 10 years from release should be included here especially if there are more recent releases.

Additional Jury Comments

This is very closely related to the ‘Old or non-current video games’ item, but there are parallels with the online gaming platforms: how do we capture the experience of play? This is much harder than online gaming, where the social interactions occur in digital form. With appropriate selection, appraisal and preservation, we can capture some of this through ephemera such as gaming magazines of the 80s and 90s, for example, but much has already been lost. I’m focussing on the negative here – it is still possible to preserve design materials, developer interviews, sales data and games reviews, etc. but first-hand accounts of what it was actually like to play these games are rare.

By implication this category includes user generated content within games which is distinct from the game itself. For example, the National Library of Scotland was approached to preserve a Minecraft representation of Scottish cities. If you can preserve the game then preserving the user generated content should be straightforward. But it’s not clear who is doing that.

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