Digital materials in museums and galleries

   Endangered large

All manner of digital materials held in museums to support the access, interpretation and management of physical collections, including material generated by interaction with the public and in the course of research. It excludes those small amounts of digital material formally accessioned into museum collections.

Group: Museum Data

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 many people and sectors.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a small effort to address losses in this group, requiring the application of proven preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Digital photography, video, sound, oral histories, collections management systems, conservation records, exhibition records, archives, operational or business records, scientific research outputs, correspondence, social media, 3d digitization.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of repository infrastructure; external dependencies; dependency on cloud provider; poor storage; churn of staff; significant volumes or diversity of data; poorly developed digitization specifications; ill-informed records management policy; conflation of access with preservation; poorly developed migration or normalization; longstanding protocols or procedures that apply unsuitable paper processes to digital materials; inability to assume responsibility; encryption

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Repository and preservation infrastructure; strategic leadership; well-developed digitization and migration pathways; participation in the global digital preservation community;

2019 Review

This new entry brings together submissions from the open nomination process. The Jury takes the view that museums make creative use of digital technology but have weak incentives to preserve the outputs when compared to libraries or archives.  Museums take responsibility for the care of physical collections in the long term which brings a derived requirement to preserve digital materials relating to those collections. The museum sector is lacking preservation capability.

Additional Jury Comments

This entry is very broadly defined, and whilst it is useful to draw attention to the challenges, it might usefully be disaggregated in the future. For example, museums have significant incentives to maintain collection catalogues for audit purposes, and to share these with the public. Such databases are likely to face less severe preservation challenges than data generated about the collection through museum operations, conservation or research. Related data sets present different challenges too. For example, 3D digitisation is a particular challenge for museums as preservation standards are deficient and easily overlooked in the enthusiasm for fashionable or eye-catching trends which purport to extend access. Moreover, this sector is incredibly diverse and different needs are likely to exist in different kinds of museum or gallery.

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Digitally published sheet music

   Endangered large

Sheet music licensed and published in a variety of digital formats and subject to copyright restrictions and often protected by digital rights management technologies

Group: Sound and Vision

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Last update: 2019

Previous category: New Entry

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within five 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 small effort to address losses in this group, requiring the application of proven preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

All manner of published sheet music including choral works, orchestral works, scores.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Encryption; uncertainty over intellectual property rights; uncertain business model of publisher; lack of legal deposit mandate.

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Rights management conducive to preservation; held in a trusted repository; legal deposit copying enabled.

2019 Review

This is a new entry introduced by the Jury as a subset of ‘Digital Music Production and Sharing’ which was reported in 2017. The Jury has split this into components to draw attention to the different challenges faced by these different forms. This is recognisably the smallest of the group and has connections to PDF and PDF/A as well as E-Book formats which are commonly used to publish music.

Additional Jury Comments

 The commercial value of these materials should be a protection against their loss, and the history of the music industry indicates that sheet music continues to have value, so even if an individual organisation fails or its DRM servers go offline and some music becomes inaccessible it is not lost. However, the difficulties of archiving DRM-locked files remain real.

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Digital music and ephemera shared on social media

   Endangered large

Digital materials created by musicians and fans as a by-product of performance or recording, shared on websites and other social media platforms.

Group: Sound and Vision

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 address losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Fan sites; private or illicit recordings of concerts; informal music sharing between networks.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Dependence on social media provider; lack of offline equivalent; infringing intellectual property right; unstable or small community of interest; encryption

Vulnerable in the Presence of Good Practice

Offline equivalent; intellectual property rights conducive to preservation; partnership with collecting institution; availability to web archiving.

2019 Review

This entry has been split out of the previous entry for ‘Digital Music Production and Sharing’ though it has overlaps with other entries including those relating to social media as well as those relating to community-generated content. It has been retained as a separate theme to emphasize the context in which music is shared and enjoyed – a context which could be lost if our attention were on products controlled by studios or artists. The recent case of the closure of ‘Yahoo Groups’ serves to underline the fragility of community content hosted by third parties.

Additional Jury Comments

The ephemera are increasingly stored on websites that themselves are fragile and are removed - as we see with MySpace's removal of MP3s, Flickr's decision to delete vast numbers of images held on free accounts and material lost as a result of Tumblr's policy changes on the definition of pornography. Nothing held on these services can be relied on in archival timeframes

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Digital Radio Recordings

   Endangered large

Master recordings of radio broadcasts generated live but often poorly stored thereafter. Eg: Offline recordings on single LTO (Linear Tape Open) Tapes

Group: Sound and Vision

Trend: No Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2017

Last update: 2018

Previous category: Endangered

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 address losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Broadcast archives of UK commercial local radio;

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of archival mandate; lack of capability of archive; lack of policy or capacity within broadcaster; small or unprofitable broadcaster; concern over intellectual property rights; overzealous rights management protection; device or software dependence; dependence on proprietary or obsolete formats; lack or loss of documentation; little use or inaccessibility; storage (typically tapes) older than warranty; lack of media refreshment plan; lack of error or integrity checking process; single copies

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Archival responsibility accepted and acted upon; replication; refreshment of media; good documentation; active in digital preservation community; trusted repository; content re-used

2019 Review

This category was reported explicitly in concern over recordings on LTO tapes. These provide between 15 and 30 years’ storage which may be less depending on usage and storage conditions. LTO1 and LTO2 which were released in 2000 and 2003 respectively are now entering the final phases of viability. Reader compatibility may be more problematic than media resilience however. Drives supporting newer releases of the format are typically only compatible within two generations and experience with the recently released LTO8 suggest that it is only backwardly compatible to one generation.  Therefore one major national archive and library has decided to expedite migration away from LTO6 which is becoming obsolete more quickly than anticipated. Through time, the risks to collections that have not been refreshed or replicated from early LTO tapes expand. Thus, the overall trend is towards greater risk when collections are not migrated. Older formats, perhaps as recently as LTO6, extinction events should be anticipated within two to five years.

Additional Jury Comments

Broadcasters may keep their own programmes but they are not being comprehensively collected or archived by memory institutions.

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Electronic hospital and medical records

   Endangered large

Personal medical records and records of hospital treatment are increasingly, if not uniformly born digital. By implication those records should be retained trough the life-time of the patient and perhaps longer as required for intergenerational study; and yet there is little evidence of the medical profession participating in the digital preservation community.

Group: Sensitive Data

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2017

Last update: 2017

Previous category: Of Concern

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 many people and sectors.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to address losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Medical scans; records of treatment and care plans; health advice and notifications;

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Loss of context; loss of authenticity or integrity; poor storage; lack of understanding; churn of staff; significant volumes of data; significant diversity of data; ill-informed records management; poorly developed transfer and integrity checking; poorly developed migration or normalizations specifications; longstanding protocols or procedures that apply unsuitable paper processes to digital materials; encryption

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Well managed data infrastructure; preservation enabled at the point of creation; carefully managed authenticity; use of persistent identifiers; well managed records management processes; application of records management standards; recognition of preservation requirements at highest levels; strategic investment in digital preservation; preservation roadmap; participation in digital preservation community.

2019 Review

Medical and hospital records were introduced to the BitList in 2017 though at that time there was limited capacity to address the topic and it was simply published as ‘of concern’. It would have been reviewed in 2019 in any case but was independently received as a submission to the open nomination process. This topic remains large and ill defined. It is useful to draw attention to the scale of the digital preservation challenges which arise in hospitals and in the medical profession, but it would be useful in future years to split this entry into more discrete elements which would be more impactful.

Additional Jury Comments

Increasing sensitivity and awareness of data protection requirements could act inadvertently as a barrier to lifecycle data management. It is striking how little evidence there is of the health technology companies participating in the global digital preservation community.

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Email

   Endangered large

Documents, correspondence and other records created in the course of contractual dealings between individuals and agencies, especially where the subjects are of long duration and may be subject to legal scrutiny at undefined points in the distant future.

Group: Formats

Trend: No change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2017

Last update: 2017

Previous category: Of Concern

Imminence of Action

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

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools or services within this group would have a global impact.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to address losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Email in all its forms, including individual messages, threads of conversation, mailboxes, email servers and file attachments.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Conflicting and unmanaged IPR; use of personal accounts for professional work and vice versa; proliferation and duplication of attachments; email not recognized as a record; absent, unworkable or inconsistent records management; dependence on free cloud-based services; lack of migration path; lack of preservation planning; perverse incentives to delete; encryption.

Vulnerable in the Presence of Good Practice

Application of appraisal and selection tools; timely transfer to preservation facility or archive; commitment to transparency; preservation policy; working preservation plan; clear migration path; widespread recognition of email as a record.

2019 Review

This entry was made in 2017 which the Jury did not have capacity to assess. It has been assessed this time in part to highlight significant developments since then including the recommendations of the Email Preservation Taskforce and the development of the ePADD software. Email presents many kinds of preservation challenge, from scale through core technologies, attachments, privacy and intellectual property rights. Because this entry intersects with many others, the presence of email within these other entries should be considered an aggravating condition.

Additional Jury Comments

Email is hugely important as it has been so pervasive as a communication mechanism for society. Some methods used and responsibility adopted for collecting at business and public body level (again will differ globally) but this will be a fraction of the communities that use it and few will be set up for the long-term care of this data.

See also:

·        Prom, C (2019) Preserving Email (2nd Edition) DPC Technology Watch Report 19-01 online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.7207/twr19-01 (from 7th November)

·        Murray K and Prom, C (2018) The Future of Email Archives: A Report from the Task Force on Technical Approaches for Email Archives, CLIR, online at: https://clir.wordpress.clir.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2018/08/CLIR-pub175.pdf

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Legacy Media Art

   Endangered large

Media art in storage or not otherwise displayed but where the artists or technicians are available to support 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 three years, detailed assessment within twelve 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 address losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Media art in storage

‘Critically Endangered’ 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.

Vulnerable 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 introduced this entry to ensure greater specificity in its recommendation. It is intended to represent works held in galleries but no longer displayed, but where there is a continuing working relationship between the gallery and the artist or workshop and reasonable expectation that support for preservation could still be obtained when required.

Additional Jury Comments

This entry attempts to capture a point in the lifecycle of media art where preservation risks are increasing but not yet critical. There is a risk that preservation issues will not become apparent until the piece is brought out of storage when being considered for loan or exhibition - often on timescales that make it too late to address preservation concerns effectively. Galleries should be aware that the range of data/formats/hardware/software embedded in media art can be wide and vary at different speeds.

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Massively Multiple Online Gaming Platforms and Experiences

   Endangered large

Massively Multiple Online Gaming is an evolving, transient but significant cultural. Gameplay is referenced here particularly as means of participation, along with social media and in-game interaction between players. Video streaming of game content, the means of viewing but not participating in game play, has a septate entry.

Group: Gaming

Trend: no change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: new entry

Last update: new entry

Previously: Critically Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within one year.

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

There are numerous examples for this entry, so the example of Fortnite, a 2017 free to play online game will serve to illustrate. As Fortnite is freely accessible to play, the game is at the forefront of internet culture with over 250 million registered users as of March 2019. In addition, Fortnite's parent company, Epic Games, provides access to Unreal Engine, a software platform consisting of integrated tools for game developers, with instructional guides, game simulations and learning tools. Unreal Engine was first released in 1998 and is currently in its 4th release. At risk also is this software, its associated tools and code which is key digital evidence of MMOG evolution, learning, creativity and expression across multiple platforms (PC, console, mobile).

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Controversies around IPR; lack of offline backup; changing business model of providers; limited recognition of value of game play; over dependence on goodwill of ad-hoc community; lack of preservation know-how at service providers; dependency on bespoke hardware or interfaces.

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Well documented code; IPR supportive of preservation; large and committed user community

2019 Review

This is a subset of an entry made in 2017 for ‘Gaming’ which the Jury has split into four discrete entries. By creating this entry for Game Play, the Jury encourages greater consideration of the technical complexities which arise from preservation of software environments as well as the cultural and historic value which these games are likely to acquire. It appears that this entry is categorised as a lower risk than in 2017, but this is a function of splitting that entry.

Additional Jury Comments

The difficulty of saving game play nicely encapsulates why video recordings of (online) gameplay is important: we are never going to be able to recreate the experience of playing something like World of Warcraft or Fortnite at their peak (or at their inception, or at any other point in time). They will never have the same configuration of subscribers, to say nothing of the innumerable changes made to the software over the years, which have significantly altered how the game works and looks. Loss is inevitable, and it’s already happened. The social and cultural aspects of play are incredibly important and on-screen recording is the most robust way to capture that.

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Master Digital Music and Sound Recordings

   Endangered large

Master recordings of music and other performance from which retail products are derived, typically in multiple tracks and uncompressed high-resolution sound quality

Group: Sound and Vision

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 one year.

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 address losses in this group, requiring the application of proven preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Master recordings owned by music industry

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Single point of failure; storage on old or degrading media; lack of ongoing investment in changing preservation requirements; lack of capability; poor documentation; dependence on small staff

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

High quality storage; meticulous and consistent replication; trusted repository; preservation requirement understood at executive level and funded accordingly; leadership in preservation community; expert staff

2019 Review

This entry has been split out of the previous entry for ‘Digital Music Production and Sharing’ though it has overlaps with other entries. It is a separate entry to emphasise the inherent and very great value of master recordings over and above those distributed, and the concomitant need for active preservation. The Jury were particularly aware of the case of the ‘Universal Fire’ of 2008 which has only recently been reported widely.

Additional Jury Comments

The archival practices of the studios are typically based on value - the recordings are assumed to be worth keeping. However, this means relatively low-value masters may not be transferred to new media in a timely way and could be lost. There is no comprehensive deposit scheme to address the long-tail of music production, and it is often unclear exactly where responsibility lies.

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Orphaned Works

   Endangered large

Digital materials where copyright is uncertain, disputed or unknowable meaning that preservation actions are constrained or prevented.

Group: Orphaned Works

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2017

Last update: 2019

Previous category: Endangered

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 many people and sectors.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to address losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Photographs, music recordings, literature. A specific example is elements of The National Disc of the BBC Domesday Project outside of legal deposit mandate where the copyright owner cannot be traced.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of documentation; dependencies resulting from hardware, software or media; lack of use resulting in lack of priority; lack of strategic investment in digital preservation; workflows that inhibit preservation of content that has not been licensed; encryption; poor storage.

Vulnerable in the Presence of Good Practice

Preservation pathway enabled; proven preservation plan applied; active effort to resolve IPR issues; institutional willingness to take risks for preservation.

2019 Review

There is little evidence of any renewed effort to address the issue of orphaned works since 2017. Improvement to the baseline competence of the archival and library professions in their understanding of copyright and the skills to preserve contents, provides a narrow basis for optimism in some contexts but the scale of the challenge is likely to have grown just as quickly if not more so, and aggravating conditions become more prevalent too.

Additional Jury Comments

The Jury would encourage organizations to take a risk-based approach which would help them preserve collections. Copyright infringements are only likely to become a significant issue in the context of access, and in most cases the likelihood of any specific action is small. Preservation needs to be presented as a social good, one without which copyright holders would simply be unable to benefit from the property rights they seek to protect.

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