Saturday, January 30, 2016

Digital Preservation: A Technologist's Perspective

Digital Preservation: A Technologist's Perspective. Matthew Addis. DPC conference. Arkivum. 22 January 2016.
     A presentation on the application of technology, what it can do, how to use it, and the importance of using technology as a tool to do preservation. It also looks at the question: what I wish I knew before I started digital preservation. One thing is that technology is not the place to start: "digital preservation is primarily about people. It’s about people having the right skills. It’s about people having the right plans. It’s about people working as a team and doing something that’s more than they each could do on their own. Technology helps people do their job and people are the place to start."

It doesn't always help to look at what the large institutions are doing; they have more people and money to build complex digital preservation programs. Sometimes this turns into "preservation paralysis". Some quotes:
  • If you think that you’re not able to do enough or ‘do it properly’, then this can result in doing nothing because this feels like the next best thing. 
  • But doing nothing is the worst thing you can do. Delays cause digital data to become derelict. Neglect has serious consequences in the digital world – it’s not benign. A decision to do nothing or to delay action can be the equivalent of a digital death sentence. Or, if nothing else, it just increases the cost.
  • In the end, it’s people that are the biggest risk to digital content surviving into the future. People thinking that preservation is too hard, too expensive or tomorrow’s problem and not today’s.
  • "Digital preservation is an opportunity." It allows the content to be used by others and to become an asset. 
A frugal and minimal strategy to start with could be:
  1. Start with knowing in detail what digital content you have. 
  2. Decide what is important and store it in a safe place. The article uses the 3-2-1 rule: at least three copies in three separate locations with two online and one offline.
  3. Build a business case to get funding for preservation. If you don't have a budget, you can't take care of the content.  
  4. From there you can decide what else to do.
There are lots of tools, technology and guidance available. The best thing is to get started and not wait. Realize that digital preservation is an ongoing activity and doesn’t stop.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cloud-supported preservation of digital papers: A solution for special collections?

Cloud-supported preservation of digital papers: A solution for special collections? Dirk Weisbrod. Liber Quarterly. January 2016.
     A problem for Special Collections is that in many cases digital media have replaced paper for many writers. Digital papers are "difficult to process using established digital preservation strategies, because of their individual and unique nature". The article suggests that document creators should be involved in the preservation process, and that special collections should look at the cloud as a way to solve the problem.

The relatively short durability of digital media is in contrast to the durability of paper. An example in the article shows that data were lost from an Atari computer after a short period of time. Both paper and digital media can be destroyed or damaged, but the potential loss of digital media is much higher since there are many software and hardware components that can fail. The computer skills of the writers can also influence the degree of preservation of the personal digital documents. "To minimize those risks is the task of digital preservation".

A writer’s archive of digital objects (documents, email correspondence, texts, photos, and such) may be scattered over a variety of social networks and web services. This will affect the acquisition of the content by an archive, which would have a problem of identifying and acquiring the digital objects, including accessing the online services, which may be passworded. 

Archives and special collections need to manage these processes for digital preservation and develop a preservation strategy that "matches with the characteristics of digital papers". This needs to change from a “custodial” to a “pre-custodial” view and work with writers and their lifelong personal archives. Writers should contribute to the digital preservation of their own works. Some approaches to consider:
  • Regular captures of the creators’ digital data by preservation specialists to be transferred directly into a managed digital repository.
  • The periodic transfer of data from old hardware and media to a special collection.
  • Have preservation specialists help writers maintain their digital materials
  • Provide self archiving of email archives
  • IT-supported self-archiving and automated data transfers. The solution could includes services such as
    • email archive, like Mailbox
    • data storage, like Dropbox 
    • website hosting
These approaches could help solve the problem of ongoing archiving while the original objects remain on the creator’s computer and continue to be updated. Another potential problem if writers use cloud services is that accounts may be cancelled if inactive. Archives and Special Collections should consider the cloud not as a problem but as an opportunity to work with authors. "By establishing a cloud, special collections get an instrument that provides writers with a reasonable working environment and, at the same time, enables the preservation of their personal digital archives. The time span between an object’s creation and its preservation, this critical factor of digital preservation, reduces to a minimum."

Monday, January 25, 2016

Figshare Joins the Digital Preservation Network

Figshare Joins the Digital Preservation Network to ensure survival, ownership and management of research data into the future. Carol Minton Morris.  DuraSpace. January 20, 2016.
     "Figshare, a platform that supports the management of research content, is the first research data repository to join the DPN Federation". The research data from Figshare will be deposited in DPN through the DuraSpace DuraCloud Vault node and this will provide long-term access to scholarly resources.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Exactly: A New Tool for Digital File Acquisitions

Exactly: A New Tool for Digital File Acquisitions. AVPreserve News. January 13, 2016.
     A new tool, Exactly, has been developed to help to acquire born digital content from donors and to start establishing provenance and fixity early in the acquisition process. The tool:
  • can remotely and safely transfer any born-digital material from a sender to a recipient 
  • uses the BagIt File Packaging Format
  • supports FTP transfer, network transfers
  • can be integrated into sharing workflows using Dropbox or Google Drive
  • metadata templates can be created for the sender to fill out before submission
  • can send email notifications with transfer data and manifests when files have been delivered 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Exploring the potential of Information Encapsulation techniques

Exploring the potential of Information Encapsulation techniques. Anna Eggers. Pericles  Blog. 30 November 2015.
     Information Encapsulation is the aggregation of information that belongs together and can be implemented at different states of the information life cycle. For Digital Preservation this usually means pairing a digital object with its metadata. The PeriCAT open-source tool provides encapsulation techniques and mechanisms that help ensure the information remains accessible even if the digital object leaves its creation environment. The tool supports the creation of self-describing objects and the long-term reusability of information.

The two main categories: Information Embedding and Packaging. Packaging refers to the aggregation information, like files or streams, as equal entities stored in an information container. As opposed to this, information embedding needs a carrier information entity in which the payload information will be embedded.

Packaging techniques: adding files with the information into simple archive packages such as bagit, zip and tar. Metadata files, such as METS and OAI-ORE, can be added to the archive packages. The ensures that the packaged objects can be restored so that the restored objects are identical to the original objects and that they can be verified by a checksum.

Embedding techniques: Making a distinction between the information that is the format of the item, and the message information which is embedded into the object itself. This includes: Digital Watermarking, Steganography (hiding messages), and attaching files or text to objects.

PeriCAT (PERICLES Content Aggregation Tool) is a framework that allows the encapsulation and decapsulation of information. (Decapsulation is the process to separate encapsulated entities from each other.) Each of the techniques have different features; the technique to be used should be chosen based on the specified requirements.


Friday, January 15, 2016

DOTS: Almost a datalith

DOTS: Almost a datalith. Gary McGath. Mad File Format Science. December 29, 2015.
     "The notion that archivists will replace outdated digital media every decade or two through the centuries is a pipe dream. Records have always gone through periods of neglect, and they will in the future. Periods of unrest will happen; authorities will try to suppress inconvenient history; groups like Daesh will set out to destroy everything that doesn’t match their worldview; natural disasters will disrupt archiving." DOTS, Digital Optical Technology System, which is burned on tape, can store digital images in any format and also allows them to be recorded as a visual representation. DOTS encodes data physically on an archival tape coated in a phase-change alloy which is resistant to temperature extremes, electromagnetic pulses, and other common environmental hazards. The data, which may include words, images, and digital information, is which is written using a laser that changes the alloy’s index of refraction. "It’s essential to have something like this for reliable long-term data archives. The people who think data will reliably be passed evermore from curator to curator are pleasantly optimistic, but history has never worked that way."

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Files on nearly 200 floppy disks belonging to Star Trek creator recovered

Files on nearly 200 floppy disks belonging to Star Trek creator recovered. Megan Geuss.  Ars Technica.  Jan 4, 2016.
     Information from nearly 200 floppy disks that belonged to Gene Roddenberry has been recovered. Roddenberry,  Star Trek creator, used the 160KB disks in the 1980's to store his work and "to capture story ideas, write scripts and notes."  The 5.25-inch floppy disks, found several years after the death of Roddenberry, were used with two custom computers and a custom-built OS. The computers were no longer available for recovery use, so the floppies were sent to DriveSavers, which wrote software that could read the disks.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Now What You Put on the Internet Really Could Last Forever

Now What You Put on the Internet Really Could Last Forever. Ryan Steadman. Observer Culture. January 5, 2016.
     Digital art institution Rhizome has won a two-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to continue development of Webrecorder, a newly developed archiving tool for the web. The tool, Webrecorder, which will be free to the public, provides the ability to capture and play back dynamic web content and thus improve digital social memory. An open source version of Webrecorder is already available at, where users are invited to build their own archive. However,  "further development is needed to make it into the comprehensive archive Rhizome would like to build."


Monday, January 11, 2016

Digital Preservation Decision Form

Digital Preservation Decision Form. Chris Erickson. Harold B. Lee Library. January 11, 2016. Updated.   
     This is the production version of our Digital Preservation Decision Form with the Instructions for completing the form. The form is used by subject specialists (curators, subject librarians, or faculty responsible for collections) to determine:
  • which materials should be included in our Rosetta Digital Archive; 
  • who can access content in the Digital Archive;
  • preservation metadata and updates;
  • preservation actions needed;
  • direction on format migration options;
  • whether or not the digital collection is a high preservation risk. 
Standard practices include creating three preservation copies, Rosetta, tape, stored in the granite vaults, and a copy on M-Disc. The form was created to help subject specialists determine what should be preserved, even if they are unaware of digital preservation procedures and practices. In practice, we complete the form during an interview with new subject specialists. This version includes instructions to help complete the form.

Friday, January 08, 2016

World bought 143 exabytes of storage in Q3, mostly spinning rust

World bought 143 exabytes of storage in Q3, mostly spinning rust. Simon Sharwood. The Register. 4 Dec 2015.
The world bought 143 exabytes of storage in 2015's third quarter, which is expected to be about 500 exabyte for the year. Solid state disks accounted for 26.22 million drives. The article asks, how much of it is properly backed up?

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Digital Preservation: A Planning Guide for the Five Colleges

Digital Preservation: A Planning Guide for the Five Colleges. Five Colleges Consortium website. 2014. [PDF]
     This Digital Preservation Planning Guide is designed to help institutions who are starting their digital preservation activities. The first part of the Guide is a checklist of the six essential action items for starting a digital preservation program:
  1. Create a digital preservation policy
  2. Identify and document workflows, standards, and best practices
  3. Identify and document short-term data security practices
  4. Manage digital objects
  5. Identify and capture metadata necessary for preservation
  6. Develop a migration plan
The second part provides "explanations, examples, and advice for completing the six action items" to help with the planning and to find common ground for potential future collaboration.

Create a digital preservation policy which will help achieve several fundamental digital preservation goals:
  • Define digital preservation and the scope of preservation efforts.
  • Get administrator buy-in, which becomes a tool for ensuring institutional support and program sustainability.
  • Encourage the institution to review current digital programs and define the scope of future efforts.
General Steps:
  • Advocate for the necessity of a digital preservation policy
  • Organize all stakeholders to form a policy committee
  • Develop the process for approving the policy
  • Review example policies
  • Draft the policy
  • Solicit feedback from campus community and review periodically
  • Schedule periodic review
  • Identify and document workflows, standards, and best practices
  • Identify and Document short-term data security practices
  • Manage digital objects
  • Identify stored digital objects and their components
  • Determine which components should be preserved
  • Ensure integrity of digital objects regardless of system used to store or provide access
  • Identify and capture metadata necessary for preservation
  • Develop a migration plan