Collection Care blog

22 January 2014

Digital Preservation Training Programme: snuggling up with OAIS

An important aspect of digital preservation advocacy in recent years has been the recognition of the importance of developing professional knowledge and skills at all stages of a career. To support this, research projects like DigCurV (Digital Curator Vocational Education Europe) and APARSEN have spent considerable time developing frameworks and curricula for digital preservation training, aimed at cultural heritage professionals at different levels of seniority and career stage. In the UK, the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC), of which the British Library is a member, provides a range of opportunities for digital preservation training and continuing professional development.

It was thanks to a scholarship from the DPC that I was able to attend the Digital Preservation Training Programme (DPTP) at the University of London Computer Centre last November. Led by Ed Pinsent and Stephanie Taylor, the course aimed to provide delegates with the skills and knowledge necessary to respond to emerging issues in digital preservation from an organisational perspective.

The attendance was international, with representatives from a diverse range of institutions including library, archive, record management, technical and business backgrounds. There were many motivations for attending the course, from delegates who were taking responsibility for initiating a digital preservation strategy within their entire organisation, to others who were preparing for digital archives to be ingested into their collections. As a recent graduate in archive administration, I have some foundation knowledge in digital preservation however I could recognise gaps in my understandings on issues such as preservation systems, cost models and risk assessments.

The core modules of the DPTP evolved around understanding the OAIS (Open Archival information System) model, of existing tools developed specifically for practical digital preservation purposes, and of current legislation and standards of this sector. The DPTP was well managed and engaging, with presentations broken up by short individual tasks which allowed time to examine and absorb tools and concepts, and group activities which were more problem solving and collaborative.

OAIS

The first rule of digital preservation club… OAIS. OAIS photograph courtesy of Flickr user wlef70 / Creative Commons Licensed

Group work encouraged an imaginative but analytical approach to developing digital preservation strategies within an institution, evolving in complexity over the duration of the course. By day three the group tasks had broadened to a critical analysis of a genuine institution’s digital preservation implementations and mapping them against the OAIS model. This was an excellent exercise as it encouraged groups to think of different stages, people and status of records throughout digital preservation activities and examine the strengths and weaknesses of these within a particular organisation. This was then balanced on the ‘three-legged stool’ model of resources, technology and organisation to pinpoint where improvement should be focused. Finally considered in this holistic approach was how all of this tied into ISO 16363 Audit and certification of trustworthy digital repositories.

One of the highlights of the course was a talk by Sharon McMeekin of the DPC on cost models and risk management. This session explored the financial risks of data loss and benefit realisation of successful digital preservation practice, evidencing the value of digital records so that institutions perceive them as valuable.

The course delivered an excellent introduction to many aspects of digital preservation in just three days. For those who would rather a shorter introduction to digital preservation, I would also highly recommend the DPCs ‘Getting started…’ and ‘What I wish I knew before I started…’ conferences. As an early career information professional, I am noticing an increase of job advertisements stating digital preservation as an essential or desirable proficiency. This discipline is still emerging and evolving, and it is a great time to develop skills in digital preservation.

For further information on the DPTP see: http://www.dptp.org/
And for DPC events: http://www.dpconline.org/events

Ann MacDonald, Internship Digital Preservation

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