KB Research

Research at the National Library of the Netherlands

Month: February 2013

Sustainability is more than saving the bits

Author: Barbara Sierman
Originally posted on: http://digitalpreservation.nl/seeds/uncategorized/sustainability-is-more-then-saving-the-bits/

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The subject of the JISC/SCA report Sustaining our digital Future. Institutional strategies for digital content. By Nancy L. Maron, Jason Yun and Sarah Pickle (2013),  is the sustainability of digitised collections in general, illustrated with experiences of three different organisations: University College London, The Imperial War Museum and the National Library of Wales. I was especially interested by the fact that the report mentions digital preservation, but not as a goal in itself (“saving the bits”). Instead, the authors broaden the scope of digital preservation with activities that are beyond bit preservation or even beyond “functional preservation”.

Nowadays a lot of digitisation projects are undertaken and interesting material comes to life for a large audience, often with a fancy website, a press release, a blog (and a big investment)  and attracts immediately  interested public. But the problematic phase starts when the project is finished. In organizations like universities, with a variety of digitisation projects, lack of central coordination of these projects could cause “disappearance” of project results, simple because hardly anyone knew about it. We all know these stories, and this report describes the ways these 3 organizations try to avoid that risk.

Internal coordination seems to be a key factor in this process. One organisation integrated more than a hundred databases in a central catalogue, another draw together several teaching collections. Both efforts resulted in visibility of the collections. But this is not enough to achieve permanent (long term) access.  The data will be stored safely, but who is taking care of all the related products, that support the visibility of the data? In other (digital preservation jargon) words, who is monitoring the Designated Community and their changing environment?

The report describes interesting activities.  Take for example this one: the intended public need to be reminded constantly of the existence of the digitized material by promotion actions, otherwise the collections will not be used at all. Who is planning this activity as part of digital preservation? That the changing environment needs to be updated sounds familiar. But there is more reason to do this apart from technical reasons. Websites need to be redesigned to be attractive, to adapt to changing user experiences. And who is monitoring whether there might be a new group of interested  visitors?

Or, as Lyn Lewis Dafgis of the National Library of Wales said, there is an assumption that

once digitised, the content is sustainable just by virtue of living in the digital asset management system and by living in the central catalogue.

And this needs to change.

Not seldom digital preservation is seen as something that deals with access to the digital collections somewhere in the future. Permanent access, which is the goal of digital preservation, is often seen as solved by “bit preservation” and if you do a really good job “functional preservation”. This report illustrates with some good examples what more needs to be done and is coloring the not always well understood OAIS phrase “monitoring the Designated Community”.

Looking back: publications in 2012

2012 was quite a busy year for the people working at the Research department of the KB National Library of the Netherlands. The large-scale project IMPACT was concluded in the summer of 2012, followed by the start of the IMPACT Centre of Competence in Digitisation. Work continued in ongoing research projects such as SCAPE and APARSEN (both in the area of digital preservation) and the newly started Europeana Newspapers project. In addition, articles were written on research areas such as copyright and benchmarking for libraries, and a website was started for the Atlas of Digital Damages. Last but not least, our library & two people from our Research department were featured in an item on the Euronews TV channel.

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 List of publications in 2012 by the KB research department:

Peeking over the wall

Author: Barbara Sierman
Originally posted on: http://digitalpreservation.nl/seeds/tag/digital-forensics/

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Recently a very interesting report was published in the series of DPC Technology Watch Reports  Digital Forensics and Preservation, by Jeremy Leighton John, from the British Library. I knew the phrase “digital forensics” and its potentials for digital preservation, especially in the archival community. This report shows clearly, with practical examples, what the digital preservationists can learn from the digital forensics. One could think that, as this is often related to personal archives, it might not be of interest for organizations that don’t have personal archives in their collections. But this reports shows that there is much ground in common to raise the interest.

The digital forensics process had some starting points that are very similar to what in the digital preservation community is referred to as “authenticity” and “the original”.

  1.  Acquire the evidence without altering or damaging the original,
  2. Establish and demonstrate that the examined evidence is the same as that which was originally obtained and
  3. Analyse the evidence in an accountable and repeatable fashion (p14).

The fact that the forensic practices has narrow links with legal authorities forces them to act towards criteria that are not always present in the environments of cultural heritage organisations. This might make the tools and approaches that are used in digital forensics more strict and reliable.

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As noted in the report (p.17) a distinction between digital forensics and digital preservation is that the latter is aiming to have the material being accessible over time and by many different users, while digital forensics focus often on one specific goal: the court case. Of course this influences  the methodology used in digital forensics, in this report referred to as the “lifecycle”, but the similarities in approaches between digital preservation and digital forensics are striking (p. 21). Especially related to steps that prepare the material before “archival storage”, so the ingest and pre-ingest steps. As digital forensics is often confronted with handhelds, smartphones and tablets etc. –  a relatively new category for libraries – , the methods and insights they have developed could be of tremendous help for libraries, especially those with personal collections.

The benefit of this report is the practical line of approach, with references and descriptions to (open source) tools that are used in the digital forensics community. A wide range of examples that underpin the case for digital forensics are described, and I experienced a frequent occurrence of “aha Erlebnis”. Recognition of similar challenges and areas of interest: cloud computing, large scale, emulation, privacy, the need of test environments with reliable corpora (for libraries always difficult because of copyright) etc.  The report summarizes a long list of conclusions (one of them the “inertia” of libraries and archives to preserve personal archives, but maybe we can extend that to the hesitation to preserve offline digital material in general) and finishes with a set of Recommended Actions, of which I conclude as the generic topic: collaboration.

Collaboration will be the most beneficial when parties involved are aware of their needs and what they want to achieve. I think that although we talked a lot of digital preservation, and much is yet not clear, we have a set of starting points that will support us in collaboration activities. The OAIS model still offers a very clear and understandable set of coherent concepts. For those that need a more practical explanation the series of audit materials like DSA , DIN,  and RAC  can support them.  In a way digital preservation has grown up and is able to look around in other, less obviously adjacent disciplines. The people interested in emulation learned a lot of the open source community that rescued games (EU project  KEEP – website no longer available) . Data visualisation, as was mentioned in a blog at The Signal , could help us identifying patterns in collections and perhaps identify risks, if applied in a clever way. Human Computer Interaction (HCI)  science was mentioned by Luciana Duranti to be involved in her research into Records in the Cloud.

Sometimes people are wondering where all investments in digital preservation (research) have brought us so far. There seems to be no end to the challenges with the rapid technology changes.  But I like the view that seems to emerge that there are rich opportunities to collaborate between (established) disciplines. Peeking over the wall  around your own garden into the neighbours courtyard can offer some interesting views. Picking some of the seeds could make your border a stunning one!

Succeed Project launched

Author: Clemens Neudecker
Originally posted on: http://www.openplanetsfoundation.org/blogs/2013-02-05-succeed-project-launched

The kick-off meeting of the Succeed project (http://www.succeed-project.eu) took place on Friday 1 February in Paris.

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Succeed is a project coordinated by the Universidad de Alicante and supported by the European Commission with a contribution of 1.8 mio. €.


The core objective of Succeed is to promote the take-up of the research results generated by technological companies and research centres in Europe in a strategic field for Europe: digitisation and preservation of its cultural heritage.


Succeed will foster the take-up of the most recent tools and techniques by libraries, museums and archives through the organisation of meetings of experts in digitisation, competitions to evaluate techniques, technical conferences to broadcast results and through the maintenance of an online platform for the demonstration and evaluation of tools.


Succeed will contribute in this way to the coordination of efforts for the digitisation of cultural heritage and to the standardisation of procedures. It will also propose measures to the European Union to foster the dissemination of European knowledge through centres of competence in digitisation, such as Open Planets FoundationPrestoCentreAPARSEN3D-COFORM Virtual Competence Centre, and V-MusT.net.


In addition to the University of Alicante, the consortium includes the following European institutions: the National Library of the Netherlands, the Dutch Institute of Lexicology, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, the Poznań Supercomputing Centre, the University of Salford, the Foundation Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes Savedra, the French National Library and the British Library.


For additional information, please contact Rafael Carrasco (Universidad de Alicante) or send an email to succeed@ua.es.


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