Accompanied by traditional festival tunes of Scottish bagpipes the finalists of the 2016 Digital Preservation Awards and their colleagues “celebrated digital preservation”, as William Kilbride called this event last week in London. And in the audience the proud Dutch group of attendees celebrated even more as we won both the Award for Research and Innovation sponsored by the Software Sustainability Institute and the award for Safeguarding the digital legacy sponsored by The National Archives. The 17 international judges looked at 33 submissions, from 10 different countries.  What was the magical ingredient that helped the Netherlands submitting 3 projects, two of them worthwhile to receive the trophees?

With the help of Rijksmuseum digitization

One of the reasons is the following. As reported earlier on iPRES and in several other places, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science started in 2015  (and financed) a program called Network Cultural Heritage, with a focus on exploring more the Dutch digital cultural heritage, by making our digital collections more visible, more connected with each other and more sustainable. While the NCDD had already started some projects in 2014, this initiative gave a boost to these projects and two of the nominees can be related directly to this Network Cultural Heritage.

A nationwide network

The Award for Research and Innovation went to the project Constructing a network of nationwide facilities together, project-lead Joost van der Nat. Although the Netherlands is a small country, we have a large amount of organisations with a mandate to preserve digital heritage. Not everyone is aware of what others are doing, nor are we always aware how we can benefit from each other. More collaboration in all kinds of areas related to digital preservation can improve efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism for both small and large organisations. Based on common sense, desk research, lots of discussions, interviews and an intense feedback meeting  in 2014 – where for the first time over 80 Dutch preservationists were together, the Analytical Framework for the infrastructure was created. This framework combined requirements from OAIS, legal requirements, policies and quality assurance, R&D, Training and ICT, thus giving an overview of the areas that were important for exercising digital preservation and finding partners to collaborate on this task. But we are all different organisations, as is our digital material and our legal mandate. So it was also important to pay attention in the model to the differences between the various domains.

The second part of the project was a reality check: interviews with the stakeholders in different domains helped identifying the current status of collaboration, whether people were willing to collaborate more by using shared services for digital preservation activities and what activities they thought were so organisation or domain specific that they always will do them on their own or with people in their own domain. The resulting diagram is the starting point for developing a real network of collaboration in digital preservation. Currently an inventory is created of existing services, which can be candidates to be incorporated in this model.

Web archaeology The Digital City

Quite a different project in the Network of Cultural Heritage activities is the Digital City revives of which “web archaeologist” Tjarda de Haan is project lead. In 1994  Amsterdam was the first city in the world with a digital counterpart, when The Digital City (De Digitale Stad) was started, offering its citizens free access to the internet, enabling them to have an email address and to build their own virtual environment. This web presence lasted until 2001 when the website was taken down. Initiated by the Amsterdam Museum, numerous paths have been explored since 2011 to find traces of this Digital City and to make a reconstruction. This project offers an interesting case to raise awareness for digital preservation. It not only shows how “digital archaeology” is able to retrieve a digital environment from the past and what can be learnt of the efforts, tools and technical skills  that need to be in place to enable this, but the results of this archaeology activity also need to be safely preserved for the future. This is a good example of a local initiative that had a need to be served by a “network of nationwide facilities”.  As we want to keep the result accessible too, there will be a close connection with the visibility and usability parts of the Network Cultural Heritage.

The 3rd Dutch nominee was the submission of Research Data Netherlands (a collaboration of DANS and 4TU). They developed a training course for those responsible for preserving research data: Essentials 4 Data Support.

These initiatives by the partners in the Network Cultural Heritage under project management of the NCDD and by Research Data Netherlands all contributed to more preservation awareness in the Netherlands. Winning the awards are the cherries on the cake!