This idea is something that has been on the fringes of my consciousness for a long time. The earliest reference I have was in 2001, when the CEDARS project (part of the eLib programme that I managed up to 2000) suggested in their final report that during the pre-ingest phase, an archive would have to assess the significant properties of the objects to be ingested:
"The archive will need to make decisions about what level of preservation is appropriate for each digital object (or each class of objects). This involves assessing which properties of a particular digital object are regarded as significant. These decisions influence the levels and methods of access that will be possible for the object, and the level of preservation metadata required for long-term retention."The project later held a workshop where participants attempted to agree on the significant properties of a sample set of digital objects, and the work continued and overlapped with the CAMiLEON project, JISC/NSF funded and jointly between Leeds and Michigan.
OK, so that's the ancient history (I would be interested to know of anything even more ancient; I could not find any reference in OAIS, for example, so it maybe that the CEDARS team invented the concept). Thinking about it now, I have a whole bunch of questions in my mind, including:
- what properties?
- of which objects?
- for whom?
- for what purposes?
- and maybe where?
"an important property of a certain digital object, as experienced by the user. Significant properties can be classified by five aspects of a digital object: structure, content, context, appearance, and behaviour. Examples: text (content), chapters (structure), metadata (context), colour (appearance), zoom-functionality (behaviour)."The forthcoming workshop will feature reports from a number of projects and studies that JISC has funded in this area. It should turn out very interesting!