Monday, 29 September 2008

iPres 2008, session 1

Here are a few notes that I took during the initial iPres 08 session at the British Library this week. The opening keynote was from Dame Lynne Brindley of the BL, describing some of her institutions approaches and projects. She also noted the increase in public awareness of the need for preservation, including the wide coverage of a project with a name like Email Month (although I don't seem able to find this!). One reflection at the end of her talk was that maybe digital preservation as a term was not the most useful at this stage of development (as we have commented on this blog a while ago). Lynne suggested “preservation for access” as an alternative.

Neil Beagrie and Najla Rettberg spoke under the ironic title “Digital Preservation: a subject of no importance?”. Of course, they did recognise the importance (their point related to Lynne’s message), and found echoes of that importance in institutional policies at various levels; however, they were implicit rather than explicit. As an outcome of their study, they have apparently devised a model preservation policy, with 8 generic clauses, although we have not seen this model yet.

Angela Dappert spoke about some fascinating PLANETS work on relating preservation policy both to institutional goals and to a detailed model of the preservation approach, and particularly its risks. It is refreshing to see the emphasis on risks at this meeting: risks, rather than absolutes, imply choices on courses of action dependent on the probability and impact of the danger, and on the resources available. The presentation included some interesting modeling of preservation in context; too detailed to understand fully as she spoke, but worth another look in the proceedings, I think. One interesting observation (to me) was about the idea of “significant properties”: if I understood her point, she suggested that they were less about the digital object itself, rather about the institution’s goals and the intellectual entity the digital object represents.

The next two presentations were attempts at modelling long term preservation in the context of organisational goals, in the context first of the Netherlands KB, and secondly of the Bavarian State Library. These are, I think, signs of the increasing maturity of the integration of long term preservation.


  1. The project Lynne Brindley mentioned was called E-mail Britain:

    There is a BL press release about it here:

    All the best,


  2. "One interesting observation (to me) was about the idea of 'significant properties': if I understood her point, she suggested that they were less about the digital object itself, rather about the institution’s goals and the intellectual entity the digital object represents."

    I'd be a bit wary of this. While it's true that an asset is only really useful 'in-house' when it contributes to meeting institutional priorities (even in a vague, roundabout sort of way), that same asset could be useful to another institution in another way. One man sees a tree, another man sees timber. So the significance of any given property becomes a subjective decision.

    Of course this could mean that, for effective sharing, two distinct sets of metadata are required: objective/universal/external and subjective/particular/internal...

  3. I think we're in agreement here. "Institution's goals" stands for that subjective element; one might also say "designated community". Point is that the institution has to pay, so it has to decide whether to aim for a comprehensive set of significant properties, or settle for what John Kunze called "dessicated forms".

    BTW I'm personally very wary of "objective/universal/external". Pretty hard to find an objective, external characterisation, I think. Most end up having nuanced, point of view elements in them. So it becomes HOW subjective, rather than a true objective/subjective dichotomy!


Please note that this blog has a Creative Commons Attribution licence, and that by posting a comment you agree to your comment being published under this licence. You must be registered to comment, but I'm turning off moderation as an experiment.