Digital Scholar Bytes: World Digital Preservation Day: Safeguarding Our Digital Heritage

Happy World Digital Preservation Day 2023!

On November 2nd every year, the global digital preservation community comes together to celebrate World Digital Preservation Day. This annual event serves as a reminder of the critical importance of preserving our digital heritage and the challenges that come with it. This year’s theme: “Digital Preservation: A Concerted Effort.”

The History of World Digital Preservation Day

World Digital Preservation Day (WDPD) is a relatively new addition to the calendar of events in the digital preservation field. It was first established in 2010 by the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC), a not-for-profit membership organization that works to secure our digital legacy. Professionals from a wide range of fields, including libraries, archives, museums, and research institutions participate.

The primary goal of WDPD is to create global awareness about the challenges of preserving digital content and to inspire actions that safeguard our digital heritage for future generations. This event provides a platform for experts and enthusiasts to share knowledge, experiences, and best practices in the field of digital preservation.

The Main Issues in Digital Preservation

Preservation of Digital Materials: The rapid pace of technological advancement results in the constant obsolescence of hardware and software. This makes it challenging to preserve and access digital materials, including documents, images, and multimedia content. WDPD highlights the need for active preservation strategies to ensure long-term access to digital assets.

Data Loss and Digital Obsolescence: Digital data is fragile and susceptible to loss. The risk of losing valuable information due to factors like hardware failure, media decay, and format obsolescence, is paramount. The importance of migration and emulation to combat obsolescence issues cannot be understated.

Digital Privacy and Ethical Considerations: Preserving digital content often involves handling sensitive information. Ethical considerations surrounding digital preservation, such as privacy concerns, consent, and data protection regulations like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), are complicated.

Access to Digital Heritage: One issue that WDPD addresses is making sure that digital heritage is accessible to future generations. Standards and best practices that support long-term access to digital content and research data is part of the discussion.

Research and Innovation: Preserving digital heritage effectively fosters research and innovation. WDPD underscores the potential for data reuse, computational analysis, and the development of new technologies in digital preservation.

The Future of Digital Preservation

As the digital world continues to evolve, the challenges of preserving digital heritage become more complex. The exponential growth of digital content, the rise of big data, and the development of new technologies all impact the way we approach digital preservation.

The future of digital preservation will be shaped by such technologies as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and decentralized storage offer promising solutions for long-term data preservation. These innovations will be crucial in addressing the challenges of data loss and obsolescence.

Interdisciplinary collaboration between diverse fields, such as computer science, data science, and information management, will lead to innovative preservation strategies that accommodate the evolving digital landscape. International collaboration in digital preservation will become increasingly essential. Cross-border partnerships and standards will help ensure that digital heritage remains accessible worldwide.

Digital Stewardship educational initiatives focusing on digital stewardship and preservation will become more prevalent. These programs will equip professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to manage and preserve digital content effectively. In 2010, the Library of Congress created the Digital Preservation OutReach and Education Network program for such professionals. WRLC sponsored the program in 2016 and three CUA Librarians attended.

World Digital Preservation Day is a vital event in the digital preservation community, serving as a reminder of the importance of safeguarding our digital heritage. It addresses critical issues related to digital preservation, inspires collaboration, and offers a glimpse into the future of this ever-evolving field.

Further reading

Adams, Caralee. 2022. In an Ever-Expanding Library, Using Decentralized Storage to Keep Your Materials Safe. Internet Archives Blog. March 11.

Digital Preservation Coalition.

Digital Preservation Handbook.

Digital Preservation Coalition. The Global ‘Bit List’ of Endangered Digital Species.

Jaillant, Lise, and Arran Rees. 2023. Applying AI to digital archives: trust, collaboration and shared professional ethics. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 38 (2): 571-585.

Oldham, Krista M. 2020. Partners for Preservation: Advancing Digital Preservation through Cross-Community Collaboration. The American Archivist 83 (2): 487–490.

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