Thirteen Ways of Looking at...Digital Preservation

This article, written by Brian Lavoie and Lorcan Dempsey, appears in the July/August issue of D-Lib Magazine.


Research and learning are increasingly supported by digital information environments. In order to cultivate meaningful engagement between digital resources and stakeholder communities, there must be assurance that these resources will persist over time. Efforts to set up and sustain programmatic solutions for preserving digital materials have underscored the fact that digital preservation is much more than just a technical problem of ensuring that bit sequences created today are renderable tomorrow. Rather, digital preservation is the amalgamation of a variety of digital asset management practices, diffused throughout the information lifecycle. These practices operate in concert with the full range of services supporting digital information environments, as well as the overarching economic, legal, and social environments.

In light of this, digital preservation must be viewed not just as a technical process, but in many different ways. In this article, the authors propose and discuss thirteen ways of looking at digital preservation, including: as a social and cultural process, in the sense of selecting what materials should be preserved, and in what form; as an economic process, in the sense of matching limited means with ambitious objectives; as a legal process, in the sense of defining what rights and privileges are needed to support maintenance of a permanent scholarly and cultural record; as a question of responsibilities and incentives, and of articulating and organizing new forms of curatorial practice; and as an ongoing, long-term commitment, often shared, and cooperatively met, by many stakeholders.

For more information:

Brian Lavoie
Research Scientist
OCLC Research

Lorcan Dempsey
Vice President (Research) and Chief Strategist