Digital Forensic Perspective Helps Cultural Heritage Institutions Meet Deep Challenges

This is a guest post by Jose “Ricky” Padilla, a HACU intern working with NDIIPP.

“There are some deep challenges ahead for cultural heritage and archives, but the forensic perspective is undoubtedly among the most promising sources of insights and solutions. Equally, digital forensics can benefit from the advances being made in the curation and preservation of digital information.”

Digital Forensics, by k0a1a.net, on Flickr

Digital Forensics, by k0a1a.net, on Flickr

This bold statement comes from the Digital Preservation Coalition Technology Watch Report, Digital Forensics and Digital Preservation (PDF). The author, Jeremy Leighton John, closes the executive summary of the report with these promising words on digital forensics and its relation to digital curation and preservation. From this statement it seems the sky is the limit for the pairing of digital forensics and other digital media focused areas.

This blog recently mentioned the Digital Preservation Coalition Technology Watch Reports as one of the Top 10 Digital Preservation Developments of 2012. The digital forensics report is the most recent, and is helpful in clarifying digital preservation and its impact. The structuring of the report makes it useful not only as an introduction to digital forensics (as it was for me) but also as an update on research and development. I especially appreciated the helpful explanations of concepts and also detail about recent advances.

The report outlines the basic digital forensics processes, detailing use of special tools and techniques such as those used to avoid altering existing files. There is a useful discussion on why archival repositories are interested in forensics; one major reason cited is “identification and protection of authenticity along with detection of digital forgery.” In addition, we are provided with current insight into issues associated with copyright, digital preservation and curation and digital scholarship.

I was impressed with how broadly digital forensics can assist with institutional digital preservation as well as with digital humanities research. It has clear application for academic media studies, such as the work underway by Lori Emerson at the University of Colorado at Boulder Media Archaeology Lab. And, given the growing relevance of digital forensics for dealing with old and new digital information, I recommend that everyone with an interest in digital preservation read this report, along with the 2010 report, Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections, from the Coalition for Library and Information Resources.

 

 

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