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Digital Preservation Outreach through the NDSA

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Many of our readers are (hopefully) familiar with the NDSA , a large-scale collaboration of many organizations working together, pooling time and talents to create solutions for long term preservation of digital materials.  The effort is growing by leaps and bounds  – as a matter of fact, we’ve now reached a milestone – 100 organizations!  Because this involves so many organizations, the effort is divided into “Working Groups” to focus on specialized areas: Innovation, Content, Standards, Infrastructure and Outreach. 

As a member of the Outreach working group, I’d like to provide a glimpse of how this dedicated group of librarians, archivists, technologists, digital humanities scholars and information professionals across a range of industries are collectively working to create more awareness for digital preservation.  Among other things, this requires identifying communication tools, key resources, and the best opportunities for outreach on a national level.

A treasured box (photo by Susan Manus)

The Outreach working group, co-chaired by Butch Lazorchak of the Library of Congress and Carol Minton Morris of Duraspace, is currently focused on two major projects.  The first of these is called “Digital Preservation in a Box.”  This is a very special “box,” not meant to signify limitation, but serving as a metaphor for the idea of a contained set of materials, all in one place, and easily accessible.  This project is still in the beginning stages, but the goal is for this set of digital preservation materials to serve as a toolkit of resources, with links provided to things such as a tutorial and overview of digital preservation, information on digital storage, resources and curriculum for educators, a glossary of terms, marketing guidance, and a list of tools.  Once this “box” of resources is finalized, the goal is for it (and the individual items in it) to be easily accessible, for use by educators, public libraries, and anyone else wanting to start a digital preservation program or learn more about the overall process.  

The second focused effort is the “Storytellers” project.  That is, the use of real-life stories concerning data loss, or data saved, in order to highlight the specific needs for digital preservation.  And who doesn’t love a good story?  We know there are many out there just waiting to be identified, told, passed along.  Amanda French, ThatCamp Coordinator at the Center for History and New Media , and one of the participants in the Storytellers project, describes the importance this way:  “We want to collect stories because that’s the way we tend to share this information anyway, whether informally at meetings or a bit more formally in newspaper articles or in case studies from the LIS literature. There’s something innately dramatic about both painful data loss and triumphant data salvage, and we think that drama is something that people outside the preservation community can understand.”

They have gathered some good stories already, but the group is anxious to gather as many of these as possible, and eventually create videos as a way of telling these stories and making them available.

On the effort overall, Carol Minton-Morris remarks: “This effort seems to have struck a chord with people in and out of the NDSA–the call for data loss stories was circulated widely and is still open.”

So, to our blog readers – if you have a good story that illustrates the heartbreak of data loss, or, how digital material has been miraculously saved through digital preservation, please let us know!  A description of this project, along with a story submission form is found here.  And feel free to use the comment section below, to share your story with our blog readers.

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