Today’s guest post is from Kate Murray, a Digital Projects Coordinator in the Digital Collections and Services Division at the Library of Congress.
Digital information drives our economy, spurs our culture, and connects our community. But it requires special care to ensure that our expanding archives of digital information will be there for the future.
If you’ve ever seen the dreaded error message “The file is corrupted and cannot be opened,” you have first-hand experience of the challenges at the heart of digital preservation. Maybe that file was created on an old computer, or with an outdated software program, or just went bad in some mysterious way but the gist of it is, you can’t get to the data in that file anymore. Digital preservation activities aim to jump in before things get to the point of that much feared error message to prevent the information loss.
Very broadly, digital preservation is an ecosystem of managed policies, strategies and actions necessary to ensure continued access to digital materials for as long as necessary. There is no “one way” to ensure digital preservation but typically, strategies and actions address content creation, data reliability and maintenance. Some key features include inventorying content, identifying and verifying file formats, creating persistent file identifiers, recording any changes to the data or processes, robust managed digital storage, and active management of the digital files – all in support of warding off data loss or corruption.
As the largest library in the world, The Library of Congress has long been an influential player in the global digital preservation community. From our foundational work developing the BagIt specification for creating standardized digital containers, leadership in the Web Archiving community as a founding member and active participant in the International Internet Preservation Consortium, defining good practice and standards through the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative (FADGI), researching sustainable file formats, and supporting open source tools such as BWF MetaEdit, Bagger and embARC, the Library consistently has been at the forefront of knowledge and resource sharing.
Of course, by its very nature, digital preservation is a shared global challenge that is best met with a collaborative, community-based approach. It is in this spirit of partnership that the Library of Congress has proudly joined the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) as a Full Member.
The DPC is a non-profit international advocate for digital preservation, helping members around the world deliver resilient long-term access to digital content and services through community engagement, targeted advocacy work, training and workforce development, capacity building, good practice and standards, and through good management and governance. Its vision is a secure digital legacy.
The DPC’s goals mesh well with the Library’s strategic vision to engage, inspire, and inform Congress and the American people with a universal and enduring source of knowledge and creativity. Preserving digital material in all forms is a priority, especially with the advent of the Library’s digital-forward strategy that harnesses technology to bridge geographical divides, expand our reach, and enhance our services.
Joining the DPC is one more way that the Library is demonstrating our commitment to resource optimization and a digitally-enabled future. As a Full Member, the Library gains a seat on the DPC’s Representative Council, allowing us to contribute directly to shaping and guiding the organization’s work. The Library of Congress joins other U.S. institutions, including the National Archives and Records Administration and Yale University Library, as well as diverse international organizations such as the British Library, National Archives of Australia and Library and Archives Canada in DPC membership, thereby supporting the global landscape of digital preservation research.