tiistai 6. maaliskuuta 2012

A bit more detailed presentation of long-term digital... preservation

Hello again! As a little extra assignment to amend my absence from the Digital culture course two weeks ago (I did mention this in my earlier blog post, but oh, well...), I'm supposed to offer you a bit more detailed presentation of long-term digital preservation.

As required for the assignment, I took a little look at The National Digital Library and its PAS project (eng. long-term preservation). I was greeted by a rather epic welcoming text in English:"National Digital Library is a project which aims to ensure that electronic materials of Finnish culture and science are managed with high standard, are easily accessed and will be securely preserved for a long period of time. Participating archives, libraries and museums work together in saving our national heritage in a digital format and in making it available for all.". This means trustworthy storage of digital information for several decades and even centuries. Equipment,software and file formats age and expire, but in spite of this information should remain comprehensible. Customers of the PAS service are organisations, to which the preservation service is offered. These are primarily organisations within the administrative sector of The Ministry of Education and Culture, which answer for the preservation of the spiritual and physical cultural heritage.

During the last few years libraries, archives and museums have digitised their material in noteworthy investments. They acquire as well a lot of originally digital material. The current PAS project (2010-2013) is a continuation of another identical project back from 2008-2010. The basic idea with the project is to preserve material and aid the accessibility and usability of the information reserve of between libraries, archives and museums.

As of 2011, there has been around 687 million objects within digital preservation at the National Digital Library, the majority of this documents, pictures and material from web archives. This is, without doubt, a very prestigious and ambitious project. The project also includes clear directions and guidelines on the different kinds of file format and their eligibility and qualification for storage and transfer. According to the NDL, there is a slight difference between these two categories; files eligible for storage are in good shape and usable for a long time ahead, as material similar for files qualified for transfer have already been stored in the National Digital Library in bigger quantities before. It is strictly forbidden to alter or change the format of the files the least to facilitate the actual transfer of the files, as this can damage the file. Each and every small alternation is a risk to the preservation of the file and only the newest methods should be used in the actual digitising process. According to the newest survey, the most popular file formats among the digitised material is jpg/jpeg, pdf, tiff, doc/docx and mp3 - not very surprising, I'd say.

The PAS project also wants to offer full service and advertises attendance with highest priorities in areas such as trustworthy storage,consultation and support, and planning the storage. The most important kind of material has been carefully mapped into different sections. Among files most in need of storage are listed on their page are e.g. files, which are important for preservation because of their authenticity, which contain dynamics and&or interactiveness and files which cannot, files which cannot be used in their current state and files which are deemed impossible to convert to another format.

Altogether 500 million objects of this kind and more have been reported to exist by different organisations participating in the project. According to the survey, migration (transferring of data to newer system environments) as a method of long-term preservation in the PAS project serves the purpose of storing all kinds of file formats and thus also serves the needs of all different organisations participating in the project. Thus migration will be the first-hand preservation method in planning of the PAS solution of the NDL.

I hope this post could offer a somewhat thorough picture of the services NDL offers through their PAS project and services. One only has to hope it will be more publicly accessible in the future, but as a researcher one surely gains access quite easily, or that's what I expect. Who knows, we'll see in time...

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