The First DPTP Course of 2015



We were delighted to be able to offer our first Digital Preservation Training Programme course of 2015, our ‘Introduction to Digital Preservation’, on 19th and 20th January. Our ‘Intro’ course is always very popular with students and this course was no exception. Despite the course starting on Blue Monday, we had an enthusiastic and engaged group who were, like previous groups, fun to teach. They brought along examples of their own work and why they wanted to start to implement digital preservation in a wide variety of projects. Breaks and lunchtimes were filled with chat and questions as everyone shared their projects with each other. Continue reading

#24DaysofDP – what we did in December


I promised in a previous post that I would share the rest of our tweets in the advent campaign. I had originally planned to do this on a weekly basis, so people would be able to get an overview of each week, but, as with many good ideas, life got in the way. Anyway, for those people who would like to have a complete set of links, they are now all together in one place.

Thanks to everyone who re-tweeted, favourited, tweeted back and booked courses! It was great to have so much interest, and lovely to chat with you all on Twitter.

Look out for another set of  #DP later on in 2015.


The new EPSRC guidelines

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) guidelines: What are they and how can you meet them?

After receiving an increasing number of enquiries about the new EPSRC guidelines which are coming into effect in May 2015, I decided to catch up with Kevin Ashley, Director, Digital Curation Centre, my colleagues Rory McNicholl and Timothy Miles-Board, and Matthew Addis, CTO at Arkivum to get a better understanding of what the requirements are and how institutions can meet them.

Q: When looking into the EPSRC guidelines on research funding, I couldn’t help but notice them being not as tightly defined as I would have thought. Is that deliberate?

KA: I think it is, and there are perfectly valid reasons for it, but some are uncomfortable with that. The flexibility allows for different responses from larger and smaller institutions – you just need to be able to defend what you do.

MA: This largely due to the variety of research projects and their differing objectives, both in terms of brief and data output. Some might have a mandate to be publicly accessible first, others will focus on the safety and security of the research data before being concerned about dissemination of research findings. Continue reading

#24DaysofDP – the first #7days


Last week we launched our digital preservation advent tweets, a series of 24 tweets throughout the run up to Christmas. If you missed any, you can catch up via our Storify of the first 7 days.  We hope you’re enjoying this small celebration of all things digital preservation, and that you will share the links on Twitter if you find something useful. Thanks to all the people and organisations who have inspired our tweets so far, and here’s to the next 17 days!

Image from the British Library on Flickr

24 Days of Digital Preservation – #24DaysofDP


This year, we are getting into the festive spirit. Starting on the 1st of December, we will be sending out an Advent tweet per day, up to Christmas Eve, using the #24DaysofDP hashtag. We’ll tweet links to some things we’ve doing this year, some past projects and some new ideas. We hope our tweets will inspire you to engage with digital preservation. We also hope to give you some help with maintaining your interest via courses, presentations, books, tools and some useful organisations. Look out for our daily tweets, and join us in a 24-day long celebration of all things digital preservation for Christmas 2014…

What’s new at the DPTP?

Photograph by Krista Hennebury
Photograph by Krista Hennebury

Our award-winning Digital Preservation Training Programme now offers a Beginner Course and a Practitioner Course. If you’re not sure which Course is right for you, see the tables below. These new courses have been designed to meet the needs of the community, so anyone working in archives, libraries, museums, or information management will benefit. Whether a records manager or a digital librarian, working in a commercial business or a County Archives, you will be welcome on the DPTP.

We’ve made this change to bring our work more closely in line with the emerging Curriculum Framework for Digital Curation which is being designed by the good people at DigCurV. Continue reading

Making Progress in Digital Preservation: Part 3 – Roundtable

Photo by James Jordan
Photo by James Jordan

This one-day event on 31 October 2014 was organised by the DPC. The day concluded with a roundtable discussion, featuring a panel of the speakers and taking questions from the floor. The level of engagement from delegates throughout the event was clearly shown in the interesting questions posed to the panel, the thoughtful responses and the buzz of general discussion in this session. Among many interesting topics covered, three stand out as typical of the breadth of knowledge and interest shown at the event.

First, a fundamental question about the explosion of digital content and how it will impact on our work. How can we keep all of this stuff, where will we put it, and how much will it really cost? Sarah Middleton urged us to attend the upcoming 4C Conference in London to hear discussion of cutting-edge ideas about large-scale storage approaches. Catherine Hardman reminded us of one of the most obvious archival skills, which we sometimes tend to forget: selection. We do not have to keep “everything”, and a well-formulated selection policy continues to be an effective way to target the preservation of the most meaningful digital resources.

Next, a question on copyright and IPR as it applies to archives/archivists and hence digital preservation quickly span into the audience and back to different panel members in a lively discussion. The general inability of the current legislation, formed in a world of print, to deal with the digital reality of today was quickly identified as an obstacle to both those engaged in digital preservation and to users seeking access to digital resources.

The Hargreaves report was mentioned (by Ed Pinsent of ULCC) and given an approving nod for the sensible approach it took to bringing legislation into the 21st century. However, the speed with which any change has actually been implemented was of concern for all, and was felt to be damaging to the need to preserve material. The issues around copyright and IPR were knowledgeable discussed from a wide variety of perspectives, including the cultural heritage sector, specialist collections, archaeological data and resources and, equally important among delegates, the inability to fully open up collections to users in order to comply with the law as it stands.

Some hope was found, though, in the recent (and ongoing) Free Our History campaign. Using the national and international awareness of various exhibitions, broadcasts and events to mark the anniversary of the First World War, the campaign has focussed on the WW1 content that museums, libraries and archives are unable to display because of current copyright law. Led by the National Library of Scotland, other memory institutions and many cultural heritage institutions have joined in the CILIP campaign to prominently exhibit a blank piece of paper. The blank page represents the many items which cannot be publicly displayed. The visual impact of such displays has caught attention, and the accompanying petition is currently being addressed by the UK government.

The third issue raised during this session was the suggestion for more community activity, for example more networking and exchange of experience opportunities. Given the high rate of networking during lunchtime and breaks, not to mention the lively discussions and questions, this was greeted with enthusiasm. Kurt Helfrich from RIBA explained his idea for an informal group to organise site visits and exchange of experience sessions among themselves, perhaps based in London to start off with. Judging by the level of interest among delegates to share their own work and learn from others during this day, this would be really useful to many. Leaving the event with positive plans for practical action felt a very fitting way to end an event around making progress in digital preservation.

The above authored mostly by Steph Taylor, ULCC

Download the slides from this event

Making Progress in Digital Preservation: Part 2 – Costs, Standards, Tools and Solutions

Photo by Max Ross
Photo by Max Ross

This one-day event on 31 October 2014 was organised by the DPC. After lunch Sarah Middleton of the DPC reported on progress from the 4C Project on the costs of curation. The big problem facing the digital preservation community is that the huge volumes of data we are expected to manage are increasing dramatically, yet our budgets are shrinking. Any investment we make must be strategic and highly targeted, and collaboration with others will be pretty much an essential feature of the future. To assist with this, the 4C project has built the Curation Exchange platform, which will allow participating institutions to share – anonymised, of course – financial data in a way that will enable the comparison of costs. The 4C project has worked very hard to advance us beyond the simple “costs model” paradigm, and this dynamic interactive tool will be a big step in the right direction.

William Kilbride then described the certification landscape, mentioning Trusted Digital Repositories, compliance with the OAIS Model, and the Trusted Repositories Audit & Certification checklist, and the evolution of European standards DIN 31644 and the Data Seal of Approval. William gave his personal endorsement to the Data Seal of Approval approach (it has been completed by 36 organisations, and another 30 are in progress of doing it), and suggested that we all try an exercise to see how many of the 16 elements we felt we could comply with. After ten minutes, a common lament was “there are things here beyond my control…I can’t influence my depositors!”

William went on to discuss tools for digital preservation. Very coincidentally, he had just participated in the DPC collaborative “book sprint” event for the upcoming new DPC Handbook, and helped to write a chapter on this very topic. Guess what? There are now more tools for digital preservation than we know what to do with. The huge proliferation of devices we can use, for everything from ingest to migration to access, has developed into a situation where we can hardly find them any more, let alone use them. William pins his hopes on the Tools Registry COPTR, the user-driven wiki with brief descriptions of the functionality and purpose of hundreds of tools – but COPTR is just one of many such registries. The field is crowded out with competitors such as the APARSEN Tool Repository, DCH-RP, the Library of Congress, DCEX…ironically, we may soon need a “registry of tool registries”.

Our host James Mortlock described the commercial route his firm had taken in building a bespoke digital repository and cataloguing tool. His project management process showed him just how requirements can evolve in the lifetime of a project – what they built was not what they first envisaged, but through the process they came up with stronger ideas about how to access content.

Kurt Helfrich’s challenge was not only to unify a number of diverse web services and systems at RIBA, but also to create a seamless entity in the Cloud that could meet multiple requirements. RIBA’s in a unique position to work on system platforms and their development, because of their strategic partnership with the V&A, a partner organisation with whom they even share some office space. The problem he faces is not just scattered teams, but one of mixed content – library and archive materials in various states of completion regarding their digitisation or cataloguing. Among his solutions, he trialled the Archivists’ Toolkit which served him so well in California; and the open-source application Archivematica, with an attached Atom catalogue and Duracloud storage service. A keen adaptor of tools, Kurt proposed that we look at the POWRR tool grid, which is especially suitable for small organisations; and Bit Curator, the digital forensics systems from Chapel Hill.

Download the slides from this event

Report concludes in part three

Making Progress in Digital Preservation: Part 1 – The path towards a steady state

Photo by Ard Hesselink
Photo by Ard Hesselink

This one-day event on 31 October 2014 was organised by the DPC and hosted at the futuristic, spacious offices of HSBC, where the presentation facilities and the catering were excellent. All those attending were given plenty of mental exercises by William Kilbride. He said he wanted to build on his “Getting Started in Digital Preservation” events and help everyone move further along the path towards a steady state, where digital preservation starts to become “business as usual”. The very first exercise he proposed was a brief sharing-discussion exercise where people shared things they have tried, and what worked and didn’t work.

Kurt Helfrich from The RIBA Library said his organisation had a large amount of staff administering a historic archive; various databases, created at different time for different needs, would be better if connected. He was keen to collaborate with other RIBA teams and link “silos” in his agency.

Lindsay Ould from Kings College London said “starting small worked for us”. They’ve built a standalone virtual machine, using locally-owned kit, and are using it for “manual” preservation; when they’ve got the process right, they could automate it and bring in network help from IT.

When asked about “barriers to success”, over a dozen hands in the room went up. Common themes: getting the momentum to get preservation going in the first place; extracting a long-term commitment from Executives who lose interest when they see it’s not going to be finished in 12 months. There’s a need to do advocacy regularly, not just once; and a need to convince depositors to co-operate. IT departments, especially in the commercial sector, are slow to see the point of digital preservation if its “business purpose” – a euphemism for “income stream”, I would say – is not immediately apparent. Steph Taylor of ULCC pointed out how many case studies in tools in our profession are mostly geared to the needs of large memory institutions, not the dozens of county archives and small organisations who were in the room.

Ed Pinsent (i.e. me) delivered a talk on conducting a preservation assessment survey, paying particular attention to the Digital Preservation Capability Maturity Model and other tools and standards. If done properly, this could tell you useful things about your capability to support digital preservation; you could even use the evidence from the survey to build a business case for investment or funding. The tricky thing is choosing the model that’s right for you; there are about a dozen available, with varying degrees of credibility as to their fundamental basis.

Catherine Hardman from the Archaeological Data Service (ADS) is one who is very much aware of “income streams”, since the profession of archaeology has become commercialised and somewhat profit-driven. She now has to engage with many depositors as paying customers. To that end, she’s devised a superb interface called ADS Easy that allows them to upload their own deposits, and add suitable metadata through a series of web forms. This process also incorporates a costing calculator, so that the real costs of archiving (based on file size) can be estimated; it even acts as a billing system, creating and sending out invoices. Putting this much onus on depositors is, in fact, a proven effective way of engaging with your users. In the same vein, ADS have published good practice guidance on things to consider when using CAD files, and advice on metadata to add to a Submission Package. Does she ever receive non-preferred formats in a transfer? Yes, and their response is to send them back – the ADS has had interesting experiences with “experimental” archaeologists in the field. Kurt Helfrich opened up the discussion here, speaking of the lengthy process before deposit that is sometimes needed; he memorably described it as a “pre-custodial intervention”. Later in the day, William Kilbride picked up this theme: maybe “starting early”, while good practice, is not ambitious enough. Maybe we have to begin our curation activities before the digital object is even created!

Catherine also perceived an interesting shift in user expectations; they want more from digital content, and leaps in technology make them impatient for speedy delivery. As part of meeting this need, ADS have embraced OAI-PMH protocols, which enables them to reuse their collections metadata and enhance their services to multiple external shareholders.

There is no doubt that having a proper preservation policy in place would go some way to helping address issues like this. When Kirsty Lee from the University of Edinburgh asked how many of us already had a signed-off policy document, the response level was not high. She then shared with us the methodology that she’s using to build a policy at Edinburgh, and it’s a thought-through meticulous process indeed. Her flowcharts show her constructing a complex “matrix” of separate policy elements, all drawn from a number of reports and sources, which tend to say similar things but in different ways; her triumph has been to distil this array of information and, equally importantly, arrange the elements in a meaningful order.

Kirsty is upbeat and optimistic about the value of a preservation policy. It can be a statement of intent; a mandate for the archive to support digital records and archives. It provides authority and can be leverage for a business case; it helps get senior management buy-in. To help us understand, she gave us an excellent handout which listed some two dozen elements; the exercise was to pick only the ones that suit our organisation, and to put them in order of priority. The tough part was coming up with a “single sentence that defines the purpose of your policy” – I think we all got stumped by this!

Download the slides from this event

Report continues in part two