The More Things Remain the Same

Digital Repositories, 2012 edition

I just finished teaching a workshop for SAA, with my wife Jessica,  on building and maintaining digital repositories.  We’ve been teaching this workshop in some form or another for more than 10 years. When we were creating the latest version we noticed, not surprisingly, that a lot had changed since we started doing this. In fact, there were only a few slides that persisted in essentially their original form from the beginning. One of them introduces the “Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections.” Although the slide has not changed the Framework itself is now in its third edition.  That leaves just the slide that quotes from Paul Conway’s 2000 article in the NEDCC’s “Handbook for Digital Projects” where he says that “preservation is the creation of digital products worth maintaining over time.” We use that slide to illustrate how digital objects, even ones that are surrogates of analog documents, are information objects themselves and have a value that need to be understood and appraised. I also see this slide as the precursor to the field of digital curation and the idea of the digital curation lifecycle, that requires us to continually appraise and reappraise digital content.

So much else about digital object creation, management, and preservation has changed tsince the beginning that the details of workshop would probably be incomprehensible to the average archivist of 2001 (cloud storage? data visualization?), except for the basic fundamentals of the profession: collect, maintain, preserve, make available. There is some amount of comfort in knowing that, at least for us, the more things change, the more they remain the same.


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