Digital Preservation

Digital Preservation

Digital Preservation is the current trend in all modern libraries and archives. It is recognized as a vital part of managing information in digital format. A number of libraries have thus started to invest intensive research and development to provide solutions that allow us to maintain digital objectives accessible. Most of these solutions, how ever, are aimed at larger institution which have a dedicated mandate, and thus can build up expertise, resources and systems.Digita Preservation

Digital preservation is not a new concern. It began when the first computers were introduced. A number of National Library, National Archives, Data Archives and other cultural institutions in countries established digital preservation programs as early as the late 1060s. Those programs reflected the prevailing technology and digital content of that time. Each generation of technology bring changes in potential capabilities to both create and preserve digital content and will effect a suitable institutional response.

Libraries and Archives and their Preservation:

Traditionally libraries and archives have played an important role in the preservation of human intellectual endeavor. They have collected, organized and managed information resources for current use as well as for posterity. Their functions are:

  1. To serve as the central focal points for preservation of human knowledge, creative art and work in all formats of preservation.
  2. To take action to prevent, stop or retard deterioration of all information resources.
  3. To choice the most appropriate method of preservation for every item. This is accomplished through storage of materials in paper conditions, careful handling and housing, use of security systems designed to eliminate mutilation and theft, repair or replacement of damaged materials and through refreshment and migration of electronic files.
  4. There are many other materials whose value lies primarily or only, it the information they contain. When repair of such materials become impossible or prohibitively expensive, their content may be preserved through reformatting or conversion into other media. Materials of unique aesthetic or historical value should be preserved in their original form.
  5. Until the advent of electronic information resources, some of the most significant and successful preservation methods employed by both libraries and archives for their print materials include the following:
    • a) preservation for fire protection and adequate environmental controls; re-housing of acid-based print materials; microfilming of unique and endangered information resources;
    • b) use of acid based paper instead of alkaline-based paper which is more susceptible to discoloration and quick decay.
The Nature of Digital Preservation
Clearly, digital preservation is about more than simply maintaining data. The view of digital preservation so far discussed encompasses:
  • Preservation of data as a stream of bits;
  • Preservation of information about the data (usually called metadata);
  • Ensuring that data can be found;
  • Ensuring that they are workable ways of retrieving and accessing the data; and
  • Providing means to re-create or re-present the experience of using the data.

Demanding the preservation managers define the experience that must be re-presented seems to take us far beyond what is expected of the conservator of books or paper records/. On the other hand, the best preservation programmes have probably taken a similarly holistic approach in dealing with non-digital materials.

Digital repositories must:
  • accept administrative responsibility for the library/archival material;
  • be viable as an organization;
  • be financially sustainable and use programmes that it can sustain into the future;
  • use technology, techniques and procedures that are suitable;
  • have secure systems;
  • operate with full accountability.
Selection of library materials for preservation
It is realize that we cannot preserve everything, and that nothing can be preserved for ever. The production of books and documents in literate societies makes it impossible to contemplate indiscriminate preservation, which forces librarians and archivist in making hard decisions.
So, materials which are selected for special collections; or which are transferred from general to special collections at some subsequent time, are indeed for permanent preservation for long term use and will be treated differently. In other words, selectivity may be exercised at several stages in the existence of a book, from before it is acquired until the point at which it is discarded or designated for permanent retention.
Digital Preservation: Micro-forms to computer:
It is very easy to use and time saving performance in latest information technology like computer, scanner, high resolution printer etc. View the information that we have stored on our fiche, microfilm, micro opaque and ultra fiche, right on our PC monitor, with live, real time viewing on any monitor. When we locate the information that we want, we can complete a high resolution scan in only one second with just “a single click.” For this reason we can use the latest touch screen technology to easily bring the information stored on micro-forms in the digital world.
Digital Preservation and Technology Timeline to:
  • identify significant precedents and milestones- professional, organizational, and technological;
  • illustrate the combination of developments, events and decisions that got us to where we are today, in regards to technologies that presents to digital preservation;
  • help place new and emerging technologies into context for digital preservation programs.
The Challenges in Digital Preservation:

  1. Preservation and particularly digital preservation is challenging and complex. No medium for recording expressions of human creativity, thought and accomplishment is immune to damage and decay. In this regard, the long-term maintenance of digital  data is no different from the challenge faced by cultural repositories for generation past.
  2. Yet digital preservation presents its own unique challenges, arising from the basic nature of digital data-it is machine-readable, not eye-readable, unlike the fairly straightforward process of decoding other machine-dependent media, such as micro film, maintaining digital data in a form that is intelligible to humans involves the use of a complex set of tightly interwoven technologies.
  3. Digital Preservation is so challenging from technological obsolescence of hardware, software and formats to media vulnerability, competing stake holder interests, organizational and legal issues and resource requirements.

Now digital preservation is been considered as an extremely serious undertaking, especially in the developed countries. Many countries have recognized the need for digital preservation and for emulated specific programs. For the best information management, it is imperative that Libraries, Archives and other Information Centers throughout the world are equipped with the necessary skills to handle digital resource management and preservation. In this regard, institutions like University Libraries, National Libraries and National Archives in the developing counties could start the ball rolling by adopting digital preservation policies and practices using the available technologies and expertise and spearhead national digital preservation initiatives in order to avoid a possible digital black out of their national digital information resources.


Md. Ashikuzzaman

Work at North South University Library, Bangladesh.

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