Library 3017: Digital Preservation for the Future


I cannot say I have given much thought to what the GLAM sector, and libraries in particular, will be like in 3017. I can't even comprehend what it would be like in 100 years time, let alone 1,000. But it is in my new role description to ensure digital content being acquired today will be accessible in the future, so how can I not? You can't talk about the future of archives and libraries without discussing digital preservation and the fear of a black hole in time due to a lack of physical evidence or inability to read and access digital content.

While I can't predict what file formats will be suitable for access in 3017, I can ensure that what we have today is accessible in the foreseeable future and facilitate migration to appropriate formats as needed. Digital objects are more fragile than their physical counterparts in that they rely on computers for access. With rapid changes in technology comes the risk of losing content and context. Digital preservation is not only concerned with keeping the data, but also ensuring trust and authenticity as well as the context of the data and its dependencies.

DCC Curation Lifecycle Model. http://www.dcc.ac.uk/resources/curation-lifecycle-model

With the amount of data being generated in todays world, let alone in the future, there is a significant challenge in determining what is important for digital preservation. The Library of Congress (LoC) Digital Preservation Outreach & Education (DPOE) program focuses on six easily understandable topics, where identify and select form the beginning of the overall process. Each institution will have its own collection strategy to provide scope for this challenge. Digital preservation is complex and involves more than just storing data, as shown in the DCC Curation Lifecycle model. Access is also important, with an ongoing discussion in the digital preservation community regarding migration versus emulation.

It is hard to discuss the future without the fear that humans will be replaced by robots in the workplace (and in general). It is happening already. While I think there will always be the need for human interaction within our cultural institutions, I wonder whether the physical will be replaced by the virtual with the current trend of immersive virtual reality. What place will physical objects have in the GLAM sector in 3017? Will items be scanned for virtual access and relegated to storage thereafter? How will clients discover content? The GLAM sector is more than the objects they hold. In my opinion, there will always be a need for physical, public spaces to engage with both collections as well as other people in the community.


This post is my contribution to the GLAM Blog Club May 2017 theme: "GLAM 3017".

Cover image credit: Förbjuden värld 1959. Teknik- och industrihistoriska arkivet / Tekniska museet (ARK-K3587). https://digitaltmuseum.se/021016300202/forbjuden-varld-1959

Matthew Burgess

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