Digital Preservation

Polona Vilar (Department of LIS and BS, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 25 July 2008




Vilar, P. (2008), "Digital Preservation", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 64 No. 4, pp. 628-630.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Digital Preservation is a compilation dealing with issues of digital preservation with the emphasis on the context of digital heritage. Experts from various areas are presenting and discussing issues, e.g. methods and strategies, costs, metadata, including web archiving and various projects and approaches to preservation from Europe and elsewhere.

The book is divided into nine chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of digital preservation. Chapter 1, authored by the editors themselves, deals with more theoretical aspects of digital preservation. It works its way through authenticity, surrogacy, complexity of data, legal aspects, asset value, and also covers some “traditional” preservation strategies, such as migration, emulation, printing to paper and technology museums. It is nice to see space dedicated to rights management, including ethics and moral issues. The chapter is helpful primarily to those who have not had much experience with digital preservation or have just started to deal with it. The chapter concludes with reference to various initiatives and tools and a comprehensive list of references for further information on the subject.

Chapter 2, authored by David Holdsworth, discusses strategies for digital preservation from a rather technical point of view. It presents strategies – other then the ones covered in the first chapter – with which the author has had personal experience. He relates his experience with Open Archival Information System (OAIS) reference model.

In chapter 3, by Robin Wendler, preservation metadata is presented. The reader, besides learning about PREMIS metadata model, with which the author has had personal experience in his research, learns about the current metadata standards and initiatives for different types of digital objects, such as METS, SCORM, MPEG21 DIDL, and XFDU, which can be used in different preservation situations.

Preservation of websites is covered in chapters 4 (by Julien Masanès) and 5 (by Elisa Mason). Julien Masanès speaks about characteristics of websites as digital objects of various kinds, and relates that to preservation issues, such as collection and storage. Elisa Mason, on the other hand, presents some of the most important international web archiving initiatives, e.g. PANDORA from the National Library of Australia, UK Web archiving initiative (UKWAC), the Kulturarw Project to harvest and collect websites from the National Library of Sweden, the Minerva web preservation project at the US Library of Congress, the Internet Archive, and the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC).

Chapter 6 by Brian F. Lavoie covers the costs of digital preservation. It provides a wide coverage of the factors involved in the costs of digital preservation. The aim of the chapter is to help the reader estimate how different preservation strategies would affect the final cost. The author also speaks about the issue of cost of preservation of digital materials in comparison to the cost of not preserving them.

Chapter 7, authored by Stephen Chapman, relates to the previous chapter by further discussing financial issues in long‐term preservation, i.e. costs involved in digital repositories. Different repository models are presented and the author's firm standpoint seems to be to persuade the reader of the importance of such initiatives for long‐term survival of digital documents regardless of cost.

Peter McKinney in chapter 8, overviews European approaches to digital preservation. Although this chapter does not deal with a specific aspect of digital preservation, it is valuable, because it provides the reader with information on some European projects and the role that bodies such as European Commission play in digital preservation.

This chapter is further expanded in chapter 9, by Jasmine Kelly and Elisa Mason, where worldwide digital preservations initiatives are presented. The authors also included a comprehensive bibliography and list of references, both digital and on paper.

We can say that the book is useful in giving introductory information about various aspects of digital preservation. Chapters differ in the amount of detail and technicalities, which is why it is at times insufficiently informative and difficult to read. But nonetheless, we can find a valuable and useful range of views from well‐known experts which is an asset in itself and also explains the diversity to a certain degree. It could be said that, apart from the initial chapter, written by the editors, the book misses a connecting element, such as a concluding chapter, which would make it a coherent unity. The book is not aimed at people who are skilled in digital preservation. It targets individual who know something about the subject, but would like to acquire more information on various aspects an issues involved in the process (such as cultural, economic and moral justification for preserving digital material) and find out about some of the national and international initiatives that are already taking place. As editors point out, although not designed as a manual, it will certainly be of interest to library managers, librarians, archivists, museum curators and also students. Also, since digital preservation is a continuingly and quickly developing field, it would be good to see an update (second edition). As it is, and including information on more than 60 case studies, the book is valuable information on the state of the art in digital preservation in a given period and as such useful for those who wish to get acquainted with the field of digital preservation and its backgrounds.

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