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