Here at DPTP, we like to keep things focused on the practical. The idea behind all our modules, all the talks and exercises and discussions, is to give delegates the tools they need to tackle digital preservation (DP) back in the real world, outside the cosy DPTP classroom. So day three started off by looking at some very real challenges - the costs of DP and the risks of preserving (or indeed, not preserving) digital objects.
Money is a tricky business. Putting a value on DP is a very slippery task. The difficulties were brilliantly demonstrated by Sharon McMeekin of the DPC, who used her mobile phone, the physical object, the data it contained and the technological tools it stores, to illustrate the huge impact, and associated costs, that can come from losing digital assets. Sharon tackled the thorny issue of business cases and building a strong case for DP within an organisation. Delegates were very keen to try out the ideas, applying them to their own organisation and preparing themselves to start up an informed conversation with senior management and other stakeholders back at base,
Sharon also covered the risks associated with DP, including the often overlooked risk of doing nothing. Delegates worked through a variety of scenarios, scoring risks, applying risk management strategies and then re-assessing the remaining risks after they had taken action. Bit rot seemed to feature as a high for two groups, who may have been as enamoured by the name as they were concerned about the risk. As with day one, delegates worked calmly through various ‘panic’ situations and learned how to handle them with confidence. Intervention saved the day, and DP stepped up to the challenge and saved, among others, imaginary content on VHS tapes and the original copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (we obviously have a team of Douglas Adams fans among the delegates this time).
The final afternoon session was all about creative destruction. Here at DPTP, we firmly believe that you only truly understand something when you’ve broken it. With that in mind, delegates set about breaking the OAIS model we had all come to know and love since day one. Taking a real-life organisation and assessing OAIS against the current situation in that organisation with regard to digital preservation tested the model to the max. The aim was to break it. But to break it in such a way that it became a useful tool – one that could be adapted and changed. This broken, or, less dramatically, the evolved model would be much more useful in showing the highly individual situations that delegates would face when back at their desks, working in diverse organisations with very different needs and at very different stages of engaging with digital preservation.
Working in three teams, our participants took three real-life case studies and assessed them against the OAIS model. The feedback showed some very interesting outcomes, with delegates identifying gaps in the case studies where DP could be ‘broken’ – that is, where the DP cycle would not work smoothly, and were risks loomed large. These gaps were then bridged using the OAIS model as a starting point. Some gaps were created by internal processes and systems whereas others were more to do with planning that hadn’t included the entire DP scenario from start to finish. Although the teams couldn’t offer immediate fixes for everything, by identifying the problems and risk areas in each case study using everything they had learned over the past three days, they were able to suggest useful ways forward in each instance.
Participants had come to DPTP for many different reasons and were engaging with digital preservation at many different stages of development. This final exercise was a great showcase for the hard work they had all put into the work, and illustrated just how much they had learned about tools, techniques and strategies to take back to their own preservation projects.
The image above shows one of my favourite moments of the final exercise – the Queen Anne-style interpretation of the digital preservation three-legged stool!