After the DPC’s sponsorship of two places for our most recent DPTP course in May, I was keen to talk to William Kilbride, Executive Director at DPC, about his work at the coalition and his thoughts on the future of the training programme.
Frank Steiner: I understand you’ve just recently taken on the post at DPC. What is your background in the field of digital preservation and how did you end up at the DPC?
William Kilbride: After my archaeology studies at Glasgow University and an MSc in computer applications I worked for the Archaeology Data Service at University of York. I started there in 1999 – which were early days in digital preservation – at least within archaeology. Part of our work involved raising awareness as well as ensuring long-term provision and access to archaeological research data. Because fieldwork can be very destructive, archaeologists have always had a close relationship with and respect for archives. The DPC came into existence at that time – also based in York. We had a lot of shared interests and quickly developed a close working relationship.
FS: So you basically switched camps and went to the other part of town to get into work in the mornings. (N.B.: DPC is based in York)
WK: No, I actually took a slight detour. For family reasons and because of some interesting work they were doing I moved to Glasgow in 2006 to work in Glasgow Museums as Research Manager.
FS: This sounds like there is more than one?
WK: Indeed, most people don’t know it, but the city of Glasgow owns one of the largest and most impressive civic collections in Europe, displayed in 13 museums across the Glasgow. Glasgow has a real love affair with its museums and although only about 2 percent of the collection is on display, a new research centre will soon provide access to the whole lot – like a massive reference library or public archive.It’s really innovative and shows a real commitment to access.
FS: So you went back to your archaeological roots, so to speak?
WK: Yes – but computing projects and the issue of digital preservation caught up with me once more. We developed online access to collections as well as trying to ‘make sense’ of the ever growing pool of native digital items which the collection contained. But the Executive job at the DPC became available and considering the history I had with DPC it was very attractive. I decided to apply, and now have an office in Glasgow University where I was already an honorary lecturer. So although DPC is based in York, my office is in ‘HATII’ – the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute in Glasgow – which has an impressive track record in research and development with digital preservation. It’s a good place to work.
FS: I have spoken to both of your scholarship winners, who seemed very pleased to be given the opportunity to be funded to attend the most recent DPTP course. What other activities is DPC involved in to raise awareness of the importance of the preservation of digital material?
WK: You already mentioned part of our mission statement there. We are an agenda setting and enabling body with the ultimate goal to make our digital memory accessible in the future.
FS: I gathered from the competition, which you ran for the scholarships, that you are member’s only club. Is that right?
WK: Not really, we are a not-for-profit membership organisation, but by no means exclusive. Our members benefit through early bird rates at events, special discounts and preferred access to reports and such. Ultimately we share our reports and training with anyone who needs it. Members are able to share their work through the DPC and also able to set the agenda – to point us at issues they need resolved. Digital preservation is a topic for everyone from large commercial organisations, small charities down to each and every one of us. So it makes sense economically and intellectually if we work together.
FS: Interesting you should mention that. I realised there were a wide spread of backgrounds at the last DPTP.
WK: And I think that is one of the many benefits for people attending the course. Every time I present there is this sense of mutual problem solving, regardless which organisation the participants are from or what their background is. The chance for DPTP students to establish peer contacts and network with people trying to solve similar problems is something I like to see happening and it is also something we at DPC try to achieve.
FS: Can you shed some more light on the DPC’s involvement with the DPTP course?
WK: We helped ULCC develop the course with Cornell University, ADS, JISC and others, based on the general need within the community for training in digital preservation. I find it very satisfying to see some of the first students (in 2005) who went from looking for solutions to resolving their digital preservation issues to becoming significant leaders in the field – developing and applying solutions and sharing their experience with the community.
FS:Looking into the future, do you think there will be further scholarships by DPC?
WK: There’s no question about it, yes. There is a persistent need for digital preservation training and there are also growing expectations of what digital assets can do for organisations and individuals.
FS: Do you think the course itself has to change to stay relevant?
WK: Of course it does and it certainly has over the past 3 years. The field has developed quickly and I’m confident Patricia and the guys from ULCC will ensure the latest changes are reflected in the course syllabus. I think maybe there will be or could be a variation or targeting of DPTP, like ‘DPTP for Museums’, ‘DPTP for Publishers’ and so on. Although basic concepts and principles of digital preservation remain the same there is a trend of more specialised requirements which could be addressed by a more customised DPTP offering.
FS: William, thank you for your time and I hope to see you at the next DPTP course.
WK: Thanks for having me.