Last Monday (2009-11-23) saw DPC members travel to Edinburgh for a board meeting and for the annual general meeting of the company. We elected a new chair – Richard Ovenden – and offered our thanks to Bruno Longmore for the effective leadership he has offered as acting chair following the departure of Ronald Milne for New Zealand earlier this year.

We had a brief preview of the new DPC website, which promises to be a much more effective mechanism for the membership to engage with each other and the wider world, and confirmed recommendations emerging from a planning day earlier in November which should keep the DPC busy (and financially secure) for a few years to come.

Finally, we had an entertaining and thought-provoking talk from Professor Michael Anderson. Professor Anderson touched on many issues relating to digital preservation from his research career, past and present. He mourned the loss of Scottish census microdata from 1951 and 1961, painstakingly copied to magnetic tape from round-holed punch cards for 1951 and standard cards for 1961, which had to be destroyed when ONS realised the potential for inadvertent disclosure of personal information. More »

My day today began with one of those moments that remind us how technology, and the world, changes. On the train I sat next to someone reading and scribbling on an academic text of some sort on which the words “network research” and “SNA” appeared prominently. I began reading, as one does (yes, I shouldn’t, but I always do.) The first paragraph or so made sense and then I was brought up short. If you worked in computer networking during the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s (as I did) then seeing “SNA” and “network” within a few paragraphs of each other could only mean one thing, and it came from IBM. (Google still thinks so.) But in this case, SNA meant social network analysis, an entirely different field. (And one possibly related to Erdős numbers, a favourite of mine.) There’s even some perl modules for it, which is more than could be said for ACF/VTAM.

But I digress. I’m here to write about some outcomes from Friday’s DPC board meeting. Encouragingly, it looks likely that the digital preservation award will return in November 2010, although some hurdles remain to be overcome. It’s quite possible that some aspects (such as eligibility or marking criteria) may change. Watch out for news late this year or early next. In the meantime, if you have views on what would make the awards more interesting or relevant to you, and particularly on what might encourage you to enter, do let me or the DPC know.

The joint Society of Archivists’s digital preservation roadshows (supported by DPC, TNA, Planets and Cymal) have been extremely popular, with some events over-subscribed. They are proving a great way to get basic, practical information about digital preservation tools and methods into the hands of working archivists and records managers. The problems, and the reception, sound reminiscent of similar work I did for the SoA about 10 years ago, as part of their occasional training days for newly-qualified archivists.

I’m also pleased to say that the Board approved a proposal to allocate more money to training scholarships in 2009/10, which can be used to support attendance at DPTP or other member-provided courses such as DC 101 (which is currently free.) We’re also looking forward to a joint training showcase in Belfast with the DCC’s DC 101, facilitated by JISC and PRONI, in September. More details will appear here and elsewhere when we have them.

We’re expecting an increased number of DPC techwatch reports in the coming year. The latest, released on preview to DPC members yesterday (2009-07-10), covers geospatial data, and there’s a long list of candidate topics for the next couple of years.

Finally, the board said thanks and farewell to its current chair, Ronald Milne, who is taking up a new post at the National Library of New Zealand next month. The Vice Chair, Bruno Longmore, will act as DPC chair until elections are organised for the AGM in November.

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.

Kevin Ashley and William Kilbride at DPTPFS: 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.

Patricia getting excited about the class projectFS: 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.

OASIS class projectFS: 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.

We’re pleased to say that the DPC has agreed to sponsor two places at the forthcoming open run of the Digital Preservation Training Programme (DPTP) at SOAS, 18-20 May 2009. Attendance at DPTP itself is open to everyone, but the sponsored places are only available to staff of DPC member institutions. We’re pleased that this continues the valuable relationship we’ve had between the training programme and DPC since its inception. It also gives us the ideal excuse to welcome William Kilbride back as one of the tutors on the course – he’s a talented teacher and a joy to work with.

DPTP is of value to anyone with responsibility for digital preservation in an institutional context – its aim is to equip you with the knowledge to effect change in the organisation to allow the right things to happen. (If your primary responsibility is scientific data curation, you may find the DCC’s DC 101 course more applicable.)

Applications need to be in by May 5th – it’s not an onerous process, so don’t delay.

JISC Digitisation ProjectsWe’ve just heard that a consortium of ULCC, Portico and the Digital Preservation Coalition has been awarded the contract by JISC to undertake a Preservation Study of recent digitisation activities.

The JISC Digitisation Programme has made a wide variety of valuable resources digitally accessible, including:

  • British Newspapers (1620-1900)
  • Newsfilm Online
  • First World War Poetry
  • Newspaper Cartoons
  • Welsh Periodicals
  • Pre Raphaelite drawings
  • East London Theatre Archive

More information about these, and other projects, is available on the JISC Digitisation web page.

The project will review the preservation plans and processes of the sixteen projects funded under Phase 2 of the JISC Digitisation Programme, and identify any medium or long-term access risks to the digitised content. It will also produce recommendations – for individual projects and for JISC as a whole – for processes and strategies to mitigate the risks, and case studies which would be helpful to the broader community.

This is an exciting opportunity for us to apply and extend the experience we have gained working on a range of projects in the field, including the European Visual Archive Market-validation Project (EVAMP) and risk assessments for the recently launched Newsfilm Online project. We will shortly be creating an online home to for the project collaboration and development, and will use DA Blog and the DigiPresSurvey Blog (on JISCInvolve) to keep you updated.