Bread & stones

A guest post by Peter Neish, Research Data Curator at the University of Melbourne


Last night I attended a seminar that was part of the Making Public Histories series called Bread & stones: historians using & preserving digital sources that looked at digital preservation activities across a number of organisations. It was chaired by Owen O’Neill from the Public Records Office Victoria (PROV) and featured Mike Jones from the University’s eScholarship Research Centre. Mike was joined by Sarah Slade from the State Library of Victoria and and Daniel Wilksch also from PROV.

panel members
Panel members: Daniel Wilksch, Sarah Slade, Michael Jones and Owen O’Neill

Mike started off with a background to dealing with digital content – what it is and what it isn’t, and how it differs to physical records – we can’t just print out all the digital content – much can only be experienced in its digital form, so we need to develop new ways of thinking about digital content.

Sarah Slade gave an overview of digital preservation activities at the State Library of Victoria. She talked about how the library was moving from a digital object management system into a digital preservation environment. She also mentioned digital forensics and how it is important to preserve the original content and metadata so that we can be sure of the integrity of the digital object. Sarah also mentioned the Born Digital 2016 campaign that included a personal digital archiving toolkit.

Daniel Wilksh talked about what PROV is doing in this space – they have just reached a milestone of digitising 1% of their collection, so there’s quite a long way to go! Mike Jones pointed out later that means that there will be a need for well-structured metadata to access these collections for a long time to come.

Overall there were some interesting topics raised. How mass digitisation is colliding with new technology such as handwriting recognition, face detection etc. What digital preservation actually means and what is the role of personal archives, community archives and activist archives.

It was very interesting to see how the University’s digital preservation strategy that is currently being implemented aligns with the activities and thinking of other organisations.