Summit speaker urges working together to preserve digital information for future

May 23 2008

TERRE HAUTE â€" Capturing the sometimes fleeting digital information for future generations can be done by working together. That was the message during the Digital Preservation Summit held at Indiana State University Wednesday (May 21).

“When spiders unite, they can tie up a lion,” said Martha Anderson, of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) with the Library of Congress, quoting an Ethiopian proverb during her keynote address at the summit. “We’re facing a whole den of lions, but we can do this.”

Digital preservation combines policies, strategies and actions to ensure access to digital content over time. ISU President Lloyd W. Benjamin III in his welcome remarks called the summit a “very important conversation that needs to be held.”

“Few people are really talking about the long-term piece,” said Cinda May, Indiana State University Cunningham Memorial Library assistant librarian and project coordinator of Wabash Valley Visions and Voices. She added that digitally created information is especially tenuous as there is usually no paper backup. “Natural disasters or anything can happen. It’s more than the obsolescence of computers or changing software programs.”

The summit speakers spoke on how best to capture that information and preserve it for future generations.

Anderson asked the audience of more than 65 attendees what put digital information at risk. Audience members responded with technology changes, hacking and evolution of storage mediums. However, Anderson said the biggest threat came from people.

“It’s the decisions our organizations make that are the most important in this process,” she said.

NDIIPP seeks to preserve images and text, audio visual, geospatial and Web sites. There’s also information that they work with partners to collect such international broadcasts, legal blogs and national polling data.

“Social sciences helps us figure out how we think and act,” Anderson said about collecting the polling data. “Historians will use it to see what we thought of life at the beginning of the 21st Century.”

On both sides of the coasts in the United States, entities are working to preserve digital information. However, Anderson noted as she showed a map dotted with digital preservation activities, there is a huge blank space in the middle of America where it is not being discussed.

“We would like to have activity in all 50 states,” she said. “We want to make it a truly national program. That’s why events like today are important.”

Actions the attendees should take are to work with partners across different sectors to share expertise and sustain content; support public policy efforts; and to be an advocate for digital preservation through outreach.

Though those seeking to preserve digital information face a den of lions, Anderson urged those in attendance “to do the best you can with this. Be open minded to change. We can leverage the change for good by working together.”

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Contact: Cinda May, Cunningham Memorial Library assistant librarian and project coordinator of Wabash Valley Visions and Voices, Indiana State University, at 812-237-2534 or at cmay3@isugw.indstate.edu

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, at 812-237-7972 or jsicking@isugw.indstate.edu

Photo: http://ISUphoto.smugmug.com/photos/299073939_kWE3U-D.jpg

Cutline: Martha Anderson, of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) with the Library of Congress, served as the keynote speaker during Indiana State University’s Digital Preservation Summit. ISU Photo/ Tony Campbell

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Capturing the sometimes fleeting digital information for future generations can be done by working together. That was the message during the Digital Preservation Summit held at Indiana State University on May 21.

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