Otherwise known as REPRISE (which set the tone for an acronym heavy day), this event was organised by the OGF Repositories Group and WissGrid, and held in London in December 09. Although the LIFE-SHARE Project didn’t fully kick-off until January, I went along to this to try and improve my knowledge of preservation.

This was a workshop to “discuss digital repositories and their specific requirements for / as preservation infrastructure, as well as their role within the preservation environment,” according to the blurb.  Although this wasn’t quite apparent from the description (I should have done some more research before booking) it was basically aimed at people who were actually building repositories; there was a lot of technical detail. But there were some interesting points which I could grasp, such as Kevin Ashley of the ULCC Digital Archives asking if we’d considered the ‘green’ aspect of storing digital data – he mentioned environmental audits as a way to ensure Institutions didn’t pay too high an environmental price over a long period of time.

John Kunze of the California Digital Library made the most sense to me – his talk, entitled Preservation is not a place, argued that preservation should be decentralised, with permanent digital objects stored and accessed by what he called ‘disposable systems’. His point being that the content was important, while the software (and to an extent the hardware) we use to get to that content tends to be more ephemeral. File systems, he said, work well. Files and folders are fast, plentiful, stable, and interoperable. We should exploit this – build the system around existing files, rather than building a system which forces us to use new file-types. He describes curation stewardship as a ‘relay’ – digital objects shouldn’t have to go to one place to be preserved, they should be able to move without losing integrity. Curation shouldn’t be a single act of preserving something, but rather a set of practices to maintain and add value to digital objects into the future. I found all of this very interesting, and John clearly knows what he’s talking about – the coding he’s developed is being used by Google Books.

I’d reccomend this workshop if you’re working with repositories at a technical level, but be prepared for the possibility of some of it sailing over your head if you aren’t… The event was part of the 5th International Digital Curation Conference, so expect something similar to be repeated in 2010.

– Ned