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I X . 4
L o n g - t e r m p re s e r v a t i o n o f ( b o rn - ) d i g i t a l
re s o u rc e s
Long-term preservation means "addressing what is not only a moving target, but one which is
rapidly growing both quantitatively and in complexity, and along paths that are not wholly
Kenneth Thibodeau, 2001
Not brittle papyrus and crumbling mortar is the most severe threat to our cultural heri-
tage today, but, as Mary Feeney expressed it,"the death of the digit." (Feeney, 1999) This
"death of the digit" is related primarily to two factors that put at jeopardy current efforts
in archiving and preserving our digital cultural heritage:
First, technology develops ever more rapidly, reducing the time before a particular
technology becomes obsolete.
And secondly, unlike their analogue counterparts, digital resources are much more
"unstable" with the effect that the integrity and authenticity of digital cultural
resources is corrupted.
Both these factors, the instability of technology and content, drive archiving and long-
term preservation.The first factor addresses the technological challenge to keep cultural
heritage resources accessible in the future, while the second refers to the issue of assuring
the integrity and authenticity of the digital objects preserved, which is an intellectual
Technological obsolescence
,,It is a technology with the minus that it self-combusts."
Greg Newton-Ingham, British Universities Film & Video Council, DigiCULT ERT, Stockholm, June 14, 2001
The technical problems with archiving and preserving (born) digital resources derive
from the very nature of the digital cultural artefact itself. Digital cultural artefacts are
"systemic", which means that certain prerequisites are needed to be able to use them.The
"system" consists of the language in which the digital object has been encoded, the software
necessary to create and read as well as the hardware equipment used to view the digital
resource. As a consequence, not only the encoded information needs to be preserved, but
also the technical equipment, i.e. the hard- and software to decode and display the digital
Technical discontinuity and obsolescence is a major problem particularly for institutions
whose core business is the archiving and long-term preservation of digital cultural
resources. According to prognosis, 80% of the technology used today will be obsolete in ten
years. It will be replaced by novel procedures and new ways of working."Fixing digital
discontinuity sounds like exactly the kind of problem that fast moving computer
technology should be able to solve. But fast-moving computer technology is the problem:
By constantly accelerating its own capabilities making faster, making cheaper, sharper
tools that make ever faster, cheaper, sharper tools the technology is just as constantly self-
obsolescing.The great creator is the great eraser." (Brand, 1998)
Given that cycles of technological innovation are getting shorter and shorter, replacing