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Unfortunately, in many cases taking control over resource creation proves impossible.
With the exception of public record archives and another few players concerned with long-
term preservation, cultural institutions do not have control over data creation. Often, data
arrives in the institutions in all kinds of (file) formats. As Christer Larsson, National
Museum of Cultural History, Sweden, points out:"In the next decades, we will have to live
with a format mess." (DigiCULT ERT, Stockholm, June 14, 2001)
Facing this situation, Seamus Ross, HATII, University of Glasgow, UK, predicts that
digital archaeology, i.e. the profession of getting inaccessible bit streams off the storage
medium, will turn into a booming business in response to the increasing amounts of
unsecured digital information. (Ross, 2000: p. 25)
"We have to stop generating work for these people. (...) We must start to articulate our
disciplinary needs to the people who are designing the protocols, which are intended to
obviate the need for digital archaeology. Forward migration is the only conceivable path
here.We must start realising how open standards are designed and where they are designed,
and how precious little we can do in that process other than articulate our requirements to
the protocol engineers." (Cary Karp,The Swedish Museum of Natural History; DigiCULT
ERT, Stockholm, June 14, 2001)
Bert Degenhart-Drenth, Managing Director of ADLIB Information Systems, NL, also
supports that born-digital objects are the primary problem. He argues that the biggest
difference between digitised items and born-digital objects is, that "with born digital
objects, you cannot afford to make any mistakes, as preservation errors of born-digital
objects cannot be easily corrected." (DigiCULT ERT, Stockholm, June 14, 2001)
Nevertheless, given the urgency of the problem, it needs the combined effort of both
national governments who need to develop national strategies for long-term preservation,
and the future preservation archives, to at least turn some of the current, accidental
preservation mode into a designed and reflected effort.
Recommended reading on digital preservation
Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information;Waters, Donald; Garrett, John (1996):
Preserving Digital Information. Report of the Task Force on Archiving of Digital
Information. May, 1996. <>
Preserving Access to Digital Information (PADI).The digital preservation offensive of the
National Library of Australia. <>
National Preservation Office; Feeney, Mary (1999) (Ed.): Digital culture: maximising the
nation's investment, February 1999.
<> Besides this report, the NPO
offers a series of guidelines and guidance material on digital preservation strategies and
policies. <>
For an excellent current bibliography on digital preservation see: The CEDARS Project report (April 1998 March 2001). Published in June
2001. <>