ARCHIVE 2020 sustainable archiving of born – digital cultural content

Published on May 1st, 2010


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Archives have the important task of saving cultural heritage from being lost forever. The field of archiving born-digital material has to deal with documents that are characterized by their dynamic nature, leading to difficulties in the archiving process. Rather than discussing the pros and cons of the digital world we need to examine the conditions of the digital realm and its effects in concrete terms. What, indeed, is the nature of born-digital material and how can we analyze it? Should we prioritize the preservation of the computer programs designed especially to make these works accessible and legible over and above the evolution of software and hardware? Or do we need to find other methods such as recording, emulation and migration? And how can the contexts these works dealt with be preserved? Knowledge transfer is important but what does it mean – what is the significance and importance of knowledge transfer?

ARCHIVE 2020 | Sustainable Archiving of Born – Digital Cultural Content (PDF)

edited by Annet Dekker
Amsterdam: Virtueel Platform, 2010

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SUSTAINABLE ARCHIVING OF BORN-DIGITAL CULTURAL CONTENT
Annet Dekker
[1•0]
ZEN AND THE ART OF DATABASE MAINTENANCE
Martine Neddam
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ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS AND FLOPPY DISKS
Anne Laforet, Aymeric Mansoux, Marloes de Valk
[3•0]
PRINT OUT THE INTERNET
Twan Eikelenboom in conversation with Florian Cramer
[4•0]
DO IT YOURSELF: DISTRIBUTING RESPONSIBILITY FOR MEDIA-ARTS PRESERVATION AND DOCUMENTATION
Caitlin Jones
[5•0]
VISIBILITY, DISTRIBUTION AND MEMORY THROUGH NETWORKS AND COLLABORATION
Gabrielle Blome, Gaby Wijers
[6•0]
ORAL HISTORY AND THE MEDIA ART AUDIENCE
Lizzie Muller
[7•0]
SERIOUS ARCHIVING
Annet Dekker in Conversation with Jeroen van Mastrigt
[8•0]
CULTURAL HERITAGE IN LIMBO
Maurits van der Graaf, Gerhard Jan Nauta
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NEDERLANDSE SAMENVATTINGEN

Born-digital is a term derived from the field of digital preservation and digital heritage practises, describing digital materials that are not intended to have an analogue equivalent, either as the originating source or as a result of con- version to analogue form.[1]

INTRODUCTION

Digitisation of archives has opened up possibilities for access to huge quantities of material, be it text, image or audiovisual. The heritage sector is increasingly aware of the value its archives have for a professional audience and the broader public. They see the digitisation of their collections and the use of new techniques as improving access to their collections. In addition, cultural organizations increasingly recognize the value of recording, streaming online and archiving their conferences, performances and other live events, and of implementing content management systems that make this content accessible. According to a recent report, BBC’s Radio 4 has taken to using the word ‘archive’ as a noun, without a definite or indefinite article, as in, ‘the programme will feature archive to tell the story of …’. The same article highlights that there are even four ‘archived’ volumes of the computer game Sonic the Hedgehog available for purchase, inviting fans to ‘travel back in time to where it all began’.[2] In the Netherlands the National Archive has always been called the National Archive, but its equivalent in the UK has just changed its name from the UK Public Record Office to The National Archives, implying that archives are collective memory banks instead of state instruments.

At the same time many artworks created specifically for online purposes have already disappeared, victims of new standards, high-speed Internet connections or their own time-based design. Artists and cultural organizations alike face the challenge of developing sustainable, long-term systems to document and access their knowledge. There is also a growing interest and awareness on the part of the general public about the perils of born-digital content. Newspapers report about ‘online history facing extinction’, ‘seeking clarity on archiving e-mails’ and ‘forget storage if you want your files to last’. All the above point to the need to understand the nature of this new type of material, or to put it simply: what does archiving mean in the Internet era?

Archives have the important task of saving cultural heritage from being lost forever. The field of archiving born-digital material has to deal with documents that are characterized by their dynamic nature, leading to difficulties in the archiving process. Rather than discussing the pros and cons of the digital world we need to examine the conditions of the digital realm and its effects in concrete terms. What, indeed, is the nature of born-digital material and how can we analyze it? Should we prioritize the preservation of the computer programs designed especially to make these works accessible and legible over and above the evolution of software and hardware? Or do we need to find other methods such as recording, emulation and migration? And how can the contexts these works dealt with be preserved? Knowledge transfer is important but what does it mean – what is the significance and importance of knowledge transfer? These data are relative and we have to operate under this condition and so, at times, we have to be pragmatic. With this publication Virtueel Platform wants to get to the core of these issues: how manifold are they, who is dealing with them, and how, and what is needed and necessary. We have asked several stakeholders from different disciplines to write down their experiences, find- ings and solutions. These specialists from the area of born-digital preservation and archiving reflect on the current state of affairs in their specific field and identify the most pressing concerns.

Established Internet artist Martine Neddam elaborates on the challenges an Internet artist faces over the years, from domain name registration expirations, to database back-ups, recent updates and much more. Researchers and artists Anne Laforet, Aymeric Mansoux and Marloes de Valk explain the benefits of using FLOSS and open standards for preserving born-digital material. Florian Cramer, lecturer at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, reflects on the PRINT/pixel international conference that was organized in May 2009, and discusses the issue of digital print material. Departing from the closure of two important advocates for media art preservation – the Daniel Langlois Foundation and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute – Canadian researcher and writer Caitlin Jones focuses on the issue of responsibility for keeping our media art heritage alive. Gaby Wijers, head of Collection and Conservation at NIMk, Amsterdam and Gabriele Blome, art historian, University of Siegen, Germany, shed light on the first internationally shared online archive GAMA – the Gateway to European Media Art. Australian curator and researcher Lizzie Muller draws attention to the importance of cap- turing audience experiences when dealing with the preservation of born-digital cultural material. Jeroen van Mastrigt, lecturer at the Art, Media and Technology Faculty of the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU-KMT) in Hilversum, discusses archiving strategies in gaming. This anthology concludes with a recent report by Digital Heritage Netherlands, which has conducted quantitative research into born-digital cultural heritage in the Netherlands.

Together with a report of the Archive 2020 expert meeting, organized by Virtueel Platform in May 2009, this publication is a first step towards understanding the challenges facing born-digital archiving and how to remedy these in an energetic and growing digital world.

Annet Dekker, Virtueel Platform, May 2010

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[1] A brief archaeology of the term ‘born-digital’ can be found on our website: http://www.virtueelplatform.nl/en/#2564. Also see the list of definitions on the Digital Preservation Coalition website: http://www.dpconline.org/advice/ introduction-definitions-and-concepts.html.

[2] Breakell, Sue, ‘Perspectives: Negotiating the Archive’, in TATE Papers, Issue 9, Spring 2008. Link: http://www.tate.org.uk/research/tateresearch/tatepapers/08spring/breakell.shtm.

Translations NL-UK: Mark Poysden
Translations UK-NL: Martje Dekkers
Dutch summaries: Niels Kerssens
Design: Studio GloriusVandeVen www.gloriusvandeven.nl
Printing: Palteam
Thanks to: Cathy Brickwood, Ward ten Voorde, Annette Wolfsberger


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