Retrodigitisation / Digital preservation
Library collections increasingly consist of digital information in a whole host of different formats, from digitised image files, electronic theses, and full texts under national license schemes through to non-textual materials and electronic grey literature – and all of this information has to be compiled and made accessible to users. Preserving this digital data and making it accessible over the long term poses a whole new set of challenges: Books printed on acid-free paper have been shown to have a lifespan of several hundred years, but the methods and devices required to open digitally stored materials often become obsolete after just a few years.
The UNESCO Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage (2003) defines the term “digital heritage” as “unique resources of human knowledge and expression” which must be made accessible while simultaneously respecting copyright and privacy rights.
To meet this goal, it is necessary to develop and implement standards and strategies for digital preservation:
“Continuity of the digital heritage is fundamental. To preserve digital heritage, measures will need to be taken throughout the digital information life cycle, from creation to access. Long-term preservation of digital heritage begins with the design of reliable systems and procedures which will produce authentic and stable digital objects.” (Art. 5 (1))
Retrodigitisation as a means of preservation
Digital preservation and long-term archiving are concerned not only with born-digital materials, but also with digital surrogates of analogue materials and ‘retrodigitisation’, as well as the preservation of the digitised documents created in these processes.
The retrodigitisation project at the ZB MED is currently at a preliminary stage that involves digitising the library`s 19th century collection of physical anthropology literature. the project is focusing on "scanning on demand" as well as digitisation for conservation purposes.
Both the UNESCO Charter and nestor – the German competence network for digital preservation – emphasise that the digital preservation process needs to continuously adapt to the ever-changing characteristics of the latest technologies. Standards and strategies need to be developed, implemented and applied to ensure the integrity, authenticity and usability of digitally archived materials.
Digital preservation is a Goportis service involving the Goportis partners TIB, ZBW and ZB MED, who are currently developing a joint digital preservation strategy. A sustainable approach providing permanent accessibility to digital data is being developed by sharing resources, knowledge and experience. As well as monitoring national and international activities, the partners are also investigating state-of-the-art techniques for the digital preservation of various materials and deriving concrete steps from their findings.
- UNESCO “Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage”
- UNESCO “Guidelines for the preservation of digital heritage”
- Nestor "Memorandum zur Langzeitverfügbarkeit digitaler Informationen in Deutschland"
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