World Digital Preservation Day 2020

World Digital Preservation Day 2020 is a good opportunity to give a brief overview of some of our recent digital preservation activities. Digital preservation is essential to ensure that our long-term digital assets are accessible into the future and as the scale and diversity of our digital assets increases so too does the importance of digital preservation. We have been engaged in several initiatives designed to enhance our digital preservation capabilities and to embed the importance of digital preservation in our activities.

An area that we are investigating is the scale of University records being created in digital forms and the necessity to develop a proactive approach to their active management throughout their lifecycle. This is an issue that extends across all areas of the University and one that will intensify as born-digital records become the predominant records that are created by units across the University and are accessioned to College Archives. The potential lack of intervention in these records until many years after their creation poses a risk to their continued accessibility. This is a pressing concern and one we are actively engaged with to ensure we can continue to retain the institutional memory of the University.

In May 2020 we launched a beta version of our new Digital Collections Repository. This continues our commitment to extend the accessibility of our collections as well as provide new functionalities to enable enhanced interactions with our digital collections. Preservation is a core value of the work carried out by the Digital Collections team. This has ensured that the sustainability of our digital outputs continues to be a key consideration in our activities for the ongoing preservation of our digital outputs and their continued accessibility in the future.

We have also been involved in outreach activities to develop networks with other organisations keen to demonstrate the value of digital preservation. Recently, ‘Engaging with Web Archives: Opportunities, Challenges and Potentialities’, the first conference solely focused on web archiving to be held in Ireland, was hosted online by Maynooth University. The Library highlighted our previous collaborative effort with both the British Library and the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, to archive websites related to the 1916 Easter Rising centenary. This highlights the need for sustainability to be an essential consideration in the creation of digital material to ensure their continued accessibility and the importance of preserving websites to enable their future use as a resource for research. A blog post and link to the presentation can be found here.     

Another initiative was an unexpected one. With the arrival of COVID-19 in Ireland, and the massive changes in our work practices and social lives, the Library embarked upon a project to create an archive that would document ordinary life during the period of the pandemic. Led by Dr Jane Maxwell, the ‘Living in Lockdown’ project has provided members of the Trinity community the opportunity to donate material that charts their experiences of this tumultuous time in our history. It is the first born-digital collecting project that the Library has engaged in and demonstrates our continued commitment to widening our archival base to incorporate evolving digital formats within our collections. You can see our recent Digital Preservation Coalition blog post about this project here.  

These initiatives have required the development of new workflows, the coordination of a wide range of colleagues across the University, new processes for the transfer of materials, the securing of appropriate storage for materials, the implementation of sufficient back-ups of these materials, sufficient metadata to ensure adequate contextual information, and the application of tools to ensure that these materials maintain their authenticity, integrity, and reliability.

Digital preservation is a rapidly evolving field and requires a continued commitment to enhancing our capacity to meet future challenges. Throughout its history the Library has demonstrated a commitment and ability to adapt to evolving circumstances. The Library has a long history of safeguarding collections through conservation and preservation and this stewardship role extends to evolving types of collections. The nature of the material we hold is transitioning from solely paper-based collections to hybrid collections composed of both paper and digital materials, as well as exclusively born-digital collections. This evolution requires a renewed commitment to safeguarding a wider range of material than ever before. This necessitates the enactment of policies and procedures to enable the sustainability of our efforts to continue retaining the institutional memory of the University, the range of digital outputs from both digitisation initiatives and other digital outputs across the University, and the continued acquisition of collections of global significance from external depositors in digital form.