Digital Preservation

What is digital preservation? According to Digital Preservation Europe it is “set of activities required to make sure digital objects can be located, rendered, used and understood in the future.” The implication being that the software and hardware changed made in the following years after the object was created in order to ensure that we could actually access and understand the content. If this is not done we risk the losing out on all the popular culture and social history that is being created digitally right now, or in other words a “digital dark age.” (McDonough) Some of these digitally born objects include such things as computer gaming. They provide amazing insight into the “popular and political culture” of the time and society they were created and played in. If efforts are not made to preserve such an object, we the historian, lose out. This same concept could be said with social media, and digital photographs. If digital preservation does not become a priority, we as historians will have much less to work with then our predecessors, given that most forms of todays “material culture” have become “digital culture.” In the past, letters, diaries, financial logs, cargo lists, etc., were all put on paper with ink. Today, this is not the case. Most correspondence between people happens digitally. The use of email, messaging over Facebook or Twitter has replaced yesteryears letters. Journaling now often happens either on Word or via digital film camera. Cargo lists, and financial records are often kept on company servers, again they are digital. One of the ways in which we can as society protect ourselves from a loss in our digital primary sources is to move to “open source software.” (Science Daily) Open source software frees us from relying on only one type of hardware or software, which if those are no longer available because the private company no longer exists, makes digitally born objects readable on other platforms. This universality is key in preserving our past; which includes a rich market of primary sources. If you are interested in learning more about Digital Preservation here is a link to further readings.