What are Preservation and Conservation Technologies?

As long as there have been museums, their mission has been to preserve and conserve our collective cultural heritage. Preservation refers to the protection of important objects, artifacts, and documents; conservation is the science of maintaining objects in as close to their original form as possible. As technology evolves, archivists and conservators have encountered a steady stream of new challenges in both of these tasks. Digital objects can be as delicate as ancient objects, requiring special care, and changing technologies puts these digital items at great risk. Cultural works that are time-based add a level of complexity in the quest for preservation, due to the added consideration of the artist's intent, or context, or movement. Understanding and preserving how media is intended to be experienced while maintaining the integrity of its cultural identity encompasses a number of a considerations such as conservation ethics, legal agreements, availability of mechanical and/or digital materials, and historical scholarship. While museums have long employed specialists in artifact preservation, today new professionals are needed who understand digital and time-based media, and can address preservation and conservation challenges not only from physical, but artistic, cultural, engineering, electronic, and other multi-disciplinary perspectives.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Academic and research institutions put increased focus on unique content that is curated and produced by their users: academics, instructors and students. Digital assets have unique characteristics that require proper tools and infrastructure to support full life-cycle management - from planning through collection and storage, management, organization and dissemination. On top of that, the scale of these assets can be huge - in terms of size and complexity of the digital objects. In order to enable on-going access to digital assets, active preservation is necessary and libraries and IT often join forces to provide solutions. - oren oren
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • I think the legal aspects are larger than mentioned above, but that's not my biggest addition to this topic. I also think there's going to be a shift how we think about preservation. When I started working in libraries (2004) I had two roles, one was a manuscripts processor and the other was to manage an oral history program (analog cassette tape), in manuscripts processing we would not hesitate to make a decision to throw something away, we worked on a collection building philosophy of keeping what's "interesting" or "unique." (I know that alone is a debate starter, but only slightly relevant to my point), while in the oral history program we kept everything because we didn't know what we would be able to access later or not and had more of a "we can keep it, so let's do just in case" approach due to the technology questions. I think this is still a relevant challenge: 1) How do we manage the technology issues of preservation (mention above), 2) How do we address the philosophy behind collection processing, 3) How do we determine what is unique about a collection working in a digital context (making a literal correlation between how we process special collections by going through the physical objects). Okay, others help clarify my point please, I don't feel this is a clear as some of my other comments. - lcshedd lcshedd Apr 14, 2015
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • Interest in Digital Preservation is definitely picking up among academic and research libraries, joining cultural heritage institutions who seem to have led the domain in past years. We are seeing developments and investments in institutional preservation repositories (see examples below), in collaborative programs and projects (eg DPN (http://www.dpn.org/), as well as joined libraries+archives projects (typically at a state or national level, e.g. State Library of NSW in Australia, and National Library of NZ and Archives NZ). Academic and research libraries focus on curating and preserving the unique digital output of the institution, in the realm of research outputs (including research data) and special collections. Key to many of these preservation programs is the ability to actively manage digital content of various types, to ensure ongoing access. Open Access mandates and policies serve as another catalyst. - oren oren Apr 13, 2015

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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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