Thursday, November 29, 2018

BPN1743: UN World Digital Preservation Day

The UN has designed the last Thursday of November as World Digital Preservation Day. Special attention will be given to the digital preservation of heritage and vintage items. But what does digital heritage mean?

The word preservation reminds me of Preservation Hall in New Orleans, Louisiana. The City is famous for its Dixieland music, but that has not been always so. It is only after revival of Dixieland music in the fifties, that Dixieland became en vogue again with marches in the French Quarter and bands in the Mardi Gras carnival parades. It was in 1961 that in St.Peter’s Street an old building was designated to promote the tradition of Dixieland music. And that is what happens. In the sixties the veteran musicians like Sweet Emma and Kid Thomas started to play there famous blues. When the veterans died and had been buried with the last blue Oh, when the Saints, the music tradition continued. The rather sober music hall is the embodiment of preservation with three keywords: Protect, Preserve and Perpetuate.

Preservation Hall is an analogue preservation project, perhaps with the exception of digitally recorded music CDs. But its 3P slogan goes also for digital preservation. Of course many heritage and vintage items such as existing music recordings, existing movies, paper books  can be converted by the AC/DC route, from analogue to digital for preservation purposes in archives, museums or other memory institutes. But more interesting is the preservation of digital-born items, produced with computers. Of course the question is often: why should we preserve them. Of course computers and devices can be preserved for technical interest and sometimes for showing ergonomic aspects like the use of a mouse. But it is more interesting to preserve digital-born artefacts to show how digital technology has been used to create an artefact of beauty, be it digital art or games or items from other disciplines.

Let us preserve digital-born items of beauty, otherwise they will be lost or we will have to dig them up again, using digital-media archaeology


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