Digital Preservation Summit 2011 (Hamburg, 19-20 October 2011)

It is estimated that in 2020, 80% of all research output will only be published in digital form. Which goes to show that the first ever summit on digital preservation, held in Hamburg, Germany, from 19 to 20 October, proved to be more relevant than ever.

120 international IT experts were in attendance to discuss a plethora of issues. The lack of consensus on reliable file formats to use for digital preservation, for instance. Or the budget restrictions plaguing major content holders. Or even the difficulties to establish national policies for digital preservation.

One of the common threads throughout the summit was the lack of public awareness for the importance of digital preservation. In the words of Steve Knight from the National Library of New Zealand: “Digital preservation is about as familiar to people as space walking”. How fitting that he chose to illustrate his point with the loss of NASA’s original records on the first moon landing, which – however tragic – was probably not considered a sufficiently serious disaster to raise awareness of the issue.

Then again, people in general often don’t know how important it is to preserve the cultural and scientific heritage. The destructions of various libraries in history, especially in the Western and Arabic world, are a testament to this public ignorance which hopefully will one day be overcome.

But much more will be needed than just goodwill to preserve our heritage. The lack of a standard software system means that technology is an issue as well. Instead of the many individual solutions that are in use today, the future will see a need for final productive solutions that can cope with much larger amounts of data!

And thus many issues remain to be debated…

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