Sunday, October 20, 2013

10 Laws of Digital Preservation

A few days ago I posted Paul Banks' 10 Laws of Preservation. I concluded post acknowledging that these 10 laws were book/document focused and that I would be interested in reading 10 laws of digital preservation.

Well, someone has taken me up on that challenge. Dave Thompson, digital curator at the Wellcome Library, London, happened across my blog post and offered up his 10 Laws of Digital Preservation. With his permission, I present them here.

While Banks' and Thompson's "laws" are their individual thoughts and not the consensus of their larger disciplines, they do present some interesting differences in what preservation means for print and for digital collections. 

10 Laws of Digital Preservation 
1. The game changes. Data is created in one context, but preserved in many. 
2. The point of preservation is access & managed access supports that. 
3. Only data that can be rendered can be meaningful. 
4. Data, even well preserved data, can render differently in different 
environments. 
5. Many copies help keep data safe but in many different contexts. 
6. Data life is finite but manifestations perpetuate the data. 
7. Inadvertent or unidentified data corruption is worse than data loss. 
8. Physical data-media doesn't always contain relevant information. 
9. Data without metadata is meaningless. 
10. There is no such thing as a digital original & original order is an arbitrary 
construct based upon rendering. 

I’m not suggesting these are the only or the definitive laws. There may be others, or 
I may be quite incorrect in my thinking. 
Feel free to challenge these. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong. Feel free to form your 
own opinion. 
Dave Thompson, October 2013. 
Tweet me @D_N_T

I too would be curious to hear from readers their thoughts one either sets of "laws." And now that we've got one set each of book/document preservation laws and digital preservation laws how about an attempt at a set of 10 preservation laws that are applicable regardless of media.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Paul Banks' 10 Laws of Preservation

I have this sheet of paper which floats around my work bench and on it are written Paul Banks' 10 Laws of Preservation. One day a while back I located the text of these 10 laws and did a quick reformat a single page mini-poster. I still haven't mounted the sheet anywhere. It just lies around occasionally getting in the way, which means I occasionally have to move it, which gives me the opportunity to once again reread them.

Paul Banks was an incredibly influential conservator first at the Newberry Library, and then went on to start the conservation program at Columbia University. I don't know for what reason he created his 10 laws of preservation, but I find they express the wisdom of a life-time of experience.

Paul Banks' 10 Laws of Preservation

No one has access to a document that doesn't exist
Multiplication/dispersal increases survival
Physical medium of a book/document contains information
No reproduction can contain all information contained in the original
Conservation treatment is interpretation
Authenticity cannot be restored
No treatment is reversible
Use causes wear
Books and documents deteriorate all the time
Deterioration is irreversible

Many of these laws are book/document focused. It would be interesting to read a 10 laws of digital preservation, or perhaps even a 10 laws of preservation that was relevant to all type of media.

(Added later) What new Laws of Preservation would you add? What has your experience of working with preservation taught you about the bigger preservation picture?