Monday, July 21, 2014

Reflecting on 5 Days of Preservation

Last week was a blast!

Last week many of my colleagues in libraries, archives, museums, commercial firms, and otherwise joined me in #5DaysOfPreservation. Over five days we shared over 300 pictures of what preservation looked like for us at that time wherever we were.
Emily Shaw of University of Iowa and hours or digitized film
A couple things came together to spawn the idea for this project. I had recently read “The Preservation Management Handbook” and came away with two thoughts: preservation in the 21st century is vast, and the first part of this book needed more pictures. I had also just read a book – on my phone – on visual storytelling. With those two books rolling around in my head, the idea for #5DaysOfPreservation was formed.

The idea was that I would invite colleagues (and by invite I mean post on my various social media accounts) to share pictures each workday of a week of what preservation looked like for them that day. I thought that sharing several pictures would help communicate something about our work that text doesn’t capture, plus I wanted to make the barrier to involvement as low as possible, and taking pictures and sharing them on social media is about as low a barrier as it gets.

Okay, now here’s where things were a little uncertain for me. I bear very little authority or influence in the larger preservation world.  I’ve got some blog readers and some twitter followers but I was a bit concerned about throwing a party and nobody coming.  (I was pretty sure Suzy Morgan was going to show up.) Happily, I started to see some others enthusiastically share about this event. In the end, the response was far greater than I had imagined.

So a whole bunch of people shared a whole bunch of pictures – and what did we learn?

I think we learned that there’s a lot of creativity out there, and I think the informality of sharing pics on social media allowed for a little more playfulness than other types of communication.

The scope of what we are preserving and who is doing the preserving is indeed vast.  We saw pics from UK, US, Canada (maybe more), from major universities, county libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, commercial vendors, television and radio archives.

Internet Archive's PetaBoxes
submitted by Jefferson Bailey
They types of materials preserved were also vast. There were what was to me a surprisingly large number of pictures of audio visual preservation activities.  There were many digital preservation related pics, as well as artifacts – both in libraries and museums. There were web archiving pics – with examples from both the UK parliament and the US Senate. We saw examples of extraordinary and exceptional items and activities, as well as the most common of materials and tasks.  There were even a few microfilm pics – one was mine.

There were several disaster/water related pics including a supply closet in preparation for a disaster, and drying books. There were a few pics of mysterious, and not so mysterious unpleasant soiling and staining of items.

One thing I noticed as the week was moving along is the presence of lots of screen shots and close ups of items, but not a lot of pictures with people. I was as guilty as others of not including the people who preserve in my pics. I issued a request on Thursday for people to post more people pics and they did.

I think one of the achievements of this project was the chance to see colleagues dealing with the same challenges and doing some of the same things we are doing.  It was a chance to hold up a mirror to our larger collective self. I think it was both reassuring, and energizing. And while the pictures often didn't have people in them, they were all crafted and shared by people, so I’d like to think it was a bit of a community building exercise.

I would be really curious to hear from others about what struck you as you viewed the pictures of this project. What struck you? What surprised you? Did it change your perception of preservation? The preservation departments of Duke University Library and Iowa State Library ended the week with blog posts in the 1091 Project series one their involvement.

So what’s next?  I’ll go back to writing goofy long blog posts, without enough pictures.  Perhaps we’ll do it again next year.


  1. I always show up to these things! :)

  2. Nice sum-up of a fun, collaborative project. We enjoyed participating!