Saturday, August 16, 2014

This is not preservation. That is not preservation.

I occasionally follow events I’m not attending by tracking their hashtag on twitter. I’m deeply grateful for people who actively and insightfully tweet what is going on in front of them. This helps clue me in on the topics of discussion. It is interesting when several tweeters grab ahold of one particular phrase or idea.

Following the events of the Library of Congress’ Digital Preservation 2014 earlier this year one such retweeted phrase was “Storage is not preservation.”

Following the recent Society of American Archivists meeting this week one phrase which I took note of related to web archiving was “Capture is not preservation.”

Implied in these two “not-preservation” statements are that their subjects, Storage and Capture are not in and of themselves preservation. Preservation is more than just storage and capture. They are wonderfully tweetable phrases – coming easily under 140 characters and have that sense of glib truth, but defining what something isn’t, leaves me wanting. It leaves me wanting for positive assertions about preservation.

This may come as a bit of a surprise given the name of this blog, and given what I like to write about, but I want to know what preservation IS, not what it is not. This question of what is preservation was part of my motivation for the 5 Days ofPreservation event as it helped answer the question what does preservation look like, but they didn’t really get to the question of what do these acts of preservation accomplish. I think I was also trying to get at this question in my Portraits in Preservation project with my bonus question “What do you preserve and why?”

I don’t really think there is one conclusive definition to what preservation is. I expect there are many models or theories of preservation and that’s probably as it should be. 

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