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IS&T Archiving 2006

May 25th, 2006 · No Comments · Digital Preservation, Meetings & Presentations

IST-Archiving-2006After a week of consulting work in Washington, D.C., I flew into Ottawa two days ago for the IS&T Archiving 2006 conference hosted at the Library and Archives of Canada. I gave a high-speed rant of a presentation yesterday about ‘Web 2.0 and Access to Digital Archives’. A day later, other presenters are still promising the audience that they won’t ‘talk as fast as Peter.’ I’ve posted a slower version of the presentation as a webcast.

The IS&T Archiving conference has, in the short span of three years, quietly become the de-facto digital preservation conference that brings together an interesting blend of academics, vendors and memory institutions. Digital preservation luminaries like Clifford Lynch and Howard Besser consider it worth their time, although both have been pounding away on their laptop keyboards since the conference began.

Part of the appeal of the IS&T Archiving conference is that the presentations are less about the theory of digital archiving and more about the technical details of what has been done or is about to be done in practice. There is also a single stream of presentations so, firstly, you don’t have to choose between different presentation tracks and, secondly, it allows for some cross-polination of interests and expertise, this is especially noticeable during the question and feedback sessions. The interactive poster session is also intended for more casual, two-way communication about digital archiving ideas and practices.

National Archivist with a Web 2.0 vision

The keynote presentation for the conference was given by Ian Wilson, Canada’s National Librarian and Archivist. His talk was an excellent segue into my own presentation because he spoke about the very inspiring vision of the Library and Archives of Canada to make more of its holdings available online, to integrate it with other collections and services, to promote its use and re-use, and the importance of encouraging end-users to find new ways to apply and enhance the information and knowledge that is contained in the archival materials. When I asked him about the challenge that copyright poses to the vision of opening and sharing content in archival collections, he proposed looking into some type of micropayment incentive system to persuade copyright holders to loosen the restrictions on the access and use of their content. It was very refreshing to hear our national archivist talk about providing access to our documentary heritage in new and innovative ways.


I am typing this at mid-day of day 2 of the conference but the sessions I have seen already and the people I have talked to thus far has already made this trip worthwhile. Right now Richard Marciano is talking about the WRAP Project’s preservation of large-scale multimedia collections. Some of the other highlights include presentations on Microsoft’s emperical research project studying how people manage their personal digital archives (i.e. they don’t), the emulator prototype at the National Archives of the Netherlands, the short history of digital archiving, and the Library of Congress work on creating a bottom-up object model framework for digital repositories. They are looking at managing the myriad of relationships in a given digital repostiory as seperate RDF-triplicate style objects which is exactly the design I intend to incorporate into the data model for the OSARIS-project software I will be working on this summer.

The presentation on the U.S. National Archives’ Electronic Records Archives (ERA) project was, unfortunately, characterized by the limited amount of information that the speaker was able to give about the details of the system itself (i.e. if we told you how our security architecture is designed, we’d have to shoot you).

OAIS is spoken here

Lastly, it looks like OAIS is becoming the lingua franca of digital preservationists. Presenters don’t feel the need to explain OAIS diagrams or terms, they are just used as general reference points in a wide range of discussions. That’s exactly the point and goal of a reference model.