Wednesday, 18 March 2009

credit crunch and digital preservation

One of the great problems in digital preservation/archiving is developing a funding model that's sustainable. In essence you can't digitise all your records on the basis of a three year grant and expect them to be there in twenty years - you have to actually curate the data, which means planning for upgrades, format changes, media degradation and the rest.

Digital preservation has been very much one of the devlopments of the last few years on the back of cheap storage, tchnology and the desire to increase access to rare (physical) resources, or as in one project I workd on, preserve audio recording of aboriginal language before the original 1950's quarter inch tapes rotted and degraded too badly to copy.

However no one figured on the credit crunch and the collapse in funding. Jonathan Jarrett reports that the Digital Scriptorium and Columbia is not going to it's funding renewed with a consequent impact on its ability to carry on.

Given that many digital preservation projects are reliant on charitable endowments (ie indirectly on the stock market) or government funding ('nuff said) it's clear that many projects will be in trouble. Given that many universities worldwide are looking at shortfalls for basically the same reason, bailouts from their host institutions may be less likely than they might be.

The cynic in me suggests that we go back to an earlier funding model - instead of cash we give digital preservation projects land which cannot be sold but may be leased out - that should at least guarantee an independent income stream ...

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