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Learning about digital preservation and people around it

Posted: 2009-06-03 23:05:59, Categories: Travel, Work, 665 words (permalink)

IASSIST conference reception at the Tampere old city hall. I wrote half a year ago about my new job with environmental and cultural data. During the last seven months I've learned a great deal about ensuring long term access to digital data or digital preservation as it is commonly called, about museums, libraries and archives and about people who work in them.

My main focus has been on the Finnish National Digital Library project (Kansallinen digitaalinen kirjasto in Finnish) and in particular the long term preservation of digital and digitized cultural works. Those who can read Finnish can take a look at the preliminary functional requirements document which also gives a good overview on what the project is all about. The information is already slightly outdated as a working group has been drafting the overall system architecture during April and May, but it's still good for taking a more in depth look and sending comments if you have any.

One of the best aspects has been meeting people from museums, libraries and archives, learning at least a little bit about what these cultural institutions are doing behind the scenes. The National Digital Library project seems to be a strong motivator for the previously rather isolated sectors to work together. Interesting things are being revealed even within each sector: for example how two archives can arrive in two perfectly logical but semantically incompatible descriptions of an object although both are using the same metadata standard.

Finland is not alone: in particular the Europeana portal for cultural works has inspired many countries to set up similar projects during the last couple of years. One of the objectives of the Finnish National Digital Library is to bring content online so that it can be found not only via the Finnish interface but also through Europeana, Google and other search engines. Online access to cultural works in a few year timeframe looks therefore rather bright — at least from a historian's point of view. Old works whose copyright has already expired will be made available, but it's another question how much of the more recent content will be easily accessible.

Being assigned to a national project, I've traveled less than earlier when I was representing CSC in Nordic and EU projects. I haven't missed it much: flying back and forth between cities spending most of the time in meetings wouldn't satisfy my travel appetite and feel bad from the environmental point of view. Nevertheless, I spent a week in Rome in March learning about data repository risk analysis before CouchSurfing with four lively Italians, and last week I was at Tampere in the IASSIST 2009 conference. IASSIST was suprisingly lot of fun in addition to the information content: jokes were flying around, people liked to party and the photo session at the end wrapped up everything perfectly. The most inspiring presentation was given by Dr. Michael Batty on data visualization, in particular on what can be done using GMap, Image Cutter and other tools developed by the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis in University College London.

My work contract has been extended until the end of the year. Like until now it's 80 hours per month, approximately half time. As I've been working for more than that during the winter and spring I'll start the summer with a two month vacation, getting back to work in August. Travel destinations will this time include Canada, United States, Finland and Norway — but that's already the topic of another post.

By the way, Ministry of Education also finally got out the survey on the current state of geographic information related data in Finland to which I contributed a little bit. I have no idea whether the information and suggestions in the report will really be used or whether they'll become buried and forgotten — we'll see. If you want to read more about my thoughts on the topic in general take a look of my earlier article.

(Minor edit 2009-08-13: links updated to point at the new National Digital Library website.)


Näitä kirjoituksiasi on mukava lueskella. Toivottavasti Sinulla on mukavat matkat Kanadaan ym. Uskoakseni Kanadan veljelläsi on Linux käytössään. Kysyppä häneltä hyvää tekstitysohjelmaa Ubuntulle. ;-) Frank
2009-06-04 @ 05:14
Hey Arto, Nice work, seems quite interesting to learn how museums work in the background and also to help preserve cultural heritage. Have a good holiday. Julian
2009-06-04 @ 11:32
Picking up “..the summer with a two month vacation..” Great deal Arto! All the luck you around the globe.
2009-06-25 @ 10:25

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Copyright Arto Teräs <ajt@iki.fi>, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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