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Volume 3 Issue 10 October 2011 Editor's Desk

Elusive Digital Preservation


Somewhere in the mid-20
th

century, libraries have moved from their reactive conservation of print

resources to proactive preservation model similar to that of archivists. Slow, but definite decay of paperbased information sources is mainly due to dust, humidity and residual acidity in the wood-pulp-based paper. Like disaster management, proactive preservation could be preventive as well as post-facto damage control or salvation effort. Over centuries, paper technology has remained remarkably stable and the preservation efforts have successfully restored contents in paper medium and slowed down their decay. Most of the contents on decaying paper products are recoverable.

On the other hand, the proactive digital preservation to prevent digital decay is yet most spiritedly debated issue. Apart from physical deterioration, obsolescence of hardware, software and storage medium and failure to save crucial format information may cause digital decay and loss of entire content of a digital document. Generally digital data are much less self-archiving than print documents, and often they require more human efforts to describe and to provide context for interpretation.

The tapes of 1975 Viking launch mission to Mars, the laser disc and the player used in 1986 BBC Doomsday project and Space shuttles obsolete software and storage media are some of the examples where digital preservation was found to be fragile. Digital data preservation is largely experimental and replete with the risks associated and untested methods. Numerous digitization projects are on, but we, yet do not have confidence to discard or destroy the originals after digitization. There is much desired digital preservation policies, strategies and actions to ensure that digital objects and systems remain authentic and accessible to users over a long period of time regardless of the challenges posed by changes taking place over time.

Many factors need to be addressed in digital preservation - type, size and amount of data, the goals of reusing data, reliability, authenticity, integrity, technical scalability, and supporting heterogeneity. One of the challenges for digital preservation is the need to resolve the conflict arising out of the contradictory objectives of the context of creation and the context of use of digital data.

Dynamically changing content, emerging new formats or styles, storage media, the interoperability between archiving and digital library, metrics of metadata for archiving and preservation, standards for digital preservation are all important. ISO has encouraged the development of standards and approved Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS), CCSDS 650.0-B-1, Blue Book, January 2002.

Interestingly, huge Web archiving projects are already in vogue as far as preserving Web content with all its versions for posterity is concerned. Of course, for a born-digital content like Web, attempting on any other medium like even microfilm is unwise and unwieldy.

This issue has a detailed report on the celebration of J-Gate crossing 25000 e-journals and an article comparing Open J-Gate with DOAJ apart from usual news, search tips, information literacy quiz and researchers corner. M S Sridhar sridhar@informindia.co.in ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -------------http://informindia.co.in/NewsLetter/Jgatenewsletter-october2011.swf