Digital Curation
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Teleconference with Trevor Owens

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00:00 Introduction by Jon Ippolito

01:40 Inspirations for writing "Theory & Craft of Digital Preservation"

Motivated by lack of context and misunderstandings between different disciplines.

02:50 Overview of the book

04:55 Divergent preservation lineages

Folkloric, informational, and artifactual

Owens' Axioms of Digital Preservation

07:47 1. "A repository is not a piece of software"

08:39 2. "Institutions make preservation possible"

09:25 3. "Tools can get in the way as much as they can help"

09:55 4. "Nothing has been preserved, there are only things being preserved"

11:04 5. "Hoarding is not preservation"

A tech company once told the Library of Congress, "Why don’t you just hoover it all up and shoot it into space?"

11:50 6. "Backing up data is not digital preservation"

12:30 7. "The boundaries of digital objects are fuzzy"

14:21 8. "One person’s digital collection is another’s digital object is another’s dataset"

15:00 9. "Digital preservation is making the best use of resources to mitigate threats and risks"

16:03 10. "The answer to nearly every digital preservation question is 'It depends' "

16:51 11. "It’s long past time to start taking actions"

18:03 12. "Highly technical definitions of digital preservation are complicit in silencing the past"

19:02 13. "The affordances of digital media prompt a need for digital preservation to be entangled in digital collection development"

21:02 14. "Accept and embrace the archival sliver"

21:48 15. "The scale and inherent structures of digital information suggest working more with a shovel than with a tweezers"

22:48 16. "Doing digital preservation requires thinking like a futurist"

Digital Preservation As Futurism

24:08 Anne Schlitt: Who are the futurists that you read?

Preservationists need to be learning about consumer trends and research directions, such as Augmented Reality, blockchain, DNA storage, voice-activated technologies, climate change.

26:35 Who determines our technological future?

What can ordinary digital curators contribute given the impact of the Department of Defense and Silicon Valley? Example: applying facial recognition to historical photos.

27:53 Colin Cruickshank-Windhorst: Can a repository be too big?

32:14 How does the Library of Congress accommodate a futurist viewpoint?

Probing and Preserving Ad Hoc Collections

36:07 Kyle Walton: What are the best practices for converting to paperless office?

40:05 How can digital details like the lowly spacer GIF shed light on decades of Internet aesthetics and politics?

The web as collection, from PDFs to audio files to websites.

46:22 Twitter as an example of a readymade collection.

3% of a tweet is the text content; the rest is metadata explaining how it connects to the rest of the network.

Engaging the Larger Community

48:42 Cruickshank-Windhorst: How do you work with grad students in community digital preservation projects?

Sometimes you end up supporting a heritage institution with a staff of .5!

54:13 Conclusion

This teleconference is a project of the University of Maine's Digital Curation program. For more information, contact ude.eniam@otiloppij.

Timecodes are in Minutes: hours

This teleconference features digital curation guru and uber-librarian Trevor Owens. As Head of Digital Content Management at the Library of Congress, Owens has his finger firmly planted on the pulse of digital preservation. At the IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services), he started the National Digital Platform initiative, which invested more than $30 million in 110 projects to advance digital infrastructure for libraries across the nation.

Owens Trevor Theory Craft Digital PreservationOwens teaches digital curation seminars for American University and the University of Maryland, and his most recent book, The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation, won the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services Outstanding Publication Award.

There are few professionals working today who combine Owen's broad perspective and practical bent. In 2018 Library Journal called him one of the "top changemakers who are transforming what it means to be a librarian." You can learn more about Trevor Owens at

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