For safe keeping and long term preservation of digital materials from central and local government, universities, research and private sector organisations or individuals with a digital preservation need.
It is becoming clear that digital preservation has a wider application within New Zealand than just fulfilling the National Library (external link) and Archives New Zealand (external link) collecting mandates. With the vast proliferation of digital information being created, the need for and understanding of digital preservation has also increased and so has its potential application across a range of information sectors.
The National Library and Archives New Zealand frequently requests regarding their position on the provision of digital preservation services.
The information landscape has changed dramatically with the ubiquity of digital and the social, cultural, business, scientific and economic expression of New Zealanders is now predominantly in digital form.
This introduces the spectre of the loss of digital data with the threat of a ‘digital black hole’, where digital content is being permanently lost due to technical obsolescence, with the corresponding impact on the country’s social, cultural and economic outcomes.
Feedback from stakeholders has shown us that there is market failure in this space at the same time it is clear that there is a demand for such a service. Investment decisions are currently skewed by short term imperatives and difficulties organisations face in valuing their high value information assets and in obtaining funding to invest in digital preservation activities.
The net effect of this is a coordination failure and an inefficient investment approach across the public and private sectors which are likely result in both duplication of effort and a lack of supply for high quality digital preservation services.
The National Library of New Zealand is looking at the potential for a high quality, robust and scalable digital preservation service in New Zealand which lowers costs to clients, and grows digital preservation capability and capacity across the country.
The result should be a deeper and richer range of New Zealand’s digital assets being collected and preserved for future historians, researchers and students.
Core functions of any proposed service should include:
• Consultancy (including collection assessment)
• Requirements gathering
• Repository management including fixity checking, virus checking, risk analysis, software development, monitoring and reporting
• Preservation planning and actions, e.g. migration or emulation
• Ongoing research and development.
While we will need to consider what it would look like if we make an intentional choice to jointly govern and manage the long term safekeeping of the nation’s digital assets, there is an opportunity here to model a deeper level of collaboration in a domain that is still new in New Zealand and has very little sunk cost in terms of multiple competing players.
This should matter to all of us whether our aim is to collect the digital expression of New Zealanders across a wide range of disciplines or to ensure that our organisations are able to provide our customers with access to the full range of New Zealand’s culture and heritage in digital form in the future.
We hope to be able to partner with other interested organisations in the development of Digital Preservation New Zealand service in the years ahead.
Digital Preservation will leverage the investment made (approximately $50 million) in the existing digital preservation systems and infrastructure and the expert capability that the National Library and Archives New Zealand has developed over time.
For further information and enquiries, please contact Steve Knight, Programme Director, Preservation Research and Consultancy.