Digital preservationists and IT colleagues

Title page Cinderella's Stick

A recurring theme in the discussions of preservationists is their delicate relationship with IT people and it was no surprise that recently Scott Prater published his article “How to Talk to IT about Digital Preservation” (or here) in which some tips and trics are described to improve the conversation between preservationists and IT people.

But if you really want to help your IT people, train them in digital preservation with a fairy tale book! A few months ago, Yannis Tzitzikas (University of Crete, Greece) asked me to have a look at the manuscript he and his colleague Yannis Marketakis (FORCE-ICS, Greece) wrote. Recently the book was published as Cinderella’s Stick. A Fairy tale for digital preservation. Springer Nature, 2018 ISBN 978-3-319-98488-9 (eBook)

The authors have chosen a very original perspective to explain digital preservation: they took the Cinderella fairy tale and turned it into a modern version whereby the main character is Daphne, an undergraduate student of Computer Science. The marriage with the prince is replaced by the challenge to be nominated as female CEO of a computer company MicroConnect. The nomination will take place via a competition.  Daphne – although not possessing the right credentials to participate – is able to join the competition under a fake name with the help of a friend. The slipper of the original fairy tale is Daphnes USB stick which she left in the computer on which she participated in the contest. And this is the only trace that will lead to winner of the competition. If only the content of the USB stick was readable and understandable… Hence all preservation problems in a fairy tale. With a happy end.

As the intended audience of the book are not only digital preservationists but also engineers, computer scientists and software designers, the fairy tale is accompanied by an explanation of the digital preservation problems that are faced in the story. All ingredients of digital preservation are described: migration, emulation, metadata, characterization etc. etc.  The authors give a technical background of each preservation challenge in the episode as well as links and references for each topic. While the story develops, the technical challenges are getting more complicated and the explanations more detailed.

Chapter 18 is the most technical part and explains the view of the authors on a general approach for digital preservation. This approach is based on the idea of a digital preservation pattern. A pattern “corresponds to a commonly occurring problem in digital preservation”.  Like the pattern 1 “Storage Media: Durability and access” has the desired task to read the bits of a storage medium. Tasks will have dependencies in order to do their job. This model was published before and the examples of the fairy tale helps to make it familiar.

Overview of the pattern model

Both authors participated in European projects like CASPAR and APARSEN (where I met Yannis)  and it is nice to see that even if it might take some years, European preservation projects still show their impact.

© 2024 Barbara Sierman