ENUMERATE 2017 and digital preservation


A new version of the ENUMERATE survey results was just published with a separate report on the Dutch results. The ENUMERATE survey monitors the digitization activities in memory institutions in Europe, whereby memory institutions are defined as “ institutions having collections that need to be preserved for future generations”. It is always risky to interpret survey results without the raw data. My knowledge of the context of the participating organisations will also colour the results. As will the knowledge of the persons who supplied the survey answers. But some interesting outcomes in relation to digital preservation are worth pondering about. Around 1000 cultural heritage institutions in Europe replied to the 37 survey questions: libraries, archives, museums etc. .A lot of institutions have not supplied answer to all questions, making interpretation even more difficult.

On the question whether organisations had a written digital strategy, 42% of 798 respondents replied they had (Q6.1) and in 90% of them this strategy covered digital preservation as well. If they all would have published their strategy, this would be over 300 policies that could be an example for the majority of organisations without a digital strategy (but … eh, are they ready to be published?).

Whom are these organisations serving with providing access to their digital material? The reasons for giving access score high on

  1. Academic use,
  2. Educational use
  3. Reducing the use of the original
  4. For personal enjoyment.

In the Dutch situation “Reducing the use of the original” is the first priority. (Although it is not mentioned the reason for this might be the special digitization programs in the Netherlands like Metamorfoze and Images for the Future focusing on physical materials at risk and resulting in large digital collections.)  We could distill the Designated Communities from these answers, although I doubt whether in the preservation community the requirements of these communities are described clearly enough to guide our preservation activities.

On the question whether the digital collection is stored in a digital depot “that have been set up according to international standards for digital preservation?” 45% of 577 respondents (so 406 organizations choose not to reply to this question) admit that they do not have such a solution and this is especially the case in museums. 7% answers that they do not know. So more than half of the organizations are not preserving their digitized materials for the long term (yet)! What about the ones that did not answer this question? Should not we start worrying?

The investments and costs in digitization are huge, varying from an average  annual total costs of ownership between € 111.307 (Museums), € 249.416 (Archives) and € 1.077.684 (Libraries) although these figures suggest to be heavily skewed by some large institutions (as is confirmed for the Dutch situation in the report). On average 53% of this is seen as incidental costs and 47% as structural costs. Breaking down the structural costs on activities, we see that “Archiving” and “Activities for long term preservation” result in 35% of the structural costs. But as long as most institutions do not have a proper way of administrating their costs in relation to digital preservation one can doubt the correctness of this estimation. The Dutch NDE/NCDD research of costs related to digital preservation draw some preliminary conclusions based on a small set of participating organizations in using the 4C cost model. The outcomes of this project might guide the next iteration of the survey.

So although the ENUMERATE survey offers us some interesting insight in the preservation activities related to the digital collections of memory institutions in Europe, the case is not reassuring yet. The majority does not have a strategy and the digital collections are not stored in a safe digital depot. The preservation community does not have a description of the designated communities that these organisations want to serve. Without a clear picture what we want to preserve, for whom and how, it will be difficult to find sustainable funding for digital preservation activities.


© 2021 Barbara Sierman