Digital Preservation Seeds

by Barbara Sierman

Stories of digital incidents

At conferences about digital preservation, we often hear the same stories about things that went wrong first and (in some cases)how it was repaired afterwards: ” Luckily some of the lost bits were saved”. The Domesday book, the Viking mission to Mars etcetera.

On the  Atlas of Digital Damages I collected some of these well known stories. However the list is limited. The incidents I found so far, mainly occurred in the US, and quite often more than 5 years ago or even longer. I doubt whether there were no incidents in the last 5 years or so.

Apart from the fact that I might need to refine my search question on Google, could it also be the case that we zipped up our lips from the moment we started to take digital preservation seriously? Incidents with digital material are never welcomed, but they do happen. To keep silent about it, is understandable in one way. No one would like to put the reputation of an organisation at risk, or admit that something very stupid happened (although on the risk list number one is:  human errors!).  But not every incident is related to a “stupid error”, there is a whole range of activities that can lead to loss of information. Both the DRAMBORA list of risks and the RAC standard offer a wide range of areas, for which the community is now determining the do’s and don’ts of digital preservation.

Often these risks are described on a high level. What we need are examples that we can relate to situations in our own repositories . To hear about decisions that were made and proved wrong.

So I challenge you to contribute to the Stories in the Atlas by sending your story to . I leave it to your discretion how detailed your description is.

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