Digital Preservation Seeds

by Barbara Sierman

The prize winning IPS of the British Library

During iPRES2019 in Amsterdam Peter May from the British Library(BL) presented their ambitious Integrated Preservation Suite (IPS). And for this contribution, they won the prize for the iPRES 2019 Best Paper Award, sponsored by nestor. Congratulations!

Preservation Planning needs of the BL

To enhance the Libraries preservation planning capability, the BL build upon the results of the  SCAPE project in which they participated. In this project and in the Integrated Preservation Suite the focus is on the Preservation Planning. In order to translate the OAIS concept of Preservation Planning into a practical usable solution for a large library with a variety of collections, one will need a large set of supporting information. To make the right decisions and to evaluate them. To update the information regularly. Based on knowledge that is available in the library and outside. For Preservation Planning a Preservation Watch function (a Planets concept, now part of OAIS)  is needed. But you will also need to identify risks and develop strategies.

In preparation of developing IPS, the BL gathered necessary information in the library. They developed collection profiles of their digital content, in which they described the formats, the preservation intent and known issues. They made format sustainability assessments to identify possible risks. And they are working on a threat model for the Digital Preservation Infrastructure in relation to the other risks.

Ingredients of the IPS

But in order to really execute Preservation Actions if a risk is there, you will also need a Preservation Plan, based on sound information. The Integrated Preservation Suite should be able to give that information. An integrated set of components is under development;

First a Knowledge Base: a graph-based curated knowledge base with information, initially, about formats, software, and wider technical environments relevant to the Library’s digital collections. The content is based on existing resources, to which the BL will add their own expertise. In the Preservation Software Repository “current and legacy software for rendering files and implementing preservation plans”will be stored.  In the Policy and Planning repository all documentation related to the policies and collection profiles can be found. The Preservation Workbench finally, is a “web-based graphical user interface providing unifying functionality” to all the other parts and the opportunity to update the information (here – confusingly – called “data curation”). There will also be an Execution platform to test preservation actions. The ultimate goal is to be able to “streamline preservation planning activities and turn to more automated solutions”.

Progress towards Control Policies?

And this will be interesting for the further development of another SCAPE deliverable: the 3rd level in the Preservation Policies: the Control Policies and the related Control Policy Model. The High Level Policies and Preservation Procedure Policies being in the Policy and Planning Repository I assume. The Control Policies concept was defined as: “the requirements for a specific collection, a specific preservation action or for a specific designated community.  This level can be human readable, but should also be available in machine readable and actionable form and thus can be used in automated planning and watch tools to ensure that preservation actions and workflows chosen meet the specific requirements identified for that digital collection.

The BL internal project will end by the end of 2019, but I hope they will keep us updated about the results!

And finally a message for the European Commission: this is another example that shows that it might take a few years before you see the return on your investment, but it is worthwhile to start digital preservation projects!

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© 2019 Barbara Sierman

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