What are Preservation and Conservation Technologies?


As long as there have been museums, their mission has been to preserve and conserve our collective cultural heritage. Preservation refers to the protection of important objects, artifacts, and documents; conservation is the science of maintaining objects in as close to their original form as possible. As technology evolves, archivists and conservators have encountered a steady stream of new challenges in both of these tasks. Digital objects can be as delicate as ancient objects, requiring special care, and changing technologies puts these digital items at great risk. Cultural works that are time-based add a level of complexity in the quest for preservation, due to the added consideration of the artist's intent, or context, or movement. Understanding and preserving how media is intended to be experienced while maintaining the integrity of its cultural identity encompasses a number of a considerations such as conservation ethics, legal agreements, availability of mechanical and/or digital materials, and historical scholarship. While museums have long employed specialists in artifact preservation, today new professionals are needed who understand digital and time-based media, and can address preservation and conservation challenges not only from physical, but artistic, cultural, engineering, electronic, and other multi-disciplinary perspectives.


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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Digitization of film/cinema history is an obvious example. - edward.oneill edward.oneill Oct 25, 2015
  • The fragility of digital material threatens large portions of the scientific evidence base, and is a major risk to the adoption of open educational content. - escience escience Oct 25, 2015
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • New tools and methods for preservation keep appearing. A good thing, too!- bryan.alexander bryan.alexander Oct 1, 2015
  • Increasingly expensive to do this as the data grows in size and complexity... while many budgets face escalating stress.- bryan.alexander bryan.alexander Oct 1, 2015
  • The contrast between physical preservation and digital dissemination seems important. Physical objects may be preserved but inaccessible. Conversely (-ish), the idea that one has created and shared a digital copy gives the impression that since access is wider something has been 'preserved'; whereas in fact, the physical object may not have been preserved. Is it worth spelling out the distinction between preservation and digitization? - edward.oneill edward.oneill Oct 25, 2015
  • In either the physical or digital realm, preservation can be operationally defined as enabling meaningful long-term access -- or more generally, as supporting successful communication of the meaning embodied in collection to a far-future audience. The shift to digital content is important not because it changes this but because it changes the economics of different actions over the content -- digital stuff is much cheaper (lower marginal cost) to acc, and access, replicate, share (offer access to) and compute over. There are three corollaries to this -- (1) organizations now use and rely on vastly more information than "walks through the door" (is managed, or explicitly selected); (2) no organization can afford, by itself, to preserve all of the information that its community actually uses; (3) collaborative approaches to preserving content of shared interest are lower cost, and easier to manage than they have been in the past - escience escience Oct 25, 2015
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • your response here
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • your response here
  • RMAP is doing good work on preserving complex, multi-piece, social objects created by academics.- bryan.alexander bryan.alexander Oct 1, 2015
  • NDSA - http://ndsa.org is doing good work on developing collaborative preservation approaches and practices - escience escience Oct 25, 2015
  • DPN - http://dpn.org has garnered substantial participation among higher ed institutions to preserve the scholarly record - escience escience Oct 25, 2015
  • Hathitrust & Portico are doing good work in journal and book preservation- - escience escience Oct 25, 2015
  • another response here

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