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?

  • As someone who works in an academic library, I recognize the importance of preservation and conservation to supporting and connecting research, learning and outreach across the scholarly ecosystem, and over time. The opportunities for self-publishing (e.g. via project or departmental websites) presents particular challenges that many, including Extensions Educators and Administrators, fail to properly recognize. Those include impermanence, of the materials themselves, perhaps lost when a website is no longer maintained, or of the link to those resources when/if they are moved to new locations (e.g. resulting in the dreaded 404 not found message). As is mentioned above, it may also be critical to future users of those materials to have in depth context information about them, including who created them, how and for what original purpose. One of the challenges eXtension has identified is making best practices, the "how" of what Extension Educators do, not just the what they create, more easily shared/understood. For example, for evidence based programming, it is critical that protocols of implementation are understood.- jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Well managed repositories, particularly institutional repositories maintained by ones Land Grant institution, can provide a robust set of services and infrastructure supporting not only preservation, but increased discovery and access (e.g. via metadata making materials more easily discovered via search engines), hence greater impact. Many times individuals and organizations like county Extension offices manage their content via simple off the shelf content management systems with "in house" expertise, failing to adequately address all the issues discussed here, and endangering/diminishing investments in that content. Its important that Extension staff identify and work with librarians and information systems specialists.- jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • As more and more content is being generated and distributed in disseminated in often unskilled, unaware and impermanent ways, it is increasingly important that there is at least awareness of these issues, and prioritization of approaches/workflows preserving long term discovery and access of our scholarly outputs. Something that was much less of an issue before the internet and digital revolution, and before that, the desktop publishing revolution... - jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • At Cornell University Library we have a number of projects focused on preserving/conserving physical and digital objects. Within the digital realm, we are looking at how we can move our practices from a "projects mindset" towards a "collections mindset", improving the way we manage and preserve digital assets with respect to inevitable transitions in the digital ecosystem. That includes developing multi-functional robust repository solutions like the Hydra stack, enabling a wide variety of content to be preserved, managed and displayed (via a range of front end interfaces, or "heads"). - jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016
  • My colleagues in Australia, Richard Vines and Mike Jones, have been doing some innovative work adapting Encoded Archival Context - Corporate bodies, Persons and Families (EAC-CPF) and International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families [ISAAR(CPF)] for helping content creators in the Victorian state government to capture important descriptive/context information. Recently they've developed a technology system with two major components: EMMA (Enhanced Metadata Management Application), a custom-built backend database with an interconnected metadata registry and metadata repository for managing standards-based content through time; and KCT (Knowledge Curation Tool), a series of user interfaces for the capture and curation of structured metadata for storage in EMMA. Some of this work, including a forthcoming 'Cultivating Capability: the socio-technical challenges of integrating approaches to records and knowledge management,' in the Records Management Journal, is documented on Mike Jones' website here.- jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016
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Please share information about related projects in our Horizon Project Sharing Form.
to move our practices from the "projects mindset" towards a "collections mindset," which will improve the position of the digital assets with respect to inevitable transitions in the digital ecosystem