Preservation Is Not a Place

Stephen Abrams, Patricia Cruse, John Kunze


The Digital Preservation Program of the California Digital Library (CDL) is engaged in a process of reinvention involving significant transformations of its outlook, effort, and infrastructure. This includes a re-articulation of its mission in terms of digital curation, rather than preservation; encouraging a programmatic, rather than a project-oriented approach to curation activities; and a renewed emphasis on services, rather than systems. This last shift was motivated by a desire to deprecate the centrality of the repository as place. Having the repository as the locus for curation activity has resulted in the deployment of a somewhat cumbersome monolithic system that falls short of desired goals for responsiveness to rapidly changing user needs and operational and administrative sustainability. The Program is pursuing a path towards a new curation environment based on the principle of devolving curation function to a set of small, simple, loosely coupled services. In considering this new infrastructure, the Program is relying upon a highly deliberative process starting from first principles drawn from library and archival science. This is followed by a stagewise progression of identifying core preservable values, devising strategies promoting those values, defining abstract services embodying those strategies, and, finally, developing systems that instantiate those services. This paper presents a snapshot of the Program's transformative efforts in its early phase.

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The International Journal of Digital Curation. ISSN: 1746-8256
The IJDC is published by the University of Edinburgh
and is a publication of the Digital Curation Centre.