Sometimes people are surprised to find out that I have an interest in digital preservation. I find their surprise surprising. It’s as if they assume that, because I am a book and paper conservator, I must labor away in an ivory tower filled with moldering books while the modern trappings of technology hold no sway over me, if, indeed, I realize that “digital technology” exists at all.
While it is true that my profession entails a love affair with history (i.e. “the past”), and the literal tools of my trade are mechanical devices and hand tools designed centuries ago, my passion for preserving the cultural record crosses the boundary of analog versus digital. As time ticks relentlessly on, the culture of the present day slips ever backwards into history, and preserving born-digital works becomes just as important as preserving centuries-old manuscripts. In truth, I see little difference in the mission. In my day-today activities, I may deal more with the chemical deterioration processes of cellulose than I do with corrupted bitstreams, but I still consider it a significant part of my profession to stay informed about advances in all aspects of library and archives preservation.
I’m lucky to have a supervisor who shares my sentiments. Our Head of Preservation includes me on the “Digital Team,” which is made up of our Head of Preservation, the Digital Initiatives staff, the Digital Repository Coordinator, the University Archivist and Assistant Archivist, and — when the position is filled later this spring — our Cataloging and Metadata Management Librarian. This also means that I am invited to educational webinars like the one we all attended today, the ASERL-sponsored webinar “Preservation Planning and PREMIS,” presented by Lisa Gregory, the Digital Collections Manager at the State Library of North Carolina. The webinar is the first in a series of four about digital preservation. I enjoy thinking over the theories and practicalities of digital preservation while I’m at the bench, repairing and mending books and documents centuries older than I am.