From 11 to 15 October 2014, the International Council on Archives (ICA) will hold its Annual Conference in Girona. The PERSIST project organises a workshop on digital preservation strategies as part of the activities of its technology task force. Microsoft ResearchKO gmbh and the National Archives of Estonia present different preservation strategies like sustainable computation and interoperability and projects like the Open Format Registry that could support these strategies.

Due to the obsolecence of hard- and software, heritage institutions are faced with urgent problems to keep their digital collections alive. They have to migrate their files regularly to adapt them to new standards, which probably will lead to the loss of part of the information that the original files contained; or they have to keep the files as they are and emulate the original software and hardware environment in new generations of machines. For this they need to have a sophisticated staff of engineers, and the assurrance that this support will be available in eternity. So should they rely on companies who can provide this service? But what if companies go into liquidation or start asking inordinate amounts of money to institutions that have become completely dependent on them?

These are formidable problems. The PERSIST project believes that the ICT-industry, heritage institutions and governments can find common gound to address these issues constructively. These three groups of stakeholders have different views and often do not speak the same language. But the long-term accessibility of our digital assets is crucial for the clients of the industry, the accountability and transparancy of government and the survival of our shared cultural heritage.

The meeting in Girona will have a technical character, but the outcomes should point the way to practical measures that UNESCO, as the ‘World Ministry of Heritage’ could undertake to support digital preservation.

The position paper of the meeting, Evaluation and Strategies of Digital Preservation & UNESCO’s Role in Facing the Technical Challenges, is a co-production of the National Archives of Sweden, UNESCO’s Memory of the World Sub-Committee on Technology, Microsoft Research, Internet Society Netherlands and the National Archives of the Netherlands.

The workshop will be moderated by ICA’s President elect, David Fricker. The resigning President, Martin Berendse, will introduce the participants to the PERSIST project. UNESCO will be represented by a representative of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme.

This article was published by the Dutch UNESCO Commission