Digital Preservation UnConference

This Tuesday we hosted our first Digital Preservation UnConference at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.  We had a great turnout from a number of institutions around Boston and the larger New England community.  A range of  topics around digital preservation were discussed from social media and web archiving to wrangling data for a system migration.

As you may know, part of the residency program includes hosting an event at your institution.  At the JFK Library we immediately knew we wanted to host a public unconference.  This actually came up in discussions between myself and my host mentor, Erica Boudreau, before I even arrived in Boston.  I had been to a few digital humanities and library themed unconferences and I was excited to see how this format could be used to address the issues specific to digital preservation.

In planning for the event we created a wordpress site, including an UnConference 101, registration information, and directions to the event.  We used the website commenting function to allow attendees to propose sessions ahead of time.  We also created a twitter handle, @jfkdigipres for sharing updates and event information.


Attendees get ready for the day of UnConference-ing!

The day started with brief opening remarks by myself, followed by session proposals from the attendees.  Then we broke for coffee and attendees voted on the proposals.  Once voting was over, myself and a few dedicated volunteers entered session proposals into the schedule.  And with that, the sessions were underway!

Volunteers and attendees collaborated on community notes which recorded the main points and resources discussed in each session.  If you couldn’t make it to the event, or are curious what happened in the sessions you missed, I highly recommend checking out these collaborative notes.  There are some great tools and ideas discussed there.

Since I’m currently looking into plans for a potential system migration, I led a discussion on content migration for digital preservation.  It was great to hear how others are and have dealt with large-scale migrations like this.  There was a great point made about how a system migration is iterative and you always have to keep an eye on the horizon because your current system might lose support or fail to meet your collection requirements in the future.

One twitter user said…

Fellow resident, Jeff Erickson, led a discussion on preparing to use Archives Direct, a tool he’s currently researching for preserving content collected through the Mass. Memories Road Show.  They also discussed the evolution of the tool Archivematica and the necessity of exit strategies when working with cloud storage providers.

The last session I attended was on personal digital collections and how public history is changing in the digital world.  Now that few people are writing physical letters, how will day to day communication be preserved in the future?  Will twitter accounts and email inboxes be included in future donations of personal collections? There were differing opinions on who is responsible for preserving these kinds of collections.  Historical societies and community archives have traditionally taken on these roles, but with limited staff and technical expertise can they continue doing so in the born-digital world?

The event had a strong presence on twitter, where tweets were shared with the hashtag #jfkdigipres.  We collected these tweets through a storify page so we can preserve this discussion around digital preservation.

Overall the event was a great success!  I hope the conversations started here will continue both online and through future digital preservation events.



National Digital Stewardship Residents, past and present, in front of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library



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