The theme for this years’ International Archives Day is Empowering Archives. Sally McInnes, Chair of the ARCW Digital Preservation Group and Head of Unique Collections and Collections Care at the National Library of Wales, explains how services are supporting each other to advance the digital preservation agenda in Wales.

The ability to remotely connect and network with colleagues has been one of the positives that have arisen from these challenging times. From my home in Aberystwyth, which is not always the most accessible of places by non-digital highways, I am able to engage with experts, learn from their experiences and contribute to discussions on a global basis. Although we have been building digital preservation capacity in Wales for many years, these encounters have inspired us to extend the reach of the work being undertaken to promote digital sustainability.

Supporting the sector in Wales is not a new initiative: Archives and Records Council Wales (ARCW), in collaboration with NLW and supported by Welsh Government, have been working to increase digital preservation capacity in Wales for many years. The publication of the ‘Digital Preservation Policy for Wales’ in 2017 marked a significant milestone in the work. A technical infrastructure, based upon Archivematica, Fedora and a storage system, has also been developed. This system enables ARCW partners to remotely deposit content, which is preserved in the NLW, whilst providing access through their own catalogues.

The opportunities presented by the use of platforms such as Teams and Zoom enable a more proactive engagement with users of the system than has been previously possible. They also provide the opportunity to extend skills and knowledge about digital preservation more generally. Through increasing knowledge, skills and by raising awareness of digital preservation issues, sustainability will be embedded throughout the sector.

A particular innovation which will commence soon is the ‘Saving the Bits’ programme. Sessions will discuss theoretical and practical issues, making reference to existing models, tools and workflows, which can be adopted by organisations. Taking advantage of new technologies, these sessions can now be both readily accessible and interactive, using presentations, live demonstrations and breakout discussions.  Topics will include setting up a workstation, selecting tools, methods of transfer, storage options, IIIF and Crowdsourcing. The sessions will be informal, with issues being raised and solved together.

These sessions would not be possible without the resources and training materials which are now freely available; but what online meetings enable is greater coordination in the use of these resources and networking over how to implement new techniques more effectively.  It is hoped that these sessions will contribute to the building of the community which is committed to saving the digital heritage a bit at a time. 

Sally McInnes
Chair of the ARCW Digital Preservation Group
Head of Unique Collections and Collections Care at the National Library of Wales

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