ATG Book of the Week: The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation

by | Dec 24, 2018 | 0 comments

Title: The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation
Author: Trevor Owens
Paperback: 978-1421426976, $34.95
Imprint: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018

“Many people believe that what is on the Internet will be around forever. At the same time, warnings of an impending “digital dark age”―where records of the recent past become completely lost or inaccessible―appear with regular frequency in the popular press. It’s as if we need a system to safeguard our digital records for future scholars and researchers. Digital preservation experts, however, suggest that this is an illusory dream not worth chasing. Ensuring long-term access to digital information is not that straightforward; it is a complex issue with a significant ethical dimension. It is a vocation.

In The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation, librarian Trevor Owens establishes a baseline for practice in this field. In the first section of the book, Owens synthesizes work on the history of preservation in a range of areas (archives, manuscripts, recorded sound, etc.) and sets that history in dialogue with work in new media studies, platform studies, and media archeology. In later chapters, Owens builds from this theoretical framework and maps out a more deliberate and intentional approach to digital preservation.

A basic introduction to the issues and practices of digital preservation, the book is anchored in an understanding of the traditions of preservation and the nature of digital objects and media. Based on extensive reading, research, and writing on digital preservation, Owens’s work will prove an invaluable reference for archivists, librarians, and museum professionals, as well as scholars and researchers in the digital humanities.”

Reviews:

“An indispensable handbook that will be kept close at hand―used, reached for, and above all really read by those seeking a conceptual framework through which to understand the practicalities of grappling with the complex new reality of digital objects. Opening up the most theoretically sophisticated body of research in digital platforms to an entirely new audience while simultaneously equipping that audience with the conceptual background they need to function as experts in today’s information environment, Owens’s book is a practical, even-handed, and clear-eyed walk through of day-to-day situations. I expect it will be widely adopted in library and information science courses.”

(Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, University of Maryland, College Park, author of Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing)

 

“Acknowledging that we are part of ‘a long-standing and worldwide tradition of memory keepers,’ Trevor Owens challenges us to use the lessons learned in traditional preservation as we approach digital preservation. Distinguishing digital preservation as craft rather than science, Owens provides reassurance to all of us worried about finding the ‘silver bullet.’ It does not and should not exist!”

(David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, National Archives and Records Administration)

 

“A superb introduction to both the why and how of preserving digital cultural heritage. The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation highlights history and theory, explains technology, and then moves on to practice, offering clear advice backed by examples. This is an ideal text for anyone interested in archives in the digital era.”

(Steven Lubar, Brown University, author of Inside the Lost Museum: Curating, Past and Present)

 

“Digital preservation, unlike the one-time process for preserving print, is an ongoing, changing responsibility for those who bear the responsibility of preserving our history and cultural heritage. Trevor Owens, a leader in the field, uses his experience and deep knowledge to show how the tools of the futurist can document the past. His axioms for digital preservation will guide novices and experts alike.”

(Deanna Marcum, Ithaka S+R)

 

“Owens blends the perspectives of archivist and media archaeologist to provide a richly satisfying appraisal―at once historical synthesis, practical guide, and philosophical overview―of what digital preservation can be. Its standout feature is a wise, practical approach for guiding even the smallest institutions in using technology for the ‘craft’ of preservation.”

(Alan Liu, The University of California, Santa Barbara, author of The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information)

 

“Owens’s book is a call to action. As he so eloquently points out, we are far past the time to begin putting actions behind our words when it comes to digital preservation. This book provides digital preservation practitioners with an up-to-date road map for thinking about, and more importantly, doing our work.”

(Natalie M. Baur, Biblioteca Daniel Cosío Villegas, El Colegio de México)

 

 

 

 

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