New online via arXiv.
Title: A Literature Review: What Exactly Should We Preserve? How Scholars Address This Question and Where is the Gap
by Jyue Tyan Low
This review addresses the question of what exactly should we preserve, and how the digital preservation community and scholars address this question. The paper first introduces the much-abused-term “significant properties,” before revealing how some scholars are of the opinion that characteristics of digital objects to be preserved (i.e., significant properties) can be identified and should be expressed formally, while others are not of that opinion. The digital preservation community’s attempt to expound on the general characteristics of digital objects and significant properties will then be discussed. Finally, the review shows that while there may be ways to identify the technical makeup or general characteristics of a digital object, there is currently no formal and objective methodology to help stakeholders identify and decide what the significant properties of the objects are. This review thus helps open questions and generates a formative recommendation based on expert opinion that expressing an object’s functions in an explicit and formal way (using didactic guides from the archives community) could be the solution to help stakeholders decide what characteristics/ elements exactly we should preserve.
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This paper was first written for the Spring 2011 digital preservation class of the Master of Library and Information Science program at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. This is published in the author’s own capacity.