“The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation: An Interview with Trevor Owens”
From the Society of America Archivists (SAA):
BloggERS! editor, Dorothy Waugh recently interviewed Trevor Owens, Head of Digital Content Management at the Library of Congress about his recent–and award-winning–book, The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation.
The complete interview runs 1289 words. Here’s one (of four) questions and answers.
[Q.] Tell us about the title of the book and, in particular, your decision to use the word “craft” to describe digital preservation.
[Owens]: The words “theory” and “craft” in the title of the book forecast both the structure and the two central arguments that I advance in the book.
The first chapters focus on theory. This includes tracing the historical lineages of preservation in libraries, archives, museums, folklore, and historic preservation. I then move to explore work in new media studies and platform studies to round out a nuanced understanding of the nature of digital media. I start there because I think it’s essential that cultural heritage practitioners moor their own frameworks and approaches to digital preservation in a nuanced understanding of the varied and historically contingent nature of preservation as a concept and the complexities of digital media and digital information.
The latter half of the book is focused on what I describe as the “craft” of digital preservation. My use of the term craft is designed to intentionally challenge the notion that work in digital preservation should be understood as “a science.” Given the complexities of both what counts as preservation in a given context and the varied nature of digital media, I believe it is essential that we explicitly distance ourselves from many of the assumptions and baggage that come along with the ideology of “digital.”
We can’t build some super system that just solves digital preservation. Digital preservation requires making judgement calls. Digital preservation requires the applied thinking and work of professionals. Digital preservation is not simply a technical question, instead digital preservation involves understanding the nature of the content that matters most to an intended community and making judgement calls about how best to mitigate risks of potential loss of access to that content. As a result of my focus on craft, I offer less of a “this is exactly what one should do” approach, and more of an invitation to join the community of practice that is developing knowledge and honing and refining their craft.
Direct to Complete Interview with Trevor Owens
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.