NDSR at iPres 2017

Last month I had the privilege of representing NDSR and BHL on a global platform. I attended and presented a poster at iPRES, the major international conference on the preservation and long-term management of digital materials hosted at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan.

The official theme of iPres 2017 was, “Keeping Cultural Diversity for the Future in the Digital Space–from Pop Culture to Scholarly Information” and presentations covered everything from strategies for preserving ancient Chinese caves to challenges of preserving augmented reality games such as Pokemon Go. The unofficial mantra of the conference could be “digitization is not digital preservation.” While digitization is an important step in preserving culturally and historically important artifacts, it is not the end of the preservation lifecycle. Sustaining digital objects for long term preservation remains a challenge for professionals in this field, and iPres gives us the opportunity to share lessons and ideas with each other in order to be better stewards of digital items.


Kyoto University. 

I presented a poster at iPres and gave a 45 second lightning talk before the session began. I was delighted to see a majority of hands go into the air when I asked who had heard of BHL before.


A. Esquivel at iPres poster session.

Since BHL has global partners in countries that were represented at iPres (Singapore, China, Australia to name a few), I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised! I was thrilled to speak to people about my content analysis work with BHL.

In addition to the poster session, the conference had presentations of short and long papers, tutorials, workshops, and panel discussion. Ingrid Dillo, of Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) The Netherlands, delivered the first keynote address, FAIR Data in Trustworthy Data Repositories, which challenged us to think about how to establish, regulate, and sustain trust in open data.

According to Dillo, a majority of researchers support data sharing, but most of them do not actively participate in it for fear of the data being misused, garbled, or stolen. This uncertainty must be met with standards of trust from external verifications. One measurement includes repository certification such as the CoreTrustSeal, a new certification organization from the ICSU World Data System (ICSU-WDS) and the Data Seal of Approval (DSA). The CoreTrustSeal is a self-assessment that is peer reviewed and made publicly available.

While repository certification is a good start, it is not sufficient by itself –  the data within the repository should still be held to principles of quality. In 2014, a matrix of principles was created called FAIR, which measures the findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reusability of data and aligns with the principles of DSA.

While BHL is not providing the types of datasets discussed in this keynote address, I couldn’t help but think about my own data that I am creating from BHL records and text and seriously consider how and where to leave these datasets at the conclusion of this residency. The short term appointment of the NDSR program and the large size of BHL has resulted in my creating proof of concepts for different types of content analyses. In order for these proof of concepts to have any future success, it’s important to provide thorough documentation. This theme of sustainability through exemplary documentation seemed to follow me through the conference.

A session I really enjoyed was from L. Work, University of Virginia and H.E. Kelly, Indiana University, Documentation to the People: Building Empathy into Technical Documentation for Digital Archiving. The authors argued for an empathetic approach to preserving technical documentation in order to promote diversity. Empathy requires you to imagine the needs of another person with a life different than your own; for example, if you are a competent programmer, you may need to consider the needs of a less skilled programmer when writing software documentation. This means writing documentation that is explicit with instructions and not implicit.

As someone who has been fumbling through different programming tools for the past 10 months (Python, R, and multiple text mining tools), I very much support an empathic approach to preserving technical documentation to improve diversity.


Digitization at Kyoto University.

The conference included tours of Kyoto University’s museum and library. I chose to attend the library tour and learned about the university’s digital initiatives.We got to see some large format scanning using a resizable rig system.

Attending this conference near the end of my NDSR residency forced me to think about the sustainability of my project and project artifacts, including data sets and visualizations. I am grateful for the opportunity to present my work at an international conference and to meet peers on a global scale.

I suggest looking through the full iPres program to read about the many great digital preservation presentations and read their accompanying abstracts.


Maruyama Park, Kyoto.



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