Authenticity in the Digital Environment
What is an authentic digital object? In the world of print and analog media, we have developed elaborate ways of identifying authentic documents and detecting fakes. In the digital world, we have only begun to do this. Yet, the question has gained importance and urgency as information-from personal correspondence to medical and financial records-is increasingly created, stored, and transmitted electronically.
The question of what constitutes an authentic digital object must be resolved before humanists and scientists can feel confident in creating and relying upon digital information. For custodians of information resources, the question has profound implications for the tasks of cataloging and describing an item, and for setting the parameters of what is preserved and by what technique or series of techniques.
In the fall of 1999, CLIR commissioned five experts from different disciplines to write papers addressing the question: What is an authentic digital object and what are the core attributes that, if missing, would render the object something other than what it purports to be? The papers formed the basis of a workshop, held in January 2000, to which CLIR invited representatives from different domains of the information resources community. The papers, and an overview of the key issues discussed, were recently published by CLIR in a report entitled Authenticity in a Digital Environment.
The authors of the papers are Charles Cullen, president and librarian of the Newberry Library; Peter Hirtle, codirector of the Cornell Institute for Digital Collections; David Levy, consultant and former researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center; Clifford Lynch, executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information; and Jeff Rothenberg, senior computer scientist at The Rand Corporation. A concluding essay by CLIR Program Director Abby Smith highlights the responses of workshop participants to the issues raised by the authors and the key themes that emerged.
Defining Authenticity for Preservation
“Authenticity” in recorded information connotes precise, yet disparate, things in different contexts. It can mean being original but also being faithful to an original. It can mean uncorrupted but also of clear and known provenance, “corrupt” or not. The word has specific meaning to an archivist and equally specific but different meaning to a rare book historian, just as there are different criteria for assessing authenticity for published and unpublished materials. Behind any definition of authenticity lie assumptions about the meaning and significance of content, fixity, consistency of reference, provenance, and context.
Such assumptions have implications for preservation. There is no universally agreed-upon mandate about what must be preserved and for what purpose. For digital information, there may be many ways to describe an item being preserved and what aspects of that item must be documented to ensure its authenticity and its ability to serve its intended use over time. For certain purposes, some argue, migration may suit the preservation needs of a digital object. For those objects most valued as executable programs, others argue, emulation is preferable. Beyond the technical options undergirding metadata and preservation decisions, numerous nontechnical questions beg to be asked. Creating a common understanding about the multiple meanings and significance of authenticity is critical in the digital environment.
Discussion Underscores Diverse Perspectives
Although different communities have distinct views of what constitute the intrinsic features of a digital object, each used the same criteria for identifying the intrinsic features of digital objects as they did analog. Most of the participants grounded their thinking about digital objects and their identity in the fitness of these objects for some specified function or purpose, such as a record that bears evidence; a historical source that bears witness to an event, a time, or a life; or data that could produce a replicable experiment. In other words, what was deemed intrinsic to an object was determined by the purpose for which it was created (or, in the case of archival records, the purpose of bearing evidence about an object’s creation and intended use). Perhaps for that reason, if no other, neither the presenters nor the workshop participants addressed systematically and directly the question of what an authentic digital object is and what the core attributes are that, if missing, would render the object something other than what it purports to be. However, the discussion did reveal a range of views on other questions that had been posed:
- If all information-textual, numeric, audio, and visual-exists as a bit stream, what does that imply for the concept of format and its role as an attribute essential to the object?
- Does the concept of an original have meaning in the digital environment?
- What role does provenance play in establishing the authenticity of a digital object?
- What implications for authenticity, if any, are there in the fact that digital objects are contingent on software, hardware, network, and other dependencies?
The discussion that ensued on the topic of provenance gives a sense of the varying perspectives that participants brought to bear on each of the questions. The role of provenance is as important in the digital world as in the analog, if not more so. Archives can provide evidence of authenticity by documenting the chain of transmission and custody, and they have internal controls that reduce to an acceptable level the risk of tampering. They serve as a trusted third party. Beyond the relatively controlled environment of the archives, however, the role of provenance is far more complicated. Whenever information crosses administrative and technological boundaries, as it does in the world of publishers and libraries, the role of trusted third parties is harder to develop and maintain. The digital environment will still need trusted third parties to store material, and the libraries and publishers will need to agree on protocols for digital publishing and preservation that work as effectively as have those of the past.
Interestingly, the scholar-participants suggested that technological solutions to the problem will likely emerge that would obviate the need for trusted third parties. Such solutions may include embedding texts, documents, images, and the like with various warrants (time stamps, encryption, digital signatures, or watermarks). The technologists replied with skepticism, saying that there is no technological solution that does not itself involve the transfer of trust to a third party. Technological solutions, such as encryption or public key infrastructure, are only as strong as the trusted third party.
The report is available on CLIR’s Web site; print copies may be ordered from CLIR.
Russia Hosts Conference on Building Digital Libraries
-by Abby Smith
The Russian State Library convened an international conference, “Managing the Digital Future of Libraries,” April 18-19 in Moscow. The conference marked the final phase of the European UnionÐRussian State Library project to create an information system for the Russian State Library. This project, to be completed later this year, will result in the implementation of cataloging and OPAC modules of an integrated library system. The project was sponsored by TACIS, a European Union program that supports the newly independent Soviet Bloc countries’ transition to a market economy and democratic society.
The conference was designed to present lessons learned from the TACIS project and to talk about major trends in digital library developments in a comparative context. Participants came from all over Russia, and more than 50 international experts came to share their experiences in building digital libraries. An entire session was dedicated to retrospective conversion, with special reference to the ongoing TACIS project. In addition, a number of research institutes and libraries from across Russia presented their plans for developing digital services and collections. These sessions were complemented by papers from international colleagues on a range of issues about creating and managing digital cultural assets.
Individual sessions focused on national digital library initiatives, networked integration of library information resources, digitization, and metadata. Case studies of digital conversion projects in science, culture, and education were presented, including the Russian Academy of Sciences’ site on Russian literature and folklore, the American journal storage project JSTOR, the Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network (SCRAN), and the CATRIONA II project at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.
Highlights included a presentation by John van Oudenaren of the U.S. Library of Congress on the unique cooperative site, “Meeting of the Frontiers.” The online resource was developed by the Library of Congress and a consortium of Russian and American repositories that hold materials about the American settlement of the West and the Russian settlement of Siberia. Designing an international collaborative site of shared resources involved difficult decisions about language (the site is fully bilingual) and descriptive standards. Bernard Smith (Luxembourg) of the European Commission presented an overview of the Fifth Framework program, “Digital Heritage and Cultural Content,” which includes materials from a variety of nations and types of collecting institutions. Abby Smith of CLIR spoke on the problems of ensuring long-term access to digital information and CLIR’s efforts to address the archiving needs of electronic journals. Panagiota Papadpoulou, of the University of Athens, described the CANDLE project on authentication and authorization.
The liveliest debates were on the issues of standards, especially metadata requirements that would allow cross-searching and easy access while also respecting local descriptive traditions and serving the needs of the resources and their users. While there was agreement that universal standards are necessary for interoperability, it was also acknowledged that a diversity of descriptive practices would better reflect the valuable distinctions among and between cultural resources of various nations.
The conference was preceded by a program at the State Public Historical Library on electronic document delivery. Participants came from throughout Russia, and the focus was on the development of software tools that could expedite delivery of documents on demand. After the conference, organizers drafted a document, called the Moscow Manifesto, that declared the value of libraries to the democratic infrastructure of society. It recommended to the Russian government that it develop, improve, or support a range of domestic and international programs designed to buttress the legal base of library development, the technology infrastructure that must be networked to enhance access, and the commitment to balance the rights of information creators and users. The document can be found at http://www.rsl.ru/tacis.
The conference received additional support from The Russian Ministry of Culture, the Open Society Institute of Russia, the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, the British Council, the Goethe Institute, UNESCO, XEROX, and MCB University Press.
|News from the ECPA|
The first workshop of the Safeguarding European Photographic Images for Access (SEPIA) project took place in Copenhagen, May 1-5; the second was held in Amsterdam, June 5-9. Interest in the workshops was overwhelming: more than one hundred applications were received for 40 places. The SEPIA partners are convinced of the need to organize additional workshops and will make efforts to do so.
The project will conclude with a conference, “Written in Light: Photographic Collections in the Digital Age,” hosted by the Public Record Office in London, September 12-14. The conference will focus on the management of photographic collections, bringing together those responsible for such collections (e.g., curators, librarians and conservators) and experts in photography and digital imaging. The emphasis will be on issues that must be considered in increasing Europe-wide access to collections of photographic materials while ensuring the preservation of those materials for future generations. For more information on the conference, contact Sue Seber, Public Record Office, Kew, Richmond, TW9 4DU, UK, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; telephone: +44 20 8876 3444, ext. 2440; fax: +44 20 8878 8905 or consult the SEPIA Web site, http://www.knaw.nl/ecpa/sepia.
In early May, ECPA published a survey report, In the Picture: Preservation and Digitisation of European Photographic Collections, which describes how European institutions manage their photographic collections in terms of preservation and digitization. The research and data collection for this report were done as part of the European Visual Archive (EVA) project, in the framework of the INFO2000 program. Data were collected by a questionnaire; about 140 responses were received and form the basis of the report. Additional research and writing was done as part of the SEPIA project. A pdf version of the report can be downloaded from the SEPIA Web site. The bibliography is also available in HTML. For more information, contact the ECPA secretariat at email@example.com
Mass Deacidification in Practice
After years of careful research and testing, mass deacidification has established itself as a viable option for extending the useful life of paper materials threatened by acidification. Today, several different processes are being used in large-scale projects at major institutions.
The ECPA and the Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv (State Archive of Lower Saxony) are organizing a European conference on deacidification in Bückeburg, Germany, October 18-19, 2000. Neschen AG is the main sponsor of the conference (http://www.neschen.com).
The conference will present examples of how mass deacidification can be implemented. Representatives from libraries and archives with experience with one or more different processes will share their views on the role of mass deacidification in preservation management. Papers will focus on issues such as the place of mass deacidification in preservation policy, its relation to other preservation measures, and logistical aspects such as workflow, costs, and organization. There will also be papers devoted to recent scientific research, and a trade exhibition will feature companies specializing in mass deacidification.
The conference will be held at the State Archive of Lower Saxony located in the Castle of Bückeburg. The conference will also provide an excellent opportunity to visit the world fair EXPO 2000 in nearby Hannover (June 1-October 31, 2000, [http://www.expo2000.de]).
Information and a registration form will be posted on the Internet at http://www.knaw.nl/ecpa/conference.
EROMM Steering Committee Meets
Continues Discussion of Recording Digital Masters
–by Anne Kenney
Participants from seven countries attended the annual meeting of the steering committee of the European Register of Microform Masters (EROMM) at the Royal Library in Copenhagen, May 4-5, 2000. Karl Boehler, from ETH-bibliothek in Zurich, presided over the meeting, which was hosted by Grethe Jacobsen from the Royal Library of Denmark. Representing the EROMM host institution, the Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Göttingen, Werner Schwartz presented the 1999 annual report for discussion. The meeting focused on technical issues, database content, use, and administrative concerns.
Several technical issues were discussed, including partners’ use of the Web version of the EROMM record to build conversion utilities for UNIMARC output. This past year, a number of new and revised Web pages have been added to the EROMM site (www.gbv.de/eromm), with versions available in English, French, German, and Dutch. Registered members of EROMM may now access the Web version of the database without identification, as the host system automatically identifies workstations by their Internet protocol number or their IP domain. In addition, the display screens have been revised to incorporate the use of headings on the left margin, identifying the main elements of the bibliographic record. A new CD-ROM of the EROMM file (European records only) was produced in the first quarter of 2000, with copies being created on demand by the host institution.
The most noteworthy technical issue discussed at the meeting was the recording of digital masters in EROMM. The number of records referring to digital forms in the database is growing, spurred by the adoption of new USMARC specifications for describing digital masters, which have been approved by the Permanent UNIMARC Committee. Records of digital forms in EROMM will adhere to the new specifications. The forthcoming edition of the UNIMARC Manual will incorporate the changes; in the meantime, the new codes are described in the online description of the EROMM record format for tag 913 (www.gbv.de/eromm/co913_2.htm).
If EROMM takes a more active role in recording digital masters, it would be positioned to become an international union catalog of printed works preserved in surrogate (both digital and microform). Participants discussed quality control of digital master records and agreed that EROMM should develop guidelines for minimal requirements for digital masters that are created for preservation purposes. Werner Schwartz will draft guidelines to circulate to EROMM members for review and comment.
The database now has 2.3 million records. In 1999, EROMM partners submitted 49,204 records, and RLIN made available 10,698 records. For the second year running, EROMM provided more records to RLIN (64,902) than it received, although RLIN-derived records still constitute 83 percent of the total EROMM database. Nearly 1 percent of all records have been contributed by LAROMM (Latin American Register of Microfilm Masters).
Use of the database by library administrators, which had been declining, returned to acceptable levels in 1999 with the introduction of a new charging scheme that gives partners unlimited access based solely on their annual contribution. Use of the database for purposes beyond preservation administration, however, remained disappointingly low, and members were urged to advertise the database’s availability more broadly by including information on their public Web pages.
Use of the EROMM requesting facility increased in 1999, but the turnaround for filling requests varies widely, ranging from 7 days to more than 200 days. Members were urged to expedite EROMM requests for service copies by omitting the requirement for prepayment of orders. Stuart Ede reported that the British Library now fills requests within 25 days and has a published price list. Discussion also covered the costs of obtaining service copies; it was noted that if the costs are too high, institutions find it cheaper to re-film the materials.
The second day of the conference began with a presentation by Anne R. Kenney of Cornell University, representing CLIR, who summarized the findings of a report on the dual use of digital imaging and preservation microfilm. This report was written by her, Stephen Chapman (Harvard), and Paul Conway (Yale) and is available at: www.clir.org/cpa/archives/hybridintro.html. Ms. Kenney also discussed quality, process, and costs associated with the film-first and scan-first approach to the hybrid strategy.
Hans Jansen from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the Netherlands, reported on a study regarding digitization of microfilm that was carried out within the framework of the national program for conservation of library materials, during which film scanning services from seven companies were compared for quality and costs. A summary report of this study will be presented in an upcoming issue of RLG DigiNews, www.rlg.org/preserv/diginews.
EROMM membership increased with the addition of the National Library of Finland and the National Library of the Czech Republic.
|Anne Kenny to Join CLIR|
|We are pleased to announce that Anne R. Kenney, codirector of the Cornell Institute for Digital Collections and associate director of the Department of Preservation and Conservation at Cornell University Library, will join CLIR September 1, 2000. She will focus on advancing strategies for the creation of short- and long-term digital archival repositories and promoting preservation education initiatives.|
Guides to Quality in Imaging. Copublished by the Digital Library Federation and the Research Libraries Group, this Web-based publication provides practical advice on designing and carrying out an imaging project. The authors emphasize that there are few cut-and-dried answers to the many questions that must be considered in planning a project. The approach to any project will differ depending upon the budget, intended use and audience, and institutional priorities. In addition to providing technical guidance, the guides pose questions that will help readers define their project and its objectives more fully. Five chapters cover planning a digital library project, selecting a scanner, setting up an imaging system, establishing qualities for digital masters, and selecting file formats for digital masters.
The guides will be available on both the CLIR and RLG Web sites by early July.
Risk Management of Digital Information: A File Format Investigation, by Gregory Lawrence, William Kehoe, Oya Rieger, William Walters, and Anne Kenney of Cornell University Library.
Migration is one of the main approaches being advanced for digital preservation. This report is based on an investigation conducted by Cornell University Library to assess the risks to digital file formats during migration. The study was carried out with support from CLIR.
Migration, as a strategy for managing the risk of data loss caused by obsolescent hardware and software, can be organized into an orderly sequence of steps. A suite of risk assessment tools is described that can provide detailed information at critical steps in the management process.
The report includes a risk assessment workbook that will help library staff identify potential risks associated with migrating digital information. Each section of the workbook opens with brief issue summaries and is followed by questions that will guide the user in completing a risk assessment.
Appendixes to the report also include two case studies for migration: one for image files and the other for numeric files.
A summary of the report is available in the June 15 issue of RLG DigiNews. CLIR will publish the full report in late June, at which time the full text will also be available on CLIR’s Web site at www.clir.org.
Southeast Asian Consortium for Access and Preservation is Formed
–by Judith Henchy
On February 21-24, 2000, the Chiang Mai University Library convened an International Meeting on Microform Preservation and Conservation Practices in Southeast Asia, with the support of the Japan Foundation Asia Center and the Ford Foundation. The meeting, which was a cooperative initiative of the SPAFA Library, Chiang Mai University Library and the Southeast Asia Microform Project of the Center for Research Libraries, Chicago, brought together 68 participants from 16 countries to discuss the factors influencing preservation planning and implementation in the region.
The objective of the meeting was to examine preservation needs and practices in Southeast Asia and to evaluate the effectiveness of past regional and international cooperative projects. Discussion touched on all aspects of preservation management, including needs assessment and collections surveys, scholarly priorities, funding opportunities, conservation and micrographics technologies, and bibliographic access. The meeting represented various interested professional groups, including historians and philologists, book and archives conservators, micrographics consultants, librarians, and archives administrators. The meeting also brought together regional government officials with responsibility for cultural preservation and a broad coalition of the major institutions and regional organizations with preservation mandates. Delegates included representatives from national libraries, national archives, research libraries, universities, professional associations, grant-making foundations, inter-governmental organizations, and library and archives consortia. The meeting organizing committee was particularly concerned with addressing the ways in which organizations such as IFLA-PAC, the Southeast Asian Branch of the International Council on Archives, and UNESCO could be more effectively brought into cooperative relationships within the region.
Short presentations formed the basis for discussion over the first three days, addressing such topics as:
- implementing effective preservation management on a national level and the role of national commissions on preservation;
- regional cooperative preservation management and cooperative funding;
- attaining self-sufficiency as a preservation fiscal model;
- providing effective management and technical training;
- meeting international microfilm preservation standards;
- providing bibliographic access locally and internationally through registers of microform masters; and
- conservation practices for original texts and film negatives.
The meeting also sought to address some of the more sensitive issues that have impeded preservation activities in the past. They include forming political support and consensus nationally and institutionally; interpreting local copyright and other proprietary rights governing preservation reformatting and scholarly distribution; and the sensitivities of national collection managers toward international cooperation as a project model, and toward the notion of centralized regional storage facilities for microform masters.
On its final day, participants agreed to establish the Southeast Asian Consortium for Access and Preservation. A document was drafted, called the “Chiang Mai Declaration,” which lays out the Consortium’s mission, objectives, and agenda (see below). Country delegates elected a provisional governing committee representing all the countries of the region, and an interim Implementing Committee was voted into office to oversee the establishment of the Consortium and the implementation of its initial agenda.
|The Chiang Mai Declaration|
|MISSION STATEMENTWe resolve to:
The meeting resolved to establish the Southeast Asian Consortium for Access and Preservation, or SEACAP, to encourage, develop, facilitate and support collaboration among libraries, archives, and other concerned institutions and individuals in order to preserve and provide access to the published and documentary heritage of the region. SEACAP will undertake to serve local communities and scholars worldwide in providing access to materials relating to Southeast Asian studies, and enhance preservation activities in the region by carrying out the following tasks:
|Council on Library and Information Resources|
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Washington, DC 20036
Fax: (202)-939-4765 · E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) grew out of the 1997 merger of the Commission on Preservation and Access and the Council on Library Resources. CLIR identifies the critical issues that affect the welfare and prospects of libraries and archives and the constituencies they serve, convenes individuals and organizations in the best position to engage these issues and respond to them, and encourages institutions to work collaboratively to achieve and manage change.Preservation and Access International Newsletter seeks to inform readers about preservation and access initatives worldwide and to provide a basis for the direct exchange of ideas and information.
Correspondence about this publication should be sent to Kathlin Smith, editor, or to the address shown above.
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