Old and new PERSIST-partners at UNESCO's General Conference

On 11 November 2015, a side event organised by the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO informed participants of the 38th UNESCO General Conference on the results and prospects of the PERSIST project. The event also opened the exhibition of educational materials prepared by the Memory of the World Sub-Committee on Education and Research.

The PERSIST-event at UNESCO's General Conference.

PERSIST aims to create a platform that brings together the ICT industry, governments and heritage institutions in order to exchange and to collectively work on solutions for digital preservation. Assistant Director-General Getachew Engida, member of the PERSIST Steering Committee on behalf of UNESCO, welcomed all delegates and guests to the side event. He stressed the fact that the loss of data is not only a concern of archivists and librarians, but of everyone who creates digital data.

Draft Guidelines

Ingrid Parent, University Librarian at the University of British Columbia and former President of the International Federation of Library Associations and  Institutions (IFLA), presented the newest version of the PERSIST Draft Guidelines and David Fricker, National Archivist of Australia and President of the International Council on Archives (ICA) the plans for a Software Platform that would bring together the executables of antique software and give access to otherwise unreadable files via Virtual Machines.

Participation of industry partners

The biggest challenge for the creation of this Platform is the broad participation of industry partners. Microsoft has been a partner in PERSIST since its very inception at the Memory of the World Conference in Vancouver in 2012. David Burrow from that company reiterated the interest of Microsoft to help UNESCO in this endeavor to safeguard our digital past, but added that the whole ICT-community should get involved; the technical and legal problems are surmountable, and a business model can be made for the Platform, but ‘the word must get out to the rest of the industry to join the motion. This thing is bigger than we can solve as Microsoft alone; we have to get everybody in the room.’

Cooperation

PERSIST was happy to welcome James Davis from the Google Cultural Institute and Alexander Wolf from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) to the project. PERSIST is also pleased with the invitation to intensify cooperation with the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates that was voiced by the new Chair of the International Advisory Committee of the Memory of the World, Abdullah El Reyes.

Digital information is difficult to preserve over longer periods of time. Carriers like hard disks have a short life span, and even if one manages to keep the bits and bytes, the risk that current hard- and software is unable to process the old data is very real. Archives, museums and libraries are acutely aware of these problems, yet they cannot find solutions on their own. The UNESCO PERSIST Project stimulates the debate between these institutions, government and the ICT-industry in order to promote digital sustainability. In its first phase PERSIST was coordinated by the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO.

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