Virtualization as a means for Preservation

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The intent of this session was to explore using virtualization technology as a means to process and preserve collections.

In the case of some organizations, they look to preserve the culture of the producers as well as product.

One member cautioned that as archivists, we should not engage in emulation - this is what museums do. While there is a role for preserving context, preserving the system may not be the way to do that.

Which begs the question - is emulation and virtualization the same thing? In some cases, it can be. In other virtualization can be a method used by digital archivists to recreate an environment and extract data and information from it.

A participant asked - Are there intellectual property issues to be concerned about when virtualizing? Some companies are working with archives. Approach companies to ask if they can provide applications.

Metadata - in technical worlds, some metadata processing can be automated; however, there is a virtue of longhand description, because it persists and transcends technology. As archivist's task is to preserve context through description.

What is the goal of the proposed emulation? Is it to present to the public, or to work with information and data?

What if you take just a slice of the collection and do your best to capture a robust sense of that collection. Present that slice to the public.

With some data types and content types, we should think about the analogy to music. Every time a score is played, it is played differently. The score is the map. The same applies to dance.

A concern was raised about the scale of emulation. Are there infinite number of possibilities? Does emulation make it more complicated? In some cases, one can build a base environment (an "image" in computer parlance) on which to build upon, and redeploy and customize that image for specific software applications. However, there is no guarantee that it can be replicated.

Another concerns was raised that we were talking too much about our methods. Archivists should talk to record keepers or software developers to ask them to create archival-minded applications. These applications could create data that is easy to extract and preserve, mitigating the need for sophisticated virtualized enviornments for processing and preservation.

From the researcher perspective, it is very rare that people ask about the application's aesthetics. They generally care more about content.

Interactivity is an important element in considering virtualization.

May be easier than we think - we’re already in a virtualized world.

Get early into the cycle, so preservation-minded individuals can be involved in the development process.

But what do we do if we can’t get in on the front end? Can we work with vendors for preservation-approved methods? Emphasize open software and standards.

Part of the intellectual value of the work is to challenge the norm. Humanities/arts challenge the norm. This can make recreating environments, whether virtual or not, very difficult.