By now you may have gotten an email from a friend or colleague pointing you to the entertaining Team Digital Preservation animations, the Saturday morning-style cartoon whose heroes defend against the threats to digital preservation.
The cartoon series is one of the many innovative resources that DigitalPreservationEurope (external link) uses to boost public awareness of digital preservation. DPE's other outreach tools include international training events, instructional videos, reports, conferences and even a contest for cash prizes. But it's the cartoon that seems to have the farthest reach.
DPE is a consortium of European academic and cultural institutions dedicated to sharing their collective digital preservation expertise and resources. Funded by the European Commission (external link) under the sixth framework programme, DPE focuses on increasing digital preservation awareness among the general public, libraries, archives, museums, government bodies and institutions across Europe. They are also a resource for digital preservation tools such as DRAMBORA (external link) and PLATTER (external link).
The consortium is built on the work of the Electronic Resource Preservation and Access Network (ERPANET), which operated from 2001 to 2004, also with funding from the EC. DPE partners include leading cultural institutions from Scotland, Austria, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Germany.
DPE also serves as a relationship broker for other collaborative partnerships such as NESTOR (external link), Planets (external link), CASPAR (external link) and the U.K.'s Digital Curation Center (external link), under the shared brand We Preserve (external link).
In 2008 the EC encouraged DPE to explore viral marketing methods and reach the widest possible audience. DPE Founding Director Seamus Ross challenged his colleagues to stir up the general public, to reach a not-already-engaged audience and create an "agitating buzz." Emily Nimmo, project manager of DPE, said, "The wider public don't really consider digital preservation until you sit down and talk to them and get their attention."
"From the earliest brainstorming sessions, there was a clear vision of the style we wanted for the Team Digital Preservation (external link) cartoon," Nimmo said. "We were confident that it would spread in popularity quickly over the Internet because it would attract not just information technologists but anyone who likes to watch a fun cartoon. We were aiming at the general public in all of Europe."
Feedback from the first video was good. It circulated among IT professionals and those already involved in the digital preservation community who, in turn, enthusiastically forwarded the URL to their non-technical friends. Viewership gathered momentum and the video’s popularity rapidly spread. And along the way people were enlightened. It was viral marketing at its best.
Another creative DPE attention-getter is the Digital Preservation Challenge (external link), a contest in which participants find solutions to problem scenarios that are based on real-life situations. Problems in the last contest included identifying and displaying unknown file types and formats, restoring an old database and developing preservation and accessibility strategies for works of art and websites. Prizes are in cash.
"It's all about encouraging the next generation of researchers to get involved with digital preservation issues and challenges," said Nimmo. "And inspiring the next generation to grapple with this problem. And ensuring the revitalization of the research of issues."
Another inducement for potential researchers was the DPE exchange program (external link), an internship program that enabled post-graduate and post-doctorate students to participate in short-term research with leading institutions across Europe undertaking leading edge research and development in digital preservations. Students were required to submit two reports on their work, which in turn added to the body of information DPE disseminates to the public.
In April 2009 the EC funding of DPE ended and the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute of the University of Glasgow (external link) assumed responsibility for managing DPE. Founded in 1997, also by Seamus Ross, HATII provides research and academic programs in information technology, digital curation and preservation, and archive and records management, museum studies and computer forensic science.
There is still much support for the work of DPE, and its activities are expected to continue on into the future. Subscribe to the WePreserve YouTube Channel (external link) to receive news about the latest Team Digital Preservation Animation.