October 2010 - Nancy McGovern has been involved in the preservation of digital content since the mid-1980s when she began working with electronic records at the U.S. National Archives.
Since then, she has been responsible for the preservation of digital content of all kinds, including digital archives, digital library collections, and research data. During that time, she has actively tracked the emergence of the digital preservation field with an increasingly comprehensive set of standards and practices as new content types require new or enhanced strategies.
She observed that, despite the generational shifts in technology, some things remain constant. "Technology continually changes but the fundamental principles of digital preservation don't change much," she said.
From 2001 to 2006, McGovern worked at Cornell University, where she and Anne R. Kenney co-developed the Digital Preservation Management Workshop (external link) for digital preservation managers of any type of digital content at any size or kind of organization. In 2006, she became the Digital Preservation Officer at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (external link) but continued managing the workshop series and developing the curriculum. In 2009, she completed her PhD at University College London, for which she developed a community-based model for responding to technological change.
The DPM workshop has been presented in five-day, two-day and one-day formats since 2003 to more than five hundred participants representing more than 250 organizations from more than 30 countries on five continents. The curriculum addresses two core elements. The first McGovern calls the Three-Legged Stool, which consists of organizational infrastructure (the "what"), technological infrastructure (the "how") and a resources framework (the "how much") of building an organization's digital preservation program. McGovern said, "In the workshop we talk to digital preservation managers about how to make decisions as technology evolves and encourage them to develop sustainable programs that works for their organization."
The second core element is a five-stage developmental model: 1) acknowledge that digital preservation is a local concern for your organization; 2) act by initiating digital preservation projects to manage your digital content; 3) consolidate by segueing from projects to programs; 4) institutionalize by incorporating the larger environment and rationalizing programs; and 5) externalize by embracing inter-institutional collaboration and dependency.
McGovern is working with the Library of Congress on a national initiative to raise awareness and understanding of digital preservation, called Digital Preservation Outreach and Education.
She views DPOE as a next step for extending the lessons learned from the DPM workshop: to leverage existing curricula to build a national framework for digital preservation training. "DPOE is not focusing on academic education," she said. "There are many good programs from which to choose. DPOE is focusing on continuing education, 'in time' training for people who manage digital content who aren't already coming to existing workshops."
A primary objective of DPOE is to build a base of instructors, coast to coast, readily available to conduct local training. On the DPOE website, which is under development, there will be a calendar listing the broadest range of relevant events and training opportunities that can be identified. "We want DPOE to be a resource to assist instructors in developing and delivering in-person and online training," said McGovern. "We have a good understanding of existing courses and we want to identify training modules that have not been developed yet to fill those gaps."
DPOE intends to bring together providers' various approaches, programs and workshops to collaborate on expanding training opportunities. McGovern said, "It's not that the DPM workshop – which we're very proud of – would become the curriculum for DPOE. It's one of many offerings that fits in and intersects with what DPOE is trying to do."
As DPOE evolves, standards and best practices will also keep pace and evolve. "But, again, it's really intended to be a framework for people to continually develop training for their particular context," she said. As a long-term instructor, McGovern is able to observe trends in organizational practice through the shared experiences of workshop participants. She is pleased to see that a growing number of organizations within the digital preservation community are incorporating digital preservation into their infrastructure. She sees that trend as one indicator of the digital preservation community's growth.