An alliance of the key agencies concerned with the UK’s historic environment has launched their Declaration on Digital Preservation today at a ceremony at the Historic England offices on Tanner Row in York, on International Digital Preservation Day.
The alliance, called the Bedern Group, comprises the Archaeology Data Service, Historic England, Historic Environment Scotland and The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW). Their combined digital collections represent a rich resource for research and education, creative, cultural and commercial activity within the historic environment.
Inspired to secure digital records
Chairman of the Commissioners for RCAHMW, Dr Eurwyn Wiliam was delighted with the initiative, saying “by publishing this Declaration, the Bedern Group hopes to inspire many more individuals and organizations to help secure the legacy of their own important digital collections for future generations.”
“Protecting the historic environment is not simply a concern with buildings, monuments and landscapes anymore,” explains Alex Paterson, CEO of Historic Environment Scotland. “This Declaration encapsulates the commitment we must all make to preserve our digital heritage; so making it possible for this and future generations to enjoy, understand and manage the physical traces of the human past.”
While new technologies create significant opportunities for our society and economy, these changes herald a time when heritage collections will be almost increasingly digital.
Duncan Wilson, CEO of Historic England agrees, saying: “The story of our past is not only locked up in surviving buildings and places, but in our archives and research. So making sure these records survive and are digitally accessible is a vital form of protection. This is a key part of our legacy to future generations.”
A shifting technological landscape means that organizations like those of the Bedern Group will need to manage pressures of technological obsolescence, as well as being able to adapt to new scales, new complexities and new expectations.
“Digital preservation is an integral component in safeguarding our cultural heritage. This Declaration highlights the commitment of all the Bedern Group members to this aim,” says Director of the Archaeology Data Service, Professor Julian Richards. “Digital data requires careful curation to ensure its stability and usability in the long-term, but properly preserved digital data has vast potential, particularly when openly available, to increase the public understanding of our shared heritage.”
Helping them manage these pressures is the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC), to which each of the Bedern Group organisations belongs. The DPC provides training, resources and support to help members deliver resilient long-term access to digital content and services; deriving enduring value from their digital collections. The Coalition also raises awareness of the attendant strategic, cultural and technological challenges and supports members through advocacy, workforce development, capacity-building and partnership.
The Bedern Declaration Launch is part of a wider programme of celebrations and community commitments to digital preservation which makes up International Digital Preservation Day (IDPD17) on 30th November. Organized by the DPC and supported by digital preservation networks around the world, IDPD17 draws together individuals and institutions from across the world to celebrate digital collections preserved, access maintained and understanding fostered by preserving digital materials.
About the Bedern Group:
The Group was founded by the Archaeology Data Service, English Heritage (membership now through Historic England), The Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (now Historic Environment Scotland) and RCAHMW, who first met in the Bedern Hall, York in October 2011. The Bedern Group exists to provide a forum for organizations which have special interest in the long-term management of data specifically that of the historic environment. The meetings are facilitated and chaired by the Digital Preservation Coalition so that it is not led by any one agency.