This report describes some of the practical solutions to the challenges of long-term digital preservation being developed by the project Endings: Concluding, Archiving, and Preserving Digital Projects for Long-Term Usability at the University of Victoria.
Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) in 2016, Project Endings anticipates the future endangerment of knowledge in the digital humanities. Given that the fluid nature of the digital does not lend itself well to end points, it is not surprising that large numbers of DH projects are simply abandoned for lack of planning and, often, lack of resources. Moreover, even completed and archived projects may not be preserved in such a way as to guarantee future access to their content. Project Endings seeks to mitigate this danger by proposing concrete solutions that can be put into practice now. We are contributing to the scholarly conversation about digital project planning and preservation through conference presentations and publications while simultaneously preparing ‘Ending and Archiving Tool Kits’ that will be made widely available to the DH community.
Our research began with lessons learned from four case studies at the University of Victoria: the Robert Graves Diary Project, created by Elizabeth Grove-White and the University of Victoria Libraries; the Nxa’amxčín Database and Dictionary, directed by Ewa Czaykowska- Higgins; Le mariage sous l’Ancien Régime, led by Claire Carlin; and the Map of Early Modern London, directed by Janelle Jenstad. Three developer-programmers—Martin Holmes, Stewart Arneil, and Greg Newton—and three librarians—Lisa Goddard, John Durno, and Matt Huculak—complete the Project Endings team. We have also performed a thorough review of publications on ending and archiving, and we are studying current practice through a multiple-choice online survey of DH practitioners (see Figures 1 and 2 for responses to some of our questions), followed by in-depth interviews with a subset of the respondents. The survey and ongoing interviews illustrate several major challenges to ending and archiving a DH project, and they suggest the urgent need for new strategies.
We are committed to disseminating our Endings and Archiving Tool Kits widely by the spring of 2020. We are also developing a ‘preservation seal of approval’ for projects besides our case studies that can be deemed ‘Endings compliant’ according to the basic standards described here; five additional projects housed at the University of Victoria have already satisfied these requirements. The outline of our ongoing work is available on a University of Victoria Online Academic Community WordPress site: https://onlineacademiccommunity.uvic.ca/endingsproject/.1
The author has no competing interests to declare.