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Preserving interactives & IPRES2018

Digital preservation is Sound and Vision’s bread and butter. To mirror the sentiment William Kilbride expressed last week in Boston at an anniversary panel celebrating 15 years of the International Conference on Digital Preservation (iPRES): why isn’t it everybody’s?

We spent a week at iPRES listening to, learning from, and sharing with professionals from the remarkably diverse digital preservation realm. Archivists, librarians, scholars and curators met under a shared understanding of digital information repository systems and mechanisms. While the questions around setting up workflows around digital preservation remain challenging in various domains - what are best practices?; what do other organisations’ workflows look like? - we’ve recently been focusing on issues surrounding contemporary narrative formats.

Heritage institutions are responsible for safeguarding a culture’s, a people’s, a nation’s, a crowd’s, a village’s analogue as well as digital, offline and online creations. One of the big challenges of the digital age for institutions like ours is making sure that we capture media sources before they disappear - a challenge that was significantly smaller when a unified, bound, and marked end product could last on a shelf for some time before being properly catalogued and put into storage. For many of these new formats, there is no time to wait: the time to collect them is now.

New publications on preserving interactives

In the Preserving Interactives report, supported by the Dutch Media Innovators program, I sought to answer the question of how we can preserve interactive documentaries — a loosely undefined amalgam of works that are represented online, via browser applications or mobile apps. The white paper gives a critical outline of current preservation practices for complex interactive documentaries that are supported through an industry loosely affiliated with film and documentary festivals: IDFA, Tribeca, Sundance, and, in the East, certain markets focusing on VR. It describes what solutions we currently have available and identifies lingering problem areas. It points to practical examples of works that have been stored and preserved and, where possible, kept accessible online. It also proposes categories of works that could benefit from the same approaches.


Screenshots form the live modular body and live refugee republic websites and its archived versions in the wayback machine

My colleague Rasa Bocyte spent a few months with us researching one of the solutions for preserving interactives, which resulted in her report on Server-side Preservation of Dynamic Websites. The aim of her research was to offer insights into the possibilities for website preservation using an in-depth conservation approach for individual online productions. The report discusses how digital preservation needs to start with website creators at the pre-ingest stage before the umbilical cord connecting the website to its server-side environment is cut off. Websites are complex ecosystems, most of which lie hidden under the surface of a webpage. The results of this research highlight the urgency to include and document different components of those ecosystems and dependencies between them in order to preserve fully functioning and contextualised dynamic websites.

Screenshots form the live refugee republic website and its archived versions from webrecorder

iPRES Developments

iPRES was a great opportunity to look around and compare the research we did with the outlook and implementations other organisations have been doing. Particularly interesting in this case were Dragan Espenschied and Klaus Rechert’s rather rushed yet wholly intriguing presentation around Fencing Apparently Infinite Objects. The new Webrecorder developments made our hearts soar: while we’ve known the tool as a wonderful (and free!) option to capture dynamic websites interaction per interaction, developer Ilya Kreymer presented its new capabilities to capture web archives server-side. We can’t wait to start experimenting this to see how well it would work for the online projects that we aim to add to the Sound and Vision collections. Last not but least, the National Film Board Canada, the progenitor of some of the most exciting works in interactive storytelling over the last decade, has worked intensely with the Webrecorder team, creating workflows and contributing to the tool’s development.

All iPRES2018 papers, presenter slides and collaborative notes are being gathered on the conference’s Open Science Framework instance, so keep an eye out to dig deeper into the topics mentioned above and many more. We look forward to continuing discussions about  web archiving at the upcoming Dutch Heritage Network web archiving symposium, the The Web that Was conference and further iPRES’es to come!

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