ERCIM News No.35 - October 1998

Sixth DELOS Workshop dedicated to Preservation of Digital Information

by José Borbinha and Lex Sijtsma

The Sixth DELOS Workshop on ‘Preservation of Digital Information’ was held in Tomar, Portugal, from 17 to 19 June 1998. The local organisation was a co-operation between INESC and the National Library of Portugal. Both the organisations are also members of the NEDLIB consortium (, a TELEMATICS project addressing the problem of the legal deposit and preservation of digital publications at national libraries and which was also involved in the workshop. The DELOS Working Group is an action of the ERCIM Digital Library Initiative.

The event saw 15 presentations and more then 40 attendees coming from Europe, USA and Australia. The presentations covered a broad range of issues, which created the required environment for an alive a very interesting debate of the problem.

The workshop started with a motivating presentation coming from the USA, provided by Hans Rutimann from CLIR ( Hans presented the goals and priorities of The Digital Library Federation, and he illustrated his talk with the very interesting video Into the Future, a 30 minutes movie produced by the Commission on Preservation and Access and the American Council of Learned Societies.

Strategies and Technology

Two presentations reporting initial steps to address the problem came from the UK, supported by the eLib programme. Neil Beagrie presented the Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS), and the first results of their initiative for Developing a Policy Framework for Digital Preservation based on the life cycle of the resources. Michael Day, from UKOLN presented the CEDARS project, a complimentary perspective focused on the requirements for metadata to support digital preservation.

Alan Heminger, from the Air Force Institute of Technology (USA), raised the problem of the preservation of the knowledge and technology necessary to access actual digital documents in the future. In fact, currently available digital documents, although perfectly preserved, may not be readable by future systems. Alan suggested The Rosetta Stone Model, a concept of a metaknowledge archive that collects such information. With a similar perspective, Dave MacCarn from the WGBH Educational Foundation presented The Universal Preservation Format.

The Role of the National Libraries

Judith Pearce, from the National Library of Australia, presented PANDORA at the crossroads. The aim of PANDORA is to create an electronic archive of Australian publications on the Internet. Started in 1997, they now have a working prototype (proof of concept) with some 200 titles in it and growing with 10 titles/month. From Finland, Kirsti Lounamaa (CSC) and Inkeri Salonharju (Helsinki University Library) presented EVA, - The Acquisition and Archiving of Electronic Network Publications, an effort to harvest and index all the documents found in the Web under the Finnish domain.

Digitising to Preserve

Six projects, coming from Switzerland, Bulgaria, Portugal, Greece and the UK addressed the issue of the digitisation and the usage of digital contents with purposes of preservation. Kurt Deggeller, from Memoriav, presented the Project VOCS - Voix de la Culture Suisse. In this project documents are stored and retrieved in a multimedia environment. Vidion - An on-line archive for Video is a Portuguese project involving INESC and RTP, the Portuguese Public Television. It was presented by Paula Viana (INESC), and it is concerned with the conversion, restoring and preservation of an audio-visual library of more than 400 000 documents representing more than 300 000 hours of video.

Related with the digitisation and/for preservation of still images, presentations were given by Milena Dobreva from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Ross MacIntyre from the University of Manchester. Milena discussed the organizational, political and cultural problems and motivations, presented from the unique perspective of a country situated in the crossroads of the European geography and history. Ross presented the project to digitise actual and former issues of Nature, one of the most widely cited interdisciplinary science journals in the world today.

ARIADNE, another Portuguese project presented by Nuño Maria (ICAT/FCUL) showed how Publico, one of the most important Portuguese newspapers, is addressing the problem of the production, management and long-term storage of their information. Finally, Beyond HTML: Web-based Information, presented by Chandrinos Kostas from FORTH (Greece), is a multi-user architecture to store and access to large image databases using the Web.

Organisation and Access

To preserve information means also to be able to organise, find and access it, now and in the future. From this perspective, Abdel Belaid, from France, (LORIA-CNRS) told about the Retrospective Conversion of Old Bibliographic Catalogues, a very well know problem faced by almost all the big libraries in their transition from the traditional card based to the computerised catalogues. With clues about the new ways we can build and use those new computerised catalogues, the workshop had the presentations referring an Effective Terminology Support for Distributed Digital Collections (Martin Doerr, FORTH), and TopicMark: A Topic-focused Bookmark Service for Groups (Hui Guo, GMD).

The last presentation of the workshop was Preserving the U.S. Government’s White House Electronic Mail: Archival Challenges and Policy Implications, given by David Wallace from the School of Information of the University of Michigan (USA). David presented a practical problem, involving the backups of the electronic mail in the White House during the Reagan Administration and their importance in the case Iran-Contras.

The workshop proceedings are available at

Please contact:

José L Borbinha - INESC
Tel: +351 1 310 0307

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