Preserving a digital past

Date published: 2008-07-22 2:32:17 PM

Luciana Duranti has concerns about society’s race to digitize its most valuable artistic, administrative and legal records. Chair of archival studies at the University of British Columbia, Duranti is also the director of InterPARES, the largest-ever research project into the long-term preservation of digital records.

InterPARES, supported by SSHRC, comprises more than 100 co-investigators from 21 countries and five continents. While other digital archiving projects have typically focused on long-term retrievability of digital records, InterPARES focuses on the reliability, accuracy and authenticity of such documents.

For example, if criminal evidence stored in digital form is updated to keep it compatible with technological change, could such interference be deemed evidence tampering? How, then, can society ensure the long-term authenticity of such records?

Among its successes to date, InterPARES has developed guidelines for the creation, maintenance and preservation of digital records, and for the adoption of related file formats, wrappers and encoding. China has already adopted InterPARES authenticity requirements as law. European financial institutions have approached the project for assistance ensuring the authenticity of bank transactions and Duranti’s students are sought after by institutions around the world.

Luciana Duranti, Archival Studies, The University of British Columbia