Europe lays Foundation for preserving digital heritage –

  • Unlike parchment and paper, digital data has a life span of years not millennia 
  • 3 billion euros worth of vital data is already being lost every year in the EU alone
  • New international consortium known as the Open Planets Foundation (OPF) formed to tackle preservation challenge

Covering everything from medical records to family photos, current estimates suggest that there are already exists over 100Gb of data for every individual person on the planet.  With data creation set to double every 18 months, failure to adequately address the challenge of preserving this material therefore represents a major financial, intellectual and cultural risk.  With the existing four year European Commission Planets project achieving completion, a new not-for-profit consortium known as the Open Planets Foundation (OPF) has been given the go-ahead to build on existing efforts and continue to tackle the constantly evolving long term digital preservation challenge. 

Between 2006 and 2010 the Planets project successfully delivered a number of practical digital preservations tools to assist organisations with assessing their preservation needs and provide the necessary technical solutions –  Hosted by the British Library, the OPF aims to expand on this work and develop the international digital preservation community further, encouraging the sharing of knowledge and best practice, and pushing forward on a variety of preservation R&D initiatives. 

Founded by the Austrian Institute of Technology, the Austrian National Library, the British Library, the Royal and State and University Libraries of Denmark, the National Archives and Library of the Netherlands, Stanford University, Goportis and Microsoft, the OPF currently represents 12 libraries, archives, universities and commercial organisations.  Aiming to eventually bring together hundreds of content holders and preservation solution providers, the OPF will not simply provide its member with access to the Planets tools but also offer guidance from leading experts on creating preservation policy, as well as technical support and training, in the interests of international digital preservation.

Adam Farquhar, Head of Digital Library Technology at the British Library and Planets project coordinator says:

“I’ve been creating digital content since the earliest PCs and desktop computers.  It is frustrating to extract content from those old digital media, such as 3.5 or even 8 inch floppy disks.  But it is even more challenging to read or update the content, because the applications that you need for them can’t be found – and if you could find them, they wouldn’t run on a modern computer.  Preserving our ability to access digital content in the future is one of the great challenges of our age.”

“Over the last four years the Europe-wide Planets project has worked to not just raise awareness of the preservation challenge but has developed the tools that will enable organisations and individuals the world over to really start getting to grips with implementing effective digital preservation policies.”

Marc Fresko, Director of Inforesight and independent European Commission reviewer for the Planets Project: 

“I’ve never seen a programme that has delivered against what it promised in the way that Planets has.  An outstanding project it has delivered some significant scientific advances. 

“The establishment of the Open Planets Foundation is unique – it has not been seen before and it says a lot about the success and the commitment from the project. It is fantastic.”

Executive Director of the Open Planets Foundation, Bram van der Werf:

“For centuries the world has built great libraries and universities to collect and preserve for posterity the intellectual and cultural history of the human race.  Yet in the modern age, the diversity and complexity of digital information storage formats requires far more than the existence of physical institutions to ensure long term survival.

“Building on the work of the groundbreaking European Commission Planets project, the Open Planets Foundation will underpin international efforts to continue the preservation of mankind’s collective knowledge, supporting institutions and organisations around the globe as they take on the challenge of preserving digital data.”



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