The UK’s universities are widely regarded as some of the most prestigious institutions for learning and research in the world. This is a reputation earned over hundreds of years, in which time the universities have greatly expanded and documented our understanding of science, history, literature and the arts, ultimately producing vast amounts of invaluable research. However, in addition to the basic research that they undertake, the institutions also accrue collections of records and artefacts that define their own history.
Building on how they met funder-mandated expectations for managing open access to research data, institutions are now looking to preserve their institutional heritage using similar long-term solutions.
Up until now, the preservation of these records and assets has involved carefully storing them in controlled environments until they are needed again, at which point they will need to be physically retrieved and replaced after use in the exact place they were taken from. However, this approach does nothing to protect the precious material stored within from factors such as environmental damage or decay over time. It also paves the way for logistical issues such as finding enough space to store the physical material and manually keeping it organised in such a way that a particular item can be easily found.
In today’s digital age however, institutions are now looking for ways to digitally preserve their collections. While digital preservation is largely associated with museums and archives, many universities are becoming increasingly aware that their historical collections are of equal cultural significance and therefore require equally specific solutions dedicated to their protection.
Many universities are becoming increasingly aware that their historical collections are of equal cultural significance and therefore require equally specific solutions dedicated to their protection
One such institution that has recently taken this approach is the University of Westminster, which has selected Arkivum’s Perpetua solution as the basis for its digital preservation strategy. With a 175-year- old collection of historical records from both its predecessor institutions and from donated materials, the University faces the challenge of safeguarding, preserving and providing global access to its digital and digitised collections, and required a cost-effective, state-of-the-art and end-to-end solution that would make this process manageable.
To that effect, the University of Westminster has recently announced it will be the first customer to use Arkivum’s new Perpetua offering – the digital preservation and access solution that can be deployed and operated as either cloud-based or on-site. It is designed so that digital files remain accessible and usable over decade-long timescales and uses world-leading open-source tools such as Archivematica to provide preservation functionality.
Perpetua has been designed as the natural first step for any organisation, university or museum alike, that is looking to implement a digital preservation strategy, by offering a comprehensive suite that provides added benefits such as search, discovery and automation, and that also benefits from Arkivum’s unique 100% data integrity guarantee.
Arkivum, itself a spinout from the University of Southampton, has a strong history of helping UK universities implement their digital preservation strategies. A leading provider of digital archiving solutions, the company currently works with one in two of the UK’s top 60 universities.
The preservation of knowledge is a modern issue that affects us all, and it is of significant socio-cultural importance that universities, such as Westminster, recognise the opportunity that solutions such as Perpetua create to ensure that their collections are preserved for decades to come.