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The Time and Bits: Managing Digital Continuity meeting held at the Getty Center on Feb 8-10, 01998 produced some remarkable insights into the future uses of digital technologies and their impact on the documentation of cultural heritage (see press clippings for summary detail). We will be posting transcripts, images, and video clips from the meeting here in coming days. If you are interested in registering to take part in on-line discussions please do so at the Time & Bits Discussion section of this site.

Sponsored by the Getty Conservation Institute and the Getty Information Institute, in collaboration with the Long Now Foundation.


The enthusiastic and increasing use of electronic media for storing information of various kinds demonstrates the utility of the format and its possibilities.

In the field of cultural heritage, there is an enormous amount of significant information in digital form. These data are vulnerable on many levels. Because of the increasingly fast cycle of obsolescence in hardware and software, we are at the point where the proliferation of electronic data on various platforms has prompted some serious concerns about the long-term protection of the data.

Time & Bits ParticipantsA number of international organizations are examining technological issues that bear on the problem, including data types, media stability, and options for refreshing and migrating data to ever-evolving platforms.

There is, however, an important gap in the discussions.

An integrated technical and philosophical discussion of digital archives and their future that includes the sociocultural and economic implications of both the problems and the solutions could provide a framework for long-term digital cultural preservation.

The Getty Conservation Institute and the Getty Information Institute [of the J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles] are collaborating with the Long Now Foundation [San Francisco] to generate some strategic thinking on these issues with important digital theorists. In February of 1998, we will convene a small group at The Getty Center to share concerns and expertise in technology, culture, and time.

We will use this Web site to present certain ideas for moderated discussion, including a summary of the state of the technological work. We will post comments and incorporate some of them into the body of work being collected.

The on-line discussion and meeting should provide a set of insightful and responsible recommendations that will chart a thoughtful course for the resolution of problems related to long-term digital data protection, preservation, and reconstruction.


Conference-related Papers & Thoughts

Other Papers on Preservation

  • Film/Digital/Film by Michael Friend, Director of the Academy Film Archive

Great Reference...

Image Into the Future, a videotape produced by the American Film Foundation, surveys some of the questions raised and problems posed by the proliferation of digital information and specifically, electronically archived data. The video presents the problem as one that has been unanticipated in commercial and technological surges to conquer new territory.

The issue of data preservation is not a new concern. The video surveys some examples of the deterioration of magnetic tapes after twenty years, a problem now faced by organizations as large as NASA and as remote as the Navajo Community College, to highlight the critical nature of the problem. Unfortunately, there have been many catastrophic digital disasters as well. Some of these include the vanishing of the primary national database for people with disabilities in Oregon; the loss of the corporate records, in New York, of the Pennsylvania Railroad; and in several states the inaccessibility of land use data because of the loss of software. The video also notes that with a growth rate in digital information that doubles annually, our vulnerability to loss of important digital information due either to equipment obsolescence or failure of preservation format is growing perhaps equally as fast as our reliance on the technology itself. As Deanna Marcum, President of the Commission for Preservation and Access points out, any money that goes to digitizing information is money that is possibly being reallocated from preservation activities. Thus there is the possibility of an inverse relationship between the growth of digital data and the extent to which we are all threatened by its potential loss.

For more information regarding Into the Future, please contact the American Film Foundation at (310) 459-2116. Into the Future aired on PBS on Wednesday, January 14, 01998 at 10:00 p.m. It will be screened again at the Time and Bits Conference at the Getty Center on February 10, 01998.


  • Stewart Brand Founder of the Whole Earth Catalogue, cofounder of The Well, cofounder of Global Business Network, and author of How Buildings Learn [01994] and The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT [01987].
  • Doug Carlston Attorney; cofounder and CEO of Broderbund Software.
  • Brian Eno British musician, music producer, and artist.
  • Danny Hillis Vice President of research and development at the Walt Disney Company, and a Disney Fellow. Deeply involved in the development of parallel processing, he was cofounder and chief scientist of Thinking Machines Corporation.
  • Brewster Kahle Inventor and founder of Wide Area Information Servers, Inc. [WAIS] which was recently acquired by America Online, and founder of the Internet Archive. Has written about Preserving the Internet.
  • Kevin Kelly Executive Editor, Wired Magazine; author of Out of Control [01994].
  • Jaron Lanier Leading computer scientist and early pioneer in the development of virtual reality technology and accomplished musician and composer.
  • John Heilemann Staff Writer for The New Yorker, where he covers Silicon Valley and the new economy. Previously he was a Correspondent for The Economist, where he covered technology and media, and National Affairs Editor for Wired.
  • Peter Lyman University Librarian, and Professor in the School of Information Management & Systems at the University of California, Berkeley. Head Librarian, UC Berkeley, co-author of background paper.
  • Howard Besser Digital archiving specialist, Adjunct Associate Professor at UC Berkeley's School of Information Management & Systems; co- author of background paper.
  • Margaret MacLean Director of Special Initiatives, Getty Conservation Institute.
  • Ben Davis Program Manager, Communications, Getty Information Institute.


Digital Preservation Resources

Digital Clearinghouses, Resources and Bibliographies

Universal Preservation Format - This site disseminates information about the proposed universal preservation format for the archiving of digital media assets. One of the links on the site is the UPF Needs Assessment Survey, devised to assist in incorporating the needs of potential users into the platform-independent UPF.

Preserving Access to Digital Information [PADI], a clearinghouse of information to assist in ensuring the long-term access to important digital information. Site will eventually have an integrated search facility to other preservation resources. Contains an excellent bibliography resource with links to sources on the preservation and archiving of electronic data, metadata issues and more.

Conservation OnLine - CoOL, a project of the Preservation Department of Stanford University Libraries, is a full text library of conservation information, covering a wide spectrum of topics of interest to those involved with the conservation of library, archives and museum materials.

Digital Library Federation - A consortium of fifteen of the nation's largest libraries and archives cooperating to ensure access to digitized materials. The site is a clearinghouse to digital library resources, projects and conferences. The Federation's statement of the problem, its mission and goals.

Digital Library Resources & Projects: A Library of Congress Internet Resource Page - Search digital libraries and related sources, access e-zines and e-discussions, government projects, university digital libraries and projects, conferences and workshops.

Digital Library: Resources and Projects - International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions' network of resources, including a bibliography of books and periodicals; listing of conferences, organizations and worldwide projects relating to digital preservation and archives.

Bibliography of Materials Relating to the Preservation of New Technology and Preservation Using New Technology More resources on electronic preservation and technology issues.

Papers and Publications on Digital Preservation

Rense.com - Escaping The Digital Dark Age, By Stewart Brand. Published in Library Journal vol. 124. Issue 2, p46-49 6-20-3

D-Lib Magazine - A digital library research offering monthly features, commentary and briefings; a collection of resources for digital library research; and access to D-Lib's Working Groups.

Commission on Preservation and Access Newsletter - Newsletter containing articles on a range of digital and information preservation topics.

Bilderbank - Preserving Digital Information - A collection of projects, publications and databases concerned with digital preservation.

Preserving Digital Information - Report of the Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information.

"Archivists Warn: Don't Depend on Digital Tape" - A group of the world's leading audio preservationists have warned that taped-based recording media--especially DAT--is not reliable for long term preservation...

"Digital Preservation: A Time Bomb for Digital Libraries" - Discusses digital preservation requirements, limitations of current preservation strategies, storage media, migration, conversion, management tools and more.

"Preservation of New Technology" - A paper by the Technology Assessment Advisory Committee, a group of seven representatives of industry and academia from the field of digital technology written to stimulate discussion regarding the relationship of digital technology--particularly new technology--to the problems of electronic preservation.

"A Framework for Distributed Digital Object Services" - Discusses the basic elements of an infrastructure that supports an extensible class of distributed digital information services, specifically, those elements which are intended to constitute a minimal set of requirements and services that must be in place to effect the infrastructure of a universal, open, wide area digital infrastructure system.

"An Overview of the Access and Preservation Capabilities of Digital Technologies" - Discusses the barriers to a widespread adoption of digital technology for preservation purposes and the three criteria that will have to be met before this happens.

"The Challenge of Archiving Digital Information" - This discussion contests some of the commonly-accepted solutions to the problem of digital preservation and establishes the framework from which the Task Force on the Archiving of Digital Information began.

"Selecting Materials for Digital Preservation" - A discussion of what to preserve, part of a paper entitled "Manuscripts & Archives in the Digital Age." Author has also prepared a bibliography.

"Long-Term Management Issues in the Preservation of Electronic Information" - The author believes the concepts of digitization and preservation are incompatible...

"Future Directions in Access and Preservation Technologies and New Electronic Formats" - An overview of recent technological developments which assist in providing access to and protecting original materials and the challenges posed by preservation in new electronic formats.

Institutional Initiatives and Digitial Preservation Studies

Corporation for National Research Initiatives [CNRI] - Nonprofit organization which fosters and promotes research and development for the National Information Infrastructure. Activities center around strategic development of network-based information technologies. Publishes D-Lib Magazine, the magazine of digital library research, which offers monthly features, commentary and briefings; a collection of resources for digital library research; and access to D-Lib's Working Groups.

National Research Council, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board - The Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) was established in 1986 to provide independent advice to the federal government on technical and public policy issues relating to computing and communications.

Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval [CIIR] - Supports the emerging information infrastructure for the next century, both through research and technology transfer. Goal is to develop tools that provide effective and efficient access to large, heterogeneous, distributed text and multimedia databases. Focus is on software that will support accurate and efficient access to, analysis of, the information stored in text and multimedia databases throughout government and business.

Center for the Study of Digital Libraries - Mission is to foster pioneering research on the theory and application of digital libraries and create efficient new technologies for their use.

Harvard Information Infrastructure Project - A forum for addressing a wide-range of emerging policy issues relating to information infrastructure, its development, use and growth.

Information Infrastructure Task Force - Formed by the White House to articulate and implement the Administration's vision for the National Information Infrastructure (NII).

UIUC Digital Library Initiative - A project of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign designed to be a testbed of scientific literature and researching device for enhanced search technology.

The Informedia Project - A research initiative at Carnegie Mellon University seeking to resolve how multimedia digital libraries can be studied and used.

The Alexandria Project - A consortium of multidisciplinary, public and private sector specialists exploring a variety of problems related to distributing a digital library for geographically-referenced information.

Stanford Digital Libraries Project - A collection of computing literature. This initiative is largely concerned with interoperability.

Digital Library Related Information & Resources - The motherboard of the six Digital Library Projects with information on conferences, organizations and publications.

National Library of Australia National Initiatives and Collaboration (NIAC) Preserving Access to Documentary Heritage - Organization aimed at ensuring effective access to Australian heritage and information resources in all formats, including electronic formats. Site includes preservation information resources, workshop/training programs, and international coordination efforts.

Social Effects of Information Technology

Howard Besser, UC Berkeley School of Information Management & Systems, Berkeley Multimedia Research Center, etc. Primary focus areas: Multimedia Databases, Social Effects of Information Technology, New Ways to Teach Technology.

Shaping Our Communities: The Impact of Information-Technology - Dedicated to expressing and exploring viewpoints regarding the impact of information technology on cities and towns.

Information Technology and International Affairs - Discusses the impact of advanced technology on international relations; includes international treaties on information technology, reports, etc.

The Center for Social Informatics - A program of the University of Indiana dedicated to support research into information technology and social change.

Risks and Hazards

The Long Now Blog: Digital Dark Age - The Long Now Blog's Digital Dark Age sub-category.

"Comprehensive History of Viruses" - The NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology] assessment of the history of 'malicious code' (viruses and worms) includes a discussion of 'malicious code,' summarizes protection methods and projects future threats from both malicious code and human attack.

"The Risks Digest: Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems" - An on-going, open forum on risks to the public of computers and related systems. The forum began in 1985. Its primary concern is whether critical requirements for human safety, system reliability, fault, tolerance, security, privacy, integrity and guaranteed service can be met within the industry and how attempted fulfillment or ignorance of these requirements may imply risks in the future.

Conservation DistList Archive - This distlist contains discussions on preservation disasters, recommendations, information regarding conferences, publications, training and workshops.

Computer Related Risks by Peter Neumann, web-keeper of The Risks Digest, and other books chronicling events of computer mishaps and disasters arising from technological and human failure, the financial and social costs associated with these failures, and recommendations for future navigation through the field of growing social vulnerability to computer technology.

Data Storage

"Magnetic Tape and Digital Media Life Expectancies" - A paper discussing life expectancies of various media.

"Mass Storage Based Solutions for Digital Media Archives" - A discussion of the four major functional components of a digital media archive.

National Synchronization - Initiative driven to advance the means to store, collect and organize information in digital forms such that it is easily accessible and user-friendly.

Storing the Web - Alexa Internet, a free Web navigation service, stores all the daily contents of the Web, tracks sites visited by Internet users and grades the value of a site based on a series of customized benchmarks. Alexa also generates statistics on variables such as how frequently sites are updated and how often linked sites are accessed. Through Alexa, users can access sites that are no longer displayed. In other words, if it has appeared on the Web, Alexa has it.

"Lest We Forget: Why I Chose the WWW as a Repository for Archival Material" - Discusses the archival advantage of the WWW as a vital and flexible medium despite the constant flux and mutation of digital material.

Decentralization Storage Problems - With the rise of local area networks, client/server systems and the Internet, data that once resided on centralized mainframes is now widely decentralized--making storage management a complex undertaking. The problem, and key features needed in a competent backup product, are discussed here.

IDAM - Proposal for an active document archive management system which seeks to customize available technologies to bridge the worlds between existing protocols and tools and thereby control and manage information in the digital universe.

Data Security

IT Security and Recovery Survey - The Fifth Annual Information Week/Ernst & Young Information Security Survey points to a growing awareness, concern and difficulty with data security problems, largely attributed to the Internet. Many companies are boosting internal IT security staff to handle reported increases in the following data security categories: [internal] security breaches; system vulnerability; viruses and human attack.

Meetings, Conferences, and Events

The RSA Annual Data Security Conference [Jan. 13-18, 1998] - Called the "sine-qua-non event of the crypto community," this conference brings together cryptographers, policymakers, business people and technology developers on Nob Hill for four days of the latest trends in research, product development, market analysis and social thought in the field of cryptography.

Digital Libraries Asia 98 Conference & Exhibition - The Digital Era: Implications, Challenges & Issues

Report of the Santa Fe Planning Workshop on Distributed Work Environments: Digital Libraries - Report on workshop aimed at transcending current notions of digital libraries.

DRAFT Document from the RLG - RLG Preservation Working Group on Digital Archiving Progress Report from March, 1997 meeting.

Preservation in the Digital Age: Whether To, What To, How To - A summary of the panel discussion from the Third Annual Conference of the California Academic and Research Libraries.

Digital Imaging

Beowulf Image - Digital image of Beowulf manuscript page.

RLG Digital Imaging Access Project - Catalogues of art history slides with textual descriptions. (Does this belong on this site?)

Readings on Digital Imaging - Miscellaneous papers and press releases on digital imaging.

Other Digital Resources & Repositories

The Internet Archive - A collection of public materials and downloadable software from the Internet.

Research Libraries Group - A nonprofit corporation devoted to "improving access to information that supports research and learning." Link offers an extensive bibliographic database, web and print publications and related specialized services.

Library of Congress - The on-line database.

Columbia Digital Library Collection - Digital archives of the university.

"Hooking Legacy Mainframes to the Web" - Oracle has recently licensed software which it will integrate with the Oracle Web Application. The new software provides secure connections to legacy applications using Java applets. This will allow companies to preserve their investment in legacy systems while taking advantage of the latest Web technologies.

Do-It-Yourself Digital Preservation

Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE - Do you want to build your own digital library? For digital library services, information and support.

Bits 'n Pieces

The Retrocomputing Museum - An on-line archive / museum dedicated to the task of collecting programming languages, early personal computer emulators, and their software.

Digital Obsessions - What kind of a man wants to put the 10,000 most important books online by 2002 and make them available for free? (Hint: the kind of man who puts sugar on his pizza.)

The Year 2000 - Information, issues, discussion, and solutions for the "Y2K" problem, an impending issue of critical importance for all databases containing date information as 2-digit years give way to 4-digit at the turn of the millenium.


Click here to see discussions.


The report of the conference proceedings, published by the Getty Information Institute, is available from the Long Now Foundation. The report is sent as a free gift to donors of $50.00 or more. (Or you can purchase it directly from Getty Publishing.)

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