Digital Preservation Services Collaborative Declaration of Shared Values
Version 4 Revision: May 2022-November 2023
Published January 2024
The Digital Preservation Services Collaborative (DPSC) is an informal affinity group which formed in 2017. We are a group of collaborating organizations united in our commitment to preserve the cultural, intellectual, scientific and academic record for current and future generations. We came together because they agree that digital preservation is a cultural-heritage-wide challenge that is best accomplished together. Since 2017, the founding group has evolved into a loose collective of community-based digital preservation service providers who support a variety of digital preservation approaches. We are best known to have authored the 2018 Declaration of Shared Values, a document which provides standards to which our community can hold us accountable.
Digital preservation combines policies, strategies, and actions that ensure access to digital content over time. It is essential to the cumulative record of human activity and memory. We believe that preservation should be sustainable, affordable, practical, and available to all. Together, we can accomplish these goals better than going it alone. We provide services for the cultural heritage, research, and academic communities, and all kinds of users.
We embrace participation from communities reflective of the full range of human experience and strive to preserve the histories, cultures, experiences and perspectives of people of different genders, races, ethnicities, spiritual choices, sexual orientation or identity, physical or mental abilities, and places of origin.
The declaration of shared values does not specify which values, principles, and standards are most important and ought to outweigh others in instances when they conflict. Reasonable differences of opinion can and do exist among our community. We will work together to resolve those conflicts in ways that support and promote our common goal. The mission of our shared work is rooted in a set of core values. These core values inform and direct our collective work, and the bulleted statements below each value elaborate on the value itself and our collective intention:
We work together and collaborate with organizations and practitioners that share the values set out in this statement.
- Resources for staff, services and software rarely increase. In fact, most cultural heritage institutions face budget reductions annually. Moreover, limited funds tend to be allocated to programmatic activities with more immediate, more visible, and less contingent outcomes. Radical collaboration is necessary in order to successfully fulfill our mandates in the face of austerity measures.
- When we collaborate from diverse perspectives in digital preservation practice, we all benefit from multiple experiences from different contexts.
- Digital preservation is resource intensive and contributes to climate change. Through collaboration, we can avoid unnecessary duplication and investigate strategies for climate impact reduction.
- We help create and continue to adapt and refine community guidance such as the Levels of Digital Preservation. This collaboration helps us all to identify and address shifts in good practice in a timely manner.
- Our commitment to digital preservation supersedes our commitment to the necessary continued operation of any given digital preservation service. As resources dwindle in cultural heritage institutions, we must actively share governance, expand collective understanding, and engage with as many contributors and experts as feasible.
Affordability and Sustainability
We balance affordable services for the widest possible communities while sustaining the content we protect.
- Community-based, mission-driven digital preservation service providers have a responsibility to mitigate the financial, social, and environmental costs of this resource-intensive work, and to balance organizational needs for affordability with the long-term sustainability of the technologies and service models that we elect to use.
- Digital preservation requires sustained operational funding in order to ensure the longevity of preserved content. The funding available for digital preservation rarely acknowledges the heavy investments of labor and technology required to maintain a robust program, so we provide targeted, affordable services.
- Digital preservation draws significantly on our natural resources and contributes to climate change, and the rare earth element mining for computing equipment can impact local communities. Examples of sustainable digital preservation include funding the labor required to appraise ingests, adopting a de-growth mindset in collecting and computing-intensive activities, and engaging in collective collection development to share instead of duplicate resources. Our services build knowledge about sustainable digital preservation and they advocate for the diverse roles required to establish and maintain a sustainable digital preservation program.
- Affordability and sustainability are paramount in digital preservation, which is premised on the long-term consequences of our decisions and actions, and we recognize that profit-motivated actions can be in direct opposition to these values.
We strive to adopt and promote inclusive practices in the partnerships we form, the collections we preserve, and the organizations we serve.
- Preservation services and communities should prioritize partnerships with organizations and communities who have been historically and deliberately excluded from digital preservation knowledge or activities. We strive to build this concept into our budgets, services, activities, and strategic planning.
- The historical record is dominated by those with the power and resources to have their information preserved or deemed worthy of preservation.
- As the historical record becomes increasingly digital, preservation services and communities need to direct resources toward prioritizing the inclusion of the voices, rights, and recordkeeping practices of those who have been and continue to be historically and deliberately marginalized.
We develop and deploy a variety of platforms and technologies to create a heterogeneous network that spans diverse geographic, technical, and institutional environments.
- It is good practice that digital preservation be technologically distributed across different infrastructures, software platforms, and geographies to avoid single points of failure.
- Dominant technology monopolies have little interest in the priorities of a relatively small community of users in cultural heritage institutions. Digital preservation is not a profit-generating activity, so dominant technology monopolies have no incentives to build affordable values-based solutions. There is a risk that the lack of interest and conflicting priorities could result in loss of valuable content when we rely solely on one provider.
We recognize that digital preservation involves moving data across systems and time. We design and maintain our services to maximize the integrity of the content and the ease by which we transfer it.
- Tools and standards should interoperate and connect with each other. As data to be preserved increases and platforms and tools for digital preservation evolve or sunset, being able to “speak a common language” is imperative for sustainable long term preservation.
- We prioritize backwards compatibility because it reduces the amount of resources required and lowers the barrier to digital preservation. The sole beneficiary of planned obsolescence is the for-profit sector, not its users. Planned obsolescence increases the labor and technological resources required for digital preservation and forces the development of boutique workflows and infrastructure. While there will always be obsolescence, heterogeneity of collections, and acceptable loss over time, backwards compatibility improves our ability to design replicable workflows for digital preservation.
- Making connections between and among our services is key to addressing our community’s needs. Digital preservation services should be focused on interlocking services rather than competitive ones.
- We are actively discussing how collaborations will allow us to focus and specialize on specific challenges of digital preservation rather than each service competing for the same market share. We commit to developing services that are agile and free from vendor lock-in for storage solutions or other dependencies.
- Digital preservation needs to be validated and assured by multiple methods. Developing software that interacts with various systems but still provides the end user with the required assurance is a core component of our services.
- Service providers have a responsibility to their communities to make sure their data is portable and that their distributed infrastructure can interact and interoperate.
- Services should have clear exit strategies for users.
Openness and Transparency
We favor open technologies, standards, and protocols. We openly share information about costs and technologies.
- We believe that digital preservation services that limit their public documentation or require non-disclosure agreements run counter to the core nature and needs of the digital preservation and broader cultural heritage community.
- We embrace open source software that is openly documented, responsive to community feedback, and adaptable to changing needs. Proprietary software relies on software documentation which is not externally verifiable and can have unknown long-term implications, and this limits its exposure to local adaptation and broader community input.
- “Free” digital preservation options may have fine print details in their documentation that substantially puts content at risk or traps organizations into unsustainable and unpredictable ongoing expenses.
- We commit to publicly sharing financial statements to demonstrate good stewardship and viability as preservation partners.
We are responsible to each other and the broader community for employing ethical and transparent preservation practices.
- Our motivation for digital preservation is based on a collective understanding of enduring values across digital heritage organizations. This is in contrast to motivations based on shareholders returns with for-profit business models.
- We commit to an active preservation philosophy in which we share information on data loss and lessons learned so that the entire community can benefit, improve, and adapt.
- Any service practicing in this space is committed to address its complex and systemic weaknesses, human and technical, openly.
We collaborate to help identify new locations for content when one of the undersigned organization’s stewardship cannot continue.
- Digital preservation is a collective commitment we make together as digital information, heritage, and archives workers. Any service provider should actively plan for the persistence of the content over time, beyond potentially the existence of their individual service. Collaborating with other like-minded organizations is a critical component of providing this continuity of preservation.
- Changing content locations over time is inherently part of digital preservation practice. For example, this can happen when changing business models demand migration to more appropriate locations as well as when emerging technical and process challenges mobilize the community to improve stewardship practice and develop new solutions.
- Groups like the Digital Preservation Services Collaborative work closely together and collaborate across our various communities rather than directly compete with each other. This provides a broader solution set to the community rather than direct competition for profits and members.
- The collaboration of our organizations helps decrease the risk of our individual stewardship promises. Our practices are not profit-driven; we place the value of preservation above potential short-term losses.
We aim to inspire collaborators at every level to engage, invest in, and sustain preserving our collective cultural heritage and academic record.
- Preservation is the responsibility of cultural heritage institutions committed to acquiring and collecting digital content. It’s an ongoing cost that needs to be budgeted and considered, even after an organization folds.
- Digital preservation requires a specific and specialized skill set for staffing and tool allocation. These are, in turn, guided by the necessary policy frameworks that enable the successful execution of an integrated preservation strategy.
- The work is exciting and timely, requiring expertise in legacy technology and formats while also operating on the cutting edge of emerging technology.
- Cultural heritage leaders have a responsibility to provide preservation staff with sufficient resources so that it is feasible to sustain their mandates and to argue on their behalf when those resources are withheld.
We encourage capacity-building in our partners, members, and the larger digital preservation community to sustain our shared goal.
- A core philosophical tenet of these services is to foster, develop, and enhance the necessary skill for digital preservation rather than outsource that knowledge
- As professionals who develop and maintain preservation technology, we rely on our active and engaged community to confirm we are building and sustaining useful, stable, and good practice guided services.
- The organizations who acquire, describe, and provide access to digital content are those who know how and at what level to preserve that content best. Preservation decisions can have significant and irreversible effects on the types of access that can be provided in the future. These decisions should be made by a preservationist equipped with the required knowledge and empowered to decide which preservation path to take based on the materials at hand, not because they are the default setting in a software program.
Purpose of the Declaration of Shared Values
Values and professional ethics are at the core of our work and guide our practices.
This declaration of shared values accomplishes the following:
- Summarizes principles that reflect our core values and establishes a set of specific principles that should be used to guide our efforts.
- Helps identify relevant considerations when professional obligations conflict or uncertainties arise.
- Provides standards to which our community can hold us accountable.
- Socializes practitioners new to the field to our mission and values.
Our work and thinking will evolve over time. We will strive to include stakeholders from all over the world and we invite those interested to join us in working together to preserve the collective human record. Contact our group to ask questions and/or participate.
[Short Definition of Digital Preservation] (http://www.ala.org/alcts/resources/preserv/defdigpres0408) by the Association of Library Collections and Technical Services, a Division of the American Library Association