The largest challenge in capturing memory embodied in documentary heritage, now and in the future, is that of preserving digital heritage. This heritage is being created at a hitherto unprecedented rate, while at the same time its preservation becomes more and more problematic.
The digitisation of analogue documents to assist preservation and provide access is one dimension of the digital environment. The other is the category known as ‘born digital’ – digitally created documents that have no existence outside the digital space. These include digital texts, still and moving images, blogs, tweets and websites. The volume and pace of the creation of these digital documents is phenomenal and their long-term preservation has become a matter for urgent consideration, before vast swathes of the world’s memory disappear forever.
The UNESCO Memory of the World Programme has flagged this problem as a priority, and in September 2012, in conjunction with the University of British Columbia, held a conference in Vancouver, The Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation. From this conference emerged the Vancouver Declaration, which can be found on the UNESCO Memory of the World website. Its Recommendations include one urging professional organisations in the cultural sector to ‘assist in the development of a cohesive, conceptual and practical vision for a digital strategy capable of addressing the management and preservation of recorded information in all its forms in the digital environment’.1
The National Library of Australia moved swiftly, in the early years of the World Wide Web, to meet the challenge of preserving born digital recorded information in the shape of websites that mapped the complexities of Australian culture, and captured the memories of events and movements. By this means, information that appears in no other format than digital has been archived and preserved within PANDORA, an acronym that stands for ‘Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia’.
Since PANDORA’s inception in the National Library in 1996, nine other major collecting institutions in Australia have become collaborators in building the Archive, which is a selective collection of web publications and websites relating to Australia and Australians. It includes materials that document the cultural, social, political life and activities of the Australian community and the intellectual and expressive activities of Australians.2
The PANDORA Archive has become a world class archive of selected Australian online publications, such as electronic journals, government publications, and websites of research or cultural significance.3 The Olympics Games website from 2000 is one of the most significant in the collection and was a major undertaking at the time, given the available technologies. It remains the first Olympic Games anywhere to be documented in this way and preserved for posterity, and comprises 137 Sydney Olympics websites – http://pandora.nla.gov.au/col/4006; fourteen Sydney Paralympic Games websites – http://pandora.nla.gov.au/col/4007); and the extensive, day-by-day archiving of the SOCOG site during the course of the Games – http://pandora.nla.gov.au/tep/101944
1UNESCO/UBC Vancouver Declaration, The Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation, http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/CI/CI/pdf/mow/unesco_ubc_vancouver_declaration_en.pdf
2PANDORA overview, http://pandora.nla.gov.au/overview.html
3PANDORA achievements, http://pandora.nla.gov.au/historyachievements.html