As digital content and its related metadata are generated and used across different phases of the information lifecycle, and in a continually evolving environment, the concept of a fixed and stable ‘final’ version that needs to be preserved becomes less appropriate. As well as dealing with technological change and obsolescence, long-term sustainability requires us to address changes in context, such as changes in semantics – for example, the ‘semantic drift’ that arises from changes in language and meaning – or disciplinary and societal changes that affect the practices, attitudes and interests of the ‘stakeholders’, whether these be curators, archivists, artists, collection and data managers, operators, or software developers, scientists and researchers.
Such a changing environment necessitates a corresponding evolution of the strategies and approaches for preservation if stakeholder communities are to be able to continue to use and interpret content appropriately. A key issue is the provision of sufficient contextual information to enable both lifecycle management and preservation on the one hand, and re-use or re-interpretation of content on the other, as well as the facility to model and describe preservation processes, policies and infrastructures as they themselves evolve. Capturing and maintaining this information throughout the lifecycle, together with the complex relationships between the components of the preservation ecosystem as a whole, is key to an approach based on ‘preservation by design’, through models that capture intents and interpretative contexts associated with digital content, and enable content to remain relevant to new communities of users.
The project is addressing these preservation challenges in relation to digital content from two quite different domains: on the one hand, digital artworks, such as interactive software-based installations, and other digital media from Tate's collections and archives; on the other hand, experimental scientific data originating from the European Space Agency and International Space Station.