Cultural Heritage On-line 2012, or, the rocky road to Florence

Our trip to Florence for the DigCurV workshop  and the Cultural Heritage On-line 2012 conference started bumpy – with a 24 hour delay at Frankfurt airport (apparently, snow is quite hazardous to German Pünktlichkeit and Ordnung), which sadly caused us to miss the DigCurV event. But we still had Fondazione Rinascimento Digitale’s tri-annual conference ahead of us, and so we immersed ourselves in digital preservation and trustworthy repositories for two days, rounded off by excellent Italian coffee and culture as well as a spectacularly set conference dinner at Palazzo Borghese.

Focusing on the question of trustworthiness, the conference explored a wealth of questions relating to that theme, frequently returning to the following issues:

  • What is trustworthiness and how can we demonstrate it?
  • What does it cost and is it worth paying for?
  • Which skills and competences are needed by the workforce to answer to the demands of trustworthy repositories, and how can they be developed?

The different presentations concerned with current experiences in certification and demonstrating trustworthiness were reassuring, exhibiting some great examples of what being or becoming a trusted digital repository entails. However, the challenge that cost and training issues pose became once more apparent. Thus, as Seamus Ross from the University of Toronto pointed out with a nod to Lavoie’s 2008 article The Fifth Blackbird , our understanding of the economic side of digital preservation is – still – at best “sketchy,” and the lack of a reliable cost model for digital preservation is a similar threat to digital materials as technical obsolescence. In particular, what is needed are “cost-benefit ratios”: because only if we can demonstrate what the benefits of preserving a particular digital collection are, is it possible to make a good business case for preservation and secure the necessary funding.

Margaret Hedstrom’s presentation from the opening session (“Digital Data Curation – Workforce demand and educational needs for digital data curators”) shed light on the domain- and data curation-related knowledge and skills needed by digital data curators, and the “balance” between these two types of knowledge, which can vary depending on the discipline or sector in question (depending, for example on the computational maturity of the domain). Hedstrom set the scene for the training and re-skilling session the following day, which looked at existing training offers and training needs in digital preservation (survey carried out by APARSEN in co-operation with DigCurV, results available on soon) and presented different initiatives in and approaches to training in this field. This included workshops like those provided by nestor in Germany, or the free online training modules created for the Digital Records Pathways: Topics in Digital Preservation project. Starting from the assumption that institutions with the need to develop and implement digital preservation strategies often lack the resources to do so, these modules – covering eight topics ranging from policy and organizational issues over management and preservation of emails to cloud computing – were developed by the ICA and InterPARES to offer training to archivists and records managers. The modules can be downloaded from

A slightly different approach is taken by the Library of Congress’ Digital Preservation Outreach and Education initiative (DPOE)). Seeking to make training in digital preservation available to individuals and smaller organizations across the United States, DPOE is building a National Trainer Network and offers Train-the-Trainer workshops on a frequent basis.

Forming the “roof” for these presentations of individual training initiatives, Chiara Cirinnà gave an introduction to the DigCurV curriculum framework for digital curation, which is currently being developed with the aim of supporting and extending vocational training for professionals (employers and staff alike) in the field of digital curation. The framework, which will not specify a concrete training curriculum but identifies skills and competences needed by practitioners, managers, and executives, is a portfolio document to be used for different purposes, in particular

  • to build or develop training offers
  • to compare existing courses
  • to plan professional development.

Look for this document and for an upcoming call for contributions to the international conference “Framing the Digital Curation Curriculum” on We certainly will!

Also, forthcoming on the conference website are the proceedings and the papers and slides for the presentations – we will include the link here as soon as the material is up. Meanwhile, have a look at our poster for the conference:


Update January 8, 2013: The slides and presentations are now online at You’ll find our introduction to the work of the Training Center here.


About CESSDA Training

CESSDA Training offers and coordinates training activities for CESSDA, the Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives ( Hosted by the GESIS - Leibniz Institute for Social Sciences, our center promotes awareness throughout the research lifecycle of good research data management practice and emphasizes the importance of long-term data curation.
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