Preserving cultural heritage: Better together!

SIGNORI, Barbara (2017) Preserving cultural heritage: Better together!. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2017 – Wrocław, Poland – Libraries. Solidarity. Society. in Session S08 - Satellite Meeting: Preservation and Conservation Section joint with the Association International Francophone des Bibliothécaires et Documentalistes (AIFBD) in collaboration with the Médiathèque Valais.

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Language: English (Original)
Available under licence Creative Commons Attribution.


Preserving cultural heritage: Better together!

The Swiss National Library has a mandate to collect, catalogue, store and disseminate the cultural heritage created in Switzerland and abroad by and about the Swiss, both in print and digital. This sounds like a clear enough mission, but dig deeper and this mandate raises all sorts of tough questions. What exactly is cultural heritage? Obviously, it goes far beyond e-books and e-journals of well-established Swiss publishers. It is Swiss websites, newsletters of Swiss societies, and so on. However, what about all the digital data that is created by Swiss people every waking moment? The selfies, blogs, tweets, social media, personal digital archives. Surely not everything can be considered cultural heritage. But who decides what is and what isn’t? And then how do we cope with the enormous quantity of information being produced? How can we decide what to keep for future generations when we cannot even cope with the output of the current generation? Not to mention the costs. With budgets being cut all the time, what does that mean for our cultural heritage? Amidst all these tough questions, one thing is clear: no single institution can possibly cope with collecting all that information nor be tasked with the decision on what to preserve and what not. This paper will use the example of Web Archive Switzerland to show how trust and interoperability have led to constructive collaboration. Web Archive Switzerland was born in 2008 following 5 years of discussion with the cantonal libraries. Since then websites with a bearing on Switzerland have been selected, documented, preserved and disseminated collaboratively among 30 Swiss institutions. The key lesson learned over the past 14 years is that to answer the tough questions and challenges we had to look beyond our own walls and borders. We learned to let go of the idea that we can do it alone, that we can control the world of content through clever curation. We learned how to create partnerships and strong networks of institutions, how to engage new sorts of curators, how to trust each other and share synergies and costs, all with the common goal of saving as much digital heritage as possible. In summary, this paper is a call to arms to join forces, to forge partnerships, to bundle competences, and to build collaborative networks! It will show that curating collaboration between institutions is as important as curating cultural heritage and it will suggest ways forward to create more collaborative collections of digital cultural heritage within Switzerland and beyond.

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