Position Paper: Sustainability, Preservation, and Forward Migration

Invited remote discussant: Anna Bentkowska-Kafel, Vice-Chair, COST Action “Colour and Space in Cultural Heritage” (9:30 to 11:00 pm, London). 

Broadly speaking, this topic is in reference to long-term access and reuse. In this context, ‘sustainability’ refers to long-term life of the digital project deliverables and/or assets (e.g., a model, a website, an experience, raw work files, software, supplementary files, etc.) as opposed to funding (i.e., a sustainable funding model for continued research). ‘Preservation’ refers to the long-term care of the digital deliverables and/or assets as in an institutional archive or similar in keeping with the definition offered by Jones and Beagrie (2001): “the series of managed activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital materials for as long as necessary.” While included in this definition for preservation, ‘forward migration’ refers to the very specific campaign required to keep digital deliverables and/or assets accessible and usable as intended by their creators (either in their native environment or through emulation).

As scholars working with 3D, we can provide opinions about what and how our content might be archived and preserved, but this is an issue that needs to be discussed and resolved in concert with library professionals. Work needs to happen on both sides of the equation. Libraries are the natural leaders on the fundamental archival questions of ingest, metadata, storage, access, persistent identifiers, rights management, security, migration, retrieval, interoperability and aggregation, and administration. For our part, we need to consider our work practices and develop strategies that will make our research accessible and usable. We also need to think deeply about what preservation, sustainability, and forward migration means to us as a community. Jointly, we need to develop mechanisms for communication so that we can work together.


How does 3D content stand in terms of library collection development? What kinds of 3D content are most likely to be addressed by repositories in the near future? How might scholars working with 3D artifacts influence decisions that will shape collection policies relating to this content? What does it mean to archive a 3D project? What files should be preserved? (Research materials? Model files in multiple formats? Textures? Supplementary information? Text documents? Work files for collateral materials? Renderings? Videos?) What are our most stable 3D formats? And what does their use for preservation mean to our project work? What about the software used to build the models or interact with them? What interactions need to be preserved? Using what strategies? Emulation? Constant forward migration? What selection criteria should be used? Who undertakes this work and pays for these services? How long should this content be archived? Short-term or long-term? When can archived material be de-accessioned? How do we address situations where proprietary software/platforms used for a given project is no longer available or supported by its creator? And what can we do immediately to begin preserving our own work?


Pletinckx, Daniël. “Preservation of virtual reconstructions.” In Good Practice in Archaeological Diagnostics, Natural Science in Archaeology, 309-314. Springer, 2013. (NOTE: An earlier version of this same article appeared in The Preservation of Complex Objects Volume 1: Visualisations and Simulations (The University of Portsmouth, 2012), and this entire volume is a worthwhile read.)

Koller, David, Bernard Frischer, and Greg Humphreys. “Research challenges for digital archives of 3D cultural heritage models.” Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage, v 2, n 3, article 7 (December 2009).

Sabharwal, Arjun. “Defining digital curation in the digital humanities context.” In Digital Curation in the Digital Humanities: Preserving and Promoting Archival and Special Collections, 11-25. Elsevier, 2015.

Lowood, Henry. “Memento Mundi: Are Virtual Worlds History?” iPres 2009, 6th International Conference on Preservation of Digital Objects.

McDonough, Jerome, et al. Preserving virtual worlds final report. August 31, 2010.

Thwaites, Hal. “Digital Heritage: What Happens When We Digitize Everything?” In Visual Heritage in the Digital Age, Springer Series on Cultural Computing, 327-348. Springer, 2013.

Dodgson, Neil A. “Going to the movies: lessons from the film industry for 3D libraries.” In 3D Research Challenges, edited by M. Ioannides and E. Quak, 93-103. Springer, 2014.

Bennett, Michael J. “Evaluating the creation and preservation challenges of photogrammetry-based 3D models” (2015) UConn Libraries Published Works. Paper 52.

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