Archaeology Data Service

ERPANET - Electronic Resource Preservation and Access Network

The challenges of digital preservation reach into many different sectors, not just the research community. As the use of digital technology increases generally, so the need for research and expertise in digital preservation becomes more pressing in areas as diverse as government, industry, health services and commerce, as well as in museums, libraries and archives. The ADS is a partner in a new international coalition called "ERPANET" which aims to expand and disseminate knowledge in digital preservation. Here the project leaders describe ERPANET and what it hopes to deliver over the next three years.

The European Union-funded ERPANET Project will establish an expandable European Consortium, to make viable and visible information, best practice and skills development in the area of digital preservation for cultural heritage and scientific objects. ERPANET brings together a wide variety of partners from many different sectors. These include memory organisations (such as museums, libraries and archives), computer and software industries, research institutions, local and national government agencies, organisations in the entertainment and creative industries, as well as partners in the commercial sector (including partners from pharmaceutical and petro-chemical companies, and financial institutions). The dominant feature of ERPANET will be the provision of a virtual clearinghouse and knowledge base on state-of-the-art developments in digital preservation. ERPANET will work to disseminate its expertise among participating individuals and institutions.

ERPANET is concerned with addressing the lack of awareness, fragmentation of knowledge and shortage of skills amongst the stakeholders about how to handle existing digital preservation problems, and how to plan effectively for the future so that experience can inform practices. It aims to tackle the lack of identification and focus on preservation of cultural heritage and scientific objects through nine core objectives. These range from identifying and raising awareness of information about the preservation of digital objects to the provision of enquiry and advisory services on preservation issues, practice, and technology. The dominant feature of ERPANET will be the exchanging of knowledge about state-of-the-art developments in digital preservation and the transfer of expertise among individuals and institutions. More specifically ERPANET will deliver a range of complementary services (e.g.content creation, advisory service, training and thematic workshops and fora), both to the information creation and user communities. It will make accessible tools, knowledge, and experience to create a network that will foster communication and development throughout Europe in the area of digital preservation and access.

ERPANET was launched in November 2001, and is currently completing its start-up phase. The first Advisory Committee meeting in April will bring together key figures from public and private sectors to help guide the project. Among the first activities that the partners are planning is a seminar for digital preservation experts in Toledo in June, focussing attention on digitisation and preservation. This will include discussions on content-based image retrieval, quality assurance and data migration. It is hoped that the ERPANET and ARENA projects - which have complementary aims and objectives - will be able to support each other with joint activities.

Seamus Ross, Niklaus BŁtikofer, Mariella Guercio, Hans Hofman and Peter McKinney

The principal ERPANET partners are HATII at the Universty of Glasgow, Rijksarchiefdienst, The Netherlands, Institute for Archival and Library Science, Universitŗ degli studi di Urbino, and the Schweizerisches Bundesarchiv in Switzerland. It is funded through the EU's Information Society and Technology Directorate. For more information about the project visit http://www.erpanet.org/. If you would like to attend the seminar in Toledo, or would be willing to present your work to other experts in the field, please contact Pete McKinney, ERPANET Co-ordinator at P.McKinney@hatii.arts.gla.ac.uk

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