Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: Sept. 21, 2021, 7:20 a.m. Humanist 35.254 - Institutional Support for DH Websites

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 254.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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    [1]    From: maurizio lana <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.251: Institutional Support for DH Websites (73)

           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.251: Institutional Support for DH Websites (13)

    [3]    From: Ciula, Arianna <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.251: Institutional Support for DH Websites (27)

        Date: 2021-09-20 13:03:16+00:00
        From: maurizio lana <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.251: Institutional Support for DH Websites


i subscribe to all that was said in this thread. in particular the
hope and the practical impossibility for the libraries to guarantee
the long-term functional conservation of DH websites, and
the workaround of pruning the dynamicity of the sites in order to
achieve better opportunities for preservation with a static website.

what i would like to add is the fact that this problem is (only) our
entry point in the huge and troubled field of digital preservation
which implies hardware preservation and software preservation. all
the best efforts we can produce to achieve the functional
preservation of a given website are software-related and can
optimistically give some 10? 15? more years of life. as a person
involved in the ordinary management of a digital library
( i know that every update, not to speak
upgrade, of the software is troublesome: the OS, the webserver, the
language (PHP), the Samba interface for the site backup, ... every
time you update or upgrade a part of the system you hope that
afterwards everything will continue to run smoothly. so in principle
the long-term preservation is not so different from the short-term
preservation. and i understand that a library see all this as "not
its job".

the alternative would probably be that "the institution" (academic,
librarian, third-party, etc.) offered a long-term guaranteed toolbox
for website creation. but also in that case, in the end there are
the hardware problems, when the institution, whichever it be, will
change the hardware of the server running the website. and at that
moment or you can re-design from scratch the website, or you are
practically lost.

manuscripts, books, physical supports, have a useful lifespan which
digital contents cannot achieve.
our best website in the most optimistic view won't live for more
than a small fraction of the lifespan of a book.

so a good policy could be that of deciding already in the
project definition phase which are the "graceful degradation
levels" of the website and how to manage them. including a final
completely static state which preserves the availability of most of
the usefulness and content of the site.


Il 20/09/21 11:21, Frederike Neuber ha

A lot has already been said about preserving the presentation and
functionality layer of the web application, which I also agree with. This
challenge cannot be left to the libraries; rather, it must be tackled from
different perspectives (technical, financial, etc).

However, besides the already mentioned ways to preserve your web
application, you may also want to consider publishing the underlying data
with some documentation and under open licences in a repository (perhaps
you are already doing this). In the end the scholarly effort often lies
primarily in the data, even if most of us need an interface to use it. But:
if your current website will not be longer available and the data is at
least accessible in a repository, new interfaces can be build in the future
(maybe in the context of other projects).

Giulio Regeni, Mohammed Mahmoud Street, Cairo

Maurizio Lana
Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici
Università del Piemonte Orientale
piazza Roma 36 - 13100 Vercelli
tel. +39 347 7370925

        Date: 2021-09-20 08:52:18+00:00
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.251: Institutional Support for DH Websites

Dear All,

I am afraid I don't understand exactly why libraries (included university
libraries) cannot take charge of the maintenance of digital libraries (and
web sites, and the like) which replace thousands of books and provide
irreplaceable research data, while they cover without question the huge
costs of the maintenance of the (often less used) paper materials, with all
that this implies in terms of rooms, staff, security, electricity and
heating supply, etc.

Best wishes

        Date: 2021-09-20 08:28:39+00:00
        From: Ciula, Arianna <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.251: Institutional Support for DH Websites

Dear John,

Just to add to the excellent points others made you might find it useful to read
about King’s Digital Lab approach to archiving and sustainability:

  *   Smithies, J., Westling, C., Sichani, A.M., Mellen, P., & Ciula, A.
Managing 100 Digital Humanities Projects: Digital Scholarship & Archiving in
King’s Digital
Lab<>. Digital
Humanities Quarterly 13.1 (2019).
  *   Blogposts on exposing datasets:
  *   Webpage describing the holistic approach and listing all the projects:


Dr Arianna Ciula
Deputy Director and Senior Analyst | King’s Digital Laboratory | King's College
London | Virginia Woolf Building Room 2.50 | 22 Kingsway | London WC2B 6LE
DDI: +44 (0)20 7848 7486 |

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