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hat size is the risk inherent in the new
technologies for cultural heritage preser-
vation? The institutions agree it's huge.
Technologies come and go with such shattering rapi-
dity.What can be done about it? That's the task the
nine experts ­ archivists, librarians, technologists and
academics ­ were set at the first DigiCULT Forum,
held in May 2002.
They met in round table discussion in sunny
Barcelona, Spain, to debate the Integrity and
Authenticity of Digital Objects.They differed over what
these terms actually meant but identified this confu-
sion as one of the problems: Many different kinds of
digital objects, countless usages and values, and innu-
merable users each bringing their own evaluations of
the objects, whether they be single documents, books
or video recordings.
There was, as yet, little adequate technology to do
the job, they decided. Solutions lay in the hands of
the object creators and preservers, who were some-
times one and the same but who needed criteria to
work to. But, what should those criteria be? They
must find out, the Forum experts realised.
But they did discover a future for recordkeepers.
One of the Nine told the group: `We don't call
them archivists any more. If we called them archivists,
nobody would let them near the place.'
(Nationaal Archief), told the experts: `What the agenda
doesn't say is who are really involved in dealing with
authenticity and what do we understand authenticity
is.We have people from different backgrounds and
they might have different perceptions of what
authenticity is.'
Years ago, that would not have been difficult for
Sir Hilary Jenkinson, the grand old man of British
recordkeeping who took from a dusty academic shelf
the Archivists' Art and returned it a Science. In his
1960's Manual of Archive Administration, he defined
authentic archives as those `preserved in official
custody . . . and free from suspicion of having been
tampered with'.
But this was about the time the Father of the
Internet, New Yorker Leonard Kleinrock, was at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology preparing his
PhD thesis, Information Flow in Large Communication
destined to be the first little twinkling light at
the far end of the line of communication that trans-
formed into the roaring information superhighway
of the 21st Century.
Now, in the new millennium, the problem is more
complex. One of the Forum experts, Luciana
Duranti, professor at the School of Library, Archival
and Information Studies at the University of British
Columbia in Vancouver, summed up the problem to
the Forum e-journal, DigiCULT.Info: `The fast pace
with which technology for creating and recording
information is developing threatens the authenticity
of records. Archivists, governments and other institu-
tions that rely on these records are losing control.
I would not hesitate to call the situation disastrous.'
As the Barcelona discussion opened, the Forum's
search for `authenticity and integrity' was questioned
by another Netherlands expert, Annemieke de Jong,
from the Netherlands Audiovisual Archive
(Nederlands Audiovisueel Archief). She argued that the
theme implied that Forum members already knew
`what authenticity is in the digital domain'. She
asked: `Can these traditional concepts of authenticity
and integrity still be applied on digital objects in the
first place? Can we still think of authenticity in the
domain of digital objects?'
Archivschule Marburg archives science lecturer,
Nils Brübach, approached it from another angle. He
preferred to see the concepts as functional rather
than technical. He questioned current opinion that
saw authenticity and integrity as absolutes and he
DigiCULT 11
Provenance Corrupt or Not
`Authenticity in recorded information connotes
precise, yet disparate, things in different contexts
and communities. It can mean being original but
also being faithful to an original; it can mean
uncorrupted but also of clear and known provenance,
"corrupt" or not.'
Abby Smith, Authenticity in a Digital Environment,
Council on Library and Information Resources
(CLIR).Washington, D.C., May 2000. http://
he agenda called for investigation of the
question `How to implement methods for
assuring authenticity and integrity in the
long-term'. Forum Moderator, Hans Hofman, archi-
vist with the National Archives of the Netherlands
Jenkinson, Hilary:
A Manual of Archive
Administration. London:
Percy Lund, Humphries &
Co. Ltd., 1965.
Kleinrock, Leonard:
Information Flow in
Large Communication
Nets. Cambridge:
Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, 1961.
Issue 1, July 2002.