Digital documentary heritage has critical importance for humanity as it has become a key resource for knowledge creation and sharing. Our society is changing from an industrial society into an information society. Nevertheless, we have not yet been able, publicly or privately, to find sustainable economic solutions to achieve ‘continuity of content’. Enhancing the sustainability of the Information Society is a shared responsibility of public and private parties. The main parties to act on this responsibility are Governments, Memory Institutions in the broadest sense of the term, and ICT industry. UNESCO has a convening power on a global level to bring these parties to the table. PERSIST, a Unesco-programme under the Memory of the World-banner, aims to create a platform to support the dialogue among these parties in order to enhance the continuity of content.
The Vancouver declaration
At the Memory of the World Conference in Vancouver (September 2012) international experts agreed that there is a pressing need to establish a roadmap for solutions, agreements and policies, that ensure long term access and trustworthy preservation of digital information. The roadmap should address issues like open government, open data, open access and electronic government. In order to establish such a roadmap, governments, social organizations and the IT-industry will have to work together.
The Unesco/UBC Vancouver Declaration was the starting point of the PERSIST Project, which was launched at an international conference in The Hague on 5 and 6 December 2013. However, the rationale behind PERSIST is not a new one. Already in 2003, in its visionary Charter for the Preservation of the Digital Heritage, article 12, UNESCO defines its task ‘to serve as a reference point and a forum where Member States, intergovernmental and international non-governmental organizations, civil society and the private sector may join together in elaborating objectives, policies and projects in favour of the preservation of the digital heritage’.
The PERSIST project
In the PERSIST project, as part of the Action Plan for Strengthening the Memory of the World Programme (adopted by the 191th Executive board, objective 4a), UNESCO has joined forces with the International Council on Archives (ICA) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) to provide a global platform with the convening and advocacy power of UNESCO.
In close cooperation with other stakeholders, the PERSIST project aims to enhance the sustainability of the information society by establishing continuity of preservation of and access to information. In doing so, PERSIST seeks to help secure important mechanisms of good governance and the right of access to knowledge and information. To accomplish this, PERSIST will work to establish cooperation and dialogue between governments, social organizations, and the IT-industry, and to create practical solutions in the area of sustainable digital preservation.
(Visualisation of the PERSIST project created by Elco van Staveren during the international conference at which the kick-off of PERSIST took place)
Within the PERSIST project, three separate topics have been identified, that will be addressed by three different PERSIST Working Groups.
- With the topic of Digital Preservation Policies, PERSIST wants to raise awareness among all stakeholders, including governments and the IT-industry, about the importance of (cooperation on) sustainable digital preservation. This working group is led by Unesco/MoW;
- The topic Technology puts the focus on a stronger collaboration between memory institutions and the ICT-community, especially in the area of the archiving of legacy software. This working group is led by ICA;
- The third topic, Content and Best Practices, aims to enhance the practices in memory institutions across the globe in the area of content curation and digital preservation. This working group is led by IFLA.
For more information about the Working groups, see PERSIST organisation.
In March 2016 it was agreed at the PERSIST meeting in Abu Dhabi (UAE), that PERSIST will formally become a part of the Unesco Memory of the World programme.