Blog: Looking back on iPRES 2019

By Marcel Ras, Organizing & Program Chair iPRES 2019

iPRES is the premier and longest-running conference series on digital preservation. iPRES brings together 300-400 scientists, students, researchers, archivists, librarians, providers, and other experts to share recent developments, innovative projects and to collaboratively solve problems.

Now the conference is behind us, it is time for some reflections. After 4 days, 50 sessions and over 100 presentations, iPRES 2019 was closed Thursday afternoon at 4 o’clock. This was my first iPRES, out of eight, in which I did not present work we are doing in The Netherlands. The first iPRES in which I was not able to absorb new developments. I tried, sitting in one of the conference rooms, listening to one of the superb presentations. But it just did not enter my brain, as that was full with organizing stuff. So, a warning for future iPRES organizers: forget about catching up on new digipres developments – or catching up in general – as you will be way too busy!

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have missed this experience for the world. Organizing this big event which brought together over 400 scientists, students, researchers, archivists, librarians, providers, and other experts to share recent developments and innovative projects in a wide variety of topics in digital preservation, proved to be one of the most rewarding experiences in my digital preservation career so far.

iPRES 2019

Conference hosts
This year the conference was organized by a group of institutes for the first time, under the flag of the Dutch Digital Heritage Network. This network is a collaborative effort of a group of Dutch heritage institutes, helping to address the challenge of reliable access to digital resources. The ultimate goal is to develop a network of common facilities, services and knowledge base to improve the visibility, usability, and sustainability of the ample digital collections of Dutch heritage institutes.

Making new friends
As collaboration is the main driver for the network, the focus of the 16th iPRES conference had to be collaboration and bringing together different communities as well as a diversity in expertise. And I think this did work out very well. Over 200 first timers attended the conference, seeing new faces and making new friends. That is more than we have ever seen at iPRES and, hopefully, this is a starting point for new alliances.

iPRES 2019

The Great Digital Preservation Bake-Off
A conference is always about finding out about new developments, following current practices and appreciating cutting edge developments. This year we tried something new in connecting vendors with the community of practitioners.

The Great Digital Preservation Bake-Off was there to challenge system developers to show what they have to offer. Not as a competition, but to connect communities with each other. The best drivers for connection are drinks and food, so in the best tradition of the Great British Bake-Off (in Dutch, “heel Holland bakt”) we served muffins, biscuits and cupcakes during the sessions, while vendors and developers were baking.

In the sessions we had vendors of end-to-end solutions demonstrating their solutions based on a data set we provided and developers demonstrating content and workflow specific solutions. So the Bake-Off was the chance for vendors & developers to present, and curious digital preservation minds to inquire, how tools fare in comparable situations.