A huge heritage of information concerning life and recent cultural production is preserved, for now, in a often precarious way and without guarantees of maintenance over the medium and long term. In the absence of a specific safeguard project, this heritage risks being lost due to carelessness, technical defects and software obsolescence.

The PAD project, promoted by the University of Pavia, aims to provide a tool to collect electronic documents produced by personalities representing today’s culture and society, guaranteeing its conservation over time and the subsequent study, respecting privacy and copyright. PAD provides for the incrementality of each fund with further contributions, so that the archive remains updated for the authors it already holds.


Why a digital archive?

The idea of a digital archive starts with some observations: since the 80’s we witness a gradual paper support’s disappearance as a means of archiving, in favor of the increasingly massive information technology’s use, which does not guarantee a secure safe storage over time.
The advanced technologies, the run-up to new software, the diversification of storage media make it difficult to ensure personal and collective memory’s security. Often the files dating back a few years ago are now illegible with the new software; floppy disks have seen their decline in the 90’s, replaced by CD-ROMs and then by DVDs and USB flash drives, storage media which in turn are depleting their function in favor of new technologies increasingly based on the network.

What we collect

The material conferred is very varied: filled with text documents (working papers, drafts and drafts at various stages, some unpublished, pdf of went to press volumes), and to a lesser extent there are videos, photographs and images, drafts of cover. PAD is studying an extension of the type of files stored, with solutions designed to host and eventually make available to scholars digital material produced on the web (social networks, websites, blogs) and mail. Until now, we have focused on files copied from material supports used by the authors (main computer hard disk, external hard drives) and cloud storage systems (Dropbox, Google Drive). In the case of data from floppy disks of the 80’s, the files are saved and then the disks returned to the author. Therefore, we are studying not only the techniques for data extraction, but also the possibility of physically preserving the supports if the author wishes to donate them.


In 2009 Beppe Severgnini, then president of the Associazione Alunni of the University of Pavia, launched the idea to found an archive that collects digital memories of writers, journalists and intellectuals from our time. The archive must collect different type materials, ensure the fund’s long-term preservation and possibly, according to the author’s provisions, be accessible to scholars.
This idea has produced the first prototype of PAD – Pavia Archivi Digitali. Severgnini has immediately given a sign of confidence entrusting the university more than sixteen thousand files of his archive and sponsoring PAD at his publishing house.
In the following years, we have focused efforts on transforming the prototype into a sustainable project over time, capable of handling large amounts of data and keeping them safe.

On the scientific level, after the first running-in phase with the construction of a prototype, we moved on to a medium and long term planning. The project immediately envisaged a technical structure free from commercial products. It was considered that the management systems of existing repositories were not able to support the complexity of the project; it was then chosen for the construction of a system that is maintained open and be increased, possibly interoperable with other platforms. After the completion of the acquisition and preservation procedures, the software for the management of the funds was implemented, and from the academic year 2015/16 the planning of technical seminars began to establish the methods for cataloging the material.