Publish a scholarly book and, absent a flood or other disaster, chances are it will last as long as a library has space for it—long enough to become part of the conversation in its field if it's notable enough. But create a pioneering work of digital scholarship, and how to preserve it becomes more of a challenge—in fact, one of several. While online scholarship often has dazzle—dynamic maps, data visualizations, or other features that invite interaction and exploration—it can have a harder time catching the eye of scholars who are used to arguments packaged in articles and monographs. Build it, and the experts won't necessarily come—at least not yet in great numbers
Bradley J. Daigle, director of digital curation services at the University of Virginia Library, calls this "digital stewardship." It's an essential but easily overlooked element in any digital-humanities project. Born-digital work can die. Digital stewardship "involves care and feeding" to make sure that doesn't happen, he says. "My unit essentially pays attention to the life cycle of the digital object."
"Most people conceive of preservation as backups," Mr. Daigle says. But tending a piece of digital scholarship involves much more than just dumping a copy in an archive.