Brainscape Flashcards: For Digital Preservation

Digital preservation is massively multi-disciplinary and it can take time to be able to grasp the skills and concepts cross-discipline, wherever your origins may lie.

How do we develop the skills of new folk entering the field today?

How do we re-skill those who have worked in GLAM a long time in disciplines other than digital preservation?

These are interesting questions I ask myself quite a lot. There are a few contexts where I consider it important:

They are of course closely related to one another.

What I think is most important is that as new colleagues leave university, apprenticeship, or similar; and present colleagues move-sideways in an organisation; they’re given the opportunity to hit the ground running and I think that means developing an understanding of terminology and tools that we’re using every day at the coal face of our work.

There are courses (DPTP, and DPOE) that can help, and I’m sure there are exceptional university modules as well.

I’ve taken an app approach using the strengths of an existing tool called Brainscape to trial putting some of this knowledge into the hands of anyone with an Android phone or iPhone.

What is Brainscape?

Brainscape is a flashcard app for smartphones that uses a technique called confidence based repetition.

Users look at a new flashcard, and rate how well they know it, and then move onto the next. The ratings help the app to create a distribution for the repetition of knowledge so the less someone knows something the more it will appear until it becomes more well learned over time.

I’ve been using the app for a number of years for learning language and trivia. I like the app a lot and I like the presentation of it. I find it accessible and easy to use.

And I hope it will work for digital preservation!

Digital Preservation as a Set-of-Flashcards

At the time of writing there are 12 decks of cards across a range of topics:

There is an emphasis on broad learning.

Each topic can be visited in turn:

Where a flashcard looked like it would take too much space to explain, and based on feedback from colleagues, I have elected to keep a four-bullet point max in a set of learners cards, and then expanded on the idea or concept in an advanced deck, for example, Concepts, and Concepts Advanced.

And the lists can also be used as a glossary. Just something that can be looked up quickly when needed:

Open Source (

And of course, these cards are open source. Please help to contribute on

If there are issues with cards, please open an issue. If you know how, open a pull request.

And if there is anything missing, please feel free to do the same. I suspect decks on Audio Visual Preservation, PREMIS, and Web Archiving would be really great.

And of course, use the cards and send feedback. I hope to make them into something that *is* useful – so it might take some good information and a few iterative steps to do this. I’ll be trying to do the same by practising myself, and asking colleagues to give them a whirl!

Try them online or on your phone for free here…


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