To get started you will need to:
- evaluate the digital records you have, or are likely to receive, to identify formats and potential volumes
- identify records held on removable storage media (such as memory sticks or floppy disks) with a view to transferring them to a more secure storage environment, such as a server
- ensure there are at least two copies of a digital record. This will allow you to work on a copy and allow you to revert to an earlier version if required. Technical obsolescence of standard formats (such as Windows) is not likely to be an immediate threat so it may be possible to retain the original format on a separate secure server
- develop a system of governance by creating a digital preservation strategy
- think about funding. Public archives are likely to acquire digital records from a variety of sources and will need to be able to sustain access to them. If the archive is unable to support digital preservation they will not be able to present the records to users over time. Archives creating digital surrogates need to remember that these assets will also need to be preserved and should be managed through the digital preservation strategy. A ‘paper only’ service may lead investors to decide that the archive no is longer helping the organisation to meet its business objectives
You can use and modify established archival skills (such as description, appraisal, access and service provision) to manage digital preservation. These skills can be integrated into business as usual with minimal impact or requirements for specialists.
Alternatively, you could source specialist knowledge:
- the use of existing expertise within the organisation (for example, the ICT department)
- sharing knowledge and experiences within your archival network
- contracting out the service (or parts of it) to a third party either as a shared service or individually, depending on need and scale
The ‘golden rules’ of digital preservation
In most cases the processes for digital preservation will be dependent on the capabilities and resources of the organisation. There are however, some basic principles which should always be employed:
- only ever work on a copy of a record, to ensure long-term preservation of the content when it was originally entered into the digital preservation process
- always document what actions and processes have taken place to allow others to learn how digital preservation has been done, and either repeat the processes or develop them as required
- ensure that the digital records received into the digital preservation process are unaltered. This may be achieved through the use of Checksum algorithm software
A webinar took place on Friday 27 March to discuss the five case studies that accompany The National Archives’ cloud storage and digital preservation guidance.
The webinar was an opportunity to learn more about experiences with digital preservation, the cloud, and digital storage. The subjects of the case studies include: the Archives and Records Council Wales Digital Preservation Working Group; Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford; Dorset History Centre; and Tate Gallery.
A recording is now available.
Find out more about how cloud storage can address the needs of public archives in the UK in our guidance and case studies below.
Guidance on cloud storage and digital preservation (PDF, 0.43MB)
Case study: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford (PDF, 0.14MB)
Case study: Dorset History Centre (PDF, 0.13MB)
Case study: Parliamentary Archives (PDF, 0.35MB)
Case study: Tate Gallery (PDF, 0.19MB)
- Parsimonious Preservation: a paper by Tim Gollins at The National Archives on the small, simple steps you can take to move forward in digital preservation
- The Digital Preservation Training Programme
- Digital Preservation Handbook
- Digital Curation Manual: from the Digital Curation Centre
- JISC: a number of resources on digital preservation and records management, typically (but not exclusively) for the higher education sector
- The Library of Congress: information on promoting personal archiving to individuals
- OAIS Reference Model: introduction to the Open Archival Information System Reference Model
- You’ve Got to Walk Before You Can Run: first steps for managing born-digital content received on physical Media, intended for anyone who does not know where to begin managing born-digital materials