The National Archives’ digitisation and document protection strategies

FOI request reference: CAS-69431-W4M6V3
Publication date: August 2021

Request

What strategy exists to:

1) Protect records and artefacts from damage and destruction because of the locations, designs and sizes of archival and museum buildings and their facilities during (a) times of peace and (b) times of war or terror attacks?
2) Make the most rapid and least expensive digitised copies of documents and make 3-D images of artefacts?
3) Store digitised records in various ways, so if one ceases to exist for whatever reasons, there will still be others?

Outcome

Information provided.

Response

What strategy exists to:
1) protect records and artefacts from damage and destruction because of the locations, designs and sizes of archival and museum buildings and their facilities during
(a) times of peace:
The National Archives’ approach to prevent its collection from damage and destruction is outlined in our Collection Preservation Policy 2018, published on our website.

(b) times of war or terror attacks:
In case of a war on British soil the protection of The National Archives’ collection would be addressed in collaboration with other government departments, such as the Ministry of Defence. In case of a terror attack, The National Archives’ Major Incident Management Team would be convened, and again, The National Archives would work closely with other responsible government departments.

2) make the most rapid and least expensive digitised copies of documents and make 3-D images of artefacts:
This Information is not held. Digitisation does not form part of our Collection Preservation Policy 2018 as linked to above. We estimate that approximately 10% of our vast collection has been digitised, equating to approximately 140 million images which are stored and preserved as laid out in (3) below. These copies are not made for preservation purposes, they are largely created as a result of third party request for copies of images for either personal use or onward publication, for example as part of a research project or a commercial product.

3) store digitised records in various ways, so if one ceases to exist for whatever reasons, there will still be others:
The National Archives’ Digital Archiving department is responsible for the long-term storage of The National Archives’ digitised records. We have several strategies in place to safeguard these over time. Our archival storage service maintains three copies. Two copies are held in a dedicated tape library at our Kew site and one copy is securely stored off site. We are able to check the copies to guard against corruption of the data or media over time and we test to ensure that data could be recovered from these tapes if necessary. We use more than one type of tape so that we are not dependent on a single supplier or technology. We also manage the digital and physical security of the copies.