The below glossary is a list of common terms used in digital preservation that are included in the workflow guidance.

Accession – ‘material that comes into an archive as a single acquisition is described as an accession. A number of accessions may form one single collection with shared provenance, e.g. the records of a business may be transferred to an archive over time.’ (ArchivesHub)

Appraisal – the process of identifying which content has continuing value and which content can be disposed. See our ‘‘What is Appraisal?’ document for more information.

Born digital – ‘digital materials which are not intended to have an analogue equivalent, either as the originating source or as a result of conversion to analogue form.’ (Digital Preservation Coalition Handbook)

Checksum – ‘a checksum is a string of characters that relate to a digital object, and which act as the object’s unique signature or digital finger print. Checksums can be used for checking the integrity of a digital object through comparison of the checksum over time.’ (Community Archives and Heritage Group – Digital Preservation for Community Archives)

Catalogue / Description – ‘a description of the material within an archival collection, providing essential information about the collection. Often also called an archival description, a catalogue, or a finding aid.’ (ArchivesHub)

Depositor – the person or organisation donating or depositing the content to the archive.

Digital objects – ‘describes an aggregated unit of digital content comprised of one or more related digital files. These related files might include metadata, master files and/or a wrapper to bind the pieces together.’ (Bodleian Libraries – Introduction to Digital Preservation)

Disk image – ‘a disk image is a file containing an exact copy of the entire contents of an electronic storage device.” (Community Archives and Heritage Group – Digital Preservation for Community Archives)

Emulation – the use of software (an emulator) to recreate an obsolete software and hardware environment, allowing access to original digital content and providing an authentic user experience.

Encryption software – a security tool to prevent unauthorised access to digital content.

Format migration – ‘a means of overcoming technical obsolescence by preserving digital content in a succession of current formats or in the original format that is transformed into the current format for presentation. The purpose of format migration is to preserve the digital objects and to retain the ability for clients to retrieve, display, and otherwise use them in the face of constantly changing technology.’ (NDSA)

Integrity Checking – a process that uses checksums to ensure that digital content has not been altered, lost, or damaged over time.

Intellectual Property Rights – any rights an individual or organisations hold in the content, including copyright and design rights.

Metadata – data about data. It is required ‘to manage and preserve digital materials over time and…assist in ensuring essential contextual, historical, and technical information is preserved along with the digital object.” (Digital Preservation Coalition Handbook)

Normalisation – ‘some digital repositories will place a limit on the number of formats which they will support, and as such may only support the formats which most best overall promote functionality, longevity and preservability. Normalisation, in this instance, is the process of converting a digital object from its original format to an accepted format, so that a repository can ingest and support the object.’ (Community Archives and Heritage Group – Digital Preservation for Community Archives)

Open Source – software for which the original source code is made available and may be redistributed and modified by users in accordance with an approved open source license.

Package – ‘any arbitrary container of digital data’ and ‘the act of creating an arbitrary container of digital data.’ (NDSA)

Redaction – ‘the separation of disclosable from non-disclosable information by blocking out individual words, sentences or paragraphs or the removal of whole pages or sections prior to the release of the document.’ See our Redaction Toolkit for more information.

Refreshing – ‘copying information content from one storage media to the same or another storage media.’ (Bodleian Libraries – Introduction to Digital Preservation)

Selection – a decision-making process to decide which content is transferred to the archive.

Storage media – devices that store the original digital content e.g. CDs, DVDs, floppy disks and hard drives.
Validation – checks whether the digital content conforms to their file format specification.

Write blocker – ‘an electronic device which prevents the ability for digital objects to be changed or altered during the process of transfer from one storage device to another. Write blockers were developed as a digital forensics tool, but can be used for digital preservation purposes during the ingest of digital objects into a repository.’ (Community Archives and Heritage Group – Digital Preservation for Community Archives)