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Digital preservation: an introduction


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Digital preservation Joanna Fleming and Matthew Burgess presented at Digital collecting for NSW public library staff
27 May 2019

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Digital preservation: an introduction

  1. 1. Digital preservation an introduction Joanna Fleming, Digital Curation Specialist, @jo_fleming_ Matthew Burgess, Digital Collections Analyst, @matthewpburgess
  2. 2. Analogue information • Robust • Tangible • Independently understandable • Well-developed approaches to preservation • Experienced in assigning value
  3. 3. Digital information • Ephemeral • Interpreted through technology • Obsolescence in: • Media • File formats • Software/hardware • Documentation • Requires new skills and solutions • Requires intervention at the earliest point possible Illustrations by Matthew Burgess
  4. 4. What is digital preservation? • The series of managed activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital materials for as long as necessary • Refers to all of the actions required to maintain access to digital materials beyond the limits of media failure or technological and organisational change Digital Preservation Handbook, Digital Preservation Coalition
  5. 5. Digital preservation is people. “It is a problem for people, created by people and addressed through people.” -William Kilbride, Digital Preservation Coalition
  6. 6. Digital preservation is people.
  7. 7. Why does digital preservation matter? • To ensure that future library users can access material • Accountability • Legal obligations • Protecting financial invesments
  8. 8. Digital preservation activities include: • File format identification • File format validation • Fixity • Digital preservation metadata • Storage and backup • Preservation planning • Preservation actions
  9. 9. What is a digital object?
  10. 10. Keep the bits • All digital data is stored as a series of 0s and 1s, known as ‘binary digits’ or ‘bits’ • At a basic level, we need to make sure that our bits are not lost or damaged
  11. 11. What are the risks? • Media obsolescence • Media failure or decay (‘bit rot’) • Natural / human-made disaster • Loss may not be known without taking care to manage and preserve data properly Images by Aldric Rodríguez Iborra, Erin Standley, Marie Van den Broeck, Edward Boatman and Dilon Choudhury from the Noun Project
  12. 12. How do we solve these problems? At a minimum: • Keep more than one copy • Refresh storage media • Integrity check your data (also called ‘fixity’)
  13. 13. Fixity and checksums Fixity checking is the process to verify that a digital object has not been altered or corrupted A ‘checksum’ or ‘hash value’ is a unique string derived from the file using software 9f4e28a46bdf017fa19cda4560b76b5fthe past 9f4e28a46bdf017fa19cda4560b76b5fthe future
  14. 14. Fixity and checksums 9f4e28a46bdf017fa19cda4560b76b5fthe past ac5ee9d8c099517fdc4f467b3fc44ca1the future
  15. 15. Integrity checking tools • The State Library uses the BagIt File Packaging Format and Bagger for born-digital collections You can read about this on our blog: transfer-and-fixity • You can find a list of (mostly free) tools on the Community Owned digital Preservation Tool Registry (COPTR)
  16. 16. Recap • Keep several copies of all your files • Keep one copy in a different geographical location • Don’t use the same storage technologies for each copy and don’t rely on a single vendor for all your data • Create checksums • Perform periodic integrity checks • Avoid having any one person with write access to all copies of data • Ultimately, you need a digital preservation system that manages all this for you (and more!)
  17. 17. Digital preservation is more than technology Technology • Storage and Back-Up • Repository & preservation Systems • Tools • Security Organisation • Policy & Strategy • Procedures • Risks and Benefits • Staffing Resources • Business Planning • Cost modelling • Funding • Sustainability • Staff skills Image Source: Kenney & McGovern, 2003,
  18. 18. Open Archival Information System (OAIS) model
  19. 19. IDENTIFY What digital content you have SELECT What content will be preserved? STORE What issues are there for long-term storage? PROTECT What steps are needed to protect your content? MANAGE What provisions are needed for long-term management? PROVIDE What considerations are there for long-term access?
  20. 20. Joanna Fleming, Digital Curation Specialist, @jo_fleming_ Matthew Burgess, Digital Collections Analyst, @matthewpburgess Further resources • Digital Preservation Handbook 2015, 2nd edn, Digital Preservation Coalition, viewed 7 April 2019, <>. • Harvey, R. & Weatherburn, J. 2018, Preserving Digital Materials, 3rd edn, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, United States. • Library of Congress n.d., Recommended Formats Statement, viewed 7 May 2019, <>. • National Library of Australia 2003, Guidelines for the preservation of digital heritage, UNESCO, viewed 7 April 2019, < materials/publications/full-list/guidelines-for-the-preservation-of-digital-heritage/>.