Getting Started with Digital Preservation

On 28th April 2016 we attended the Digital Preservation Coalition’s workshop entitled ‘Getting Started with Digital Preservation’. It was a brilliant introduction into the processes involved in undertaking digital preservation, the tools currently available and the standards such work should adheres to.

The day began with an overview of what digital preservation is. Sharon McMeekin explained that digital preservation is an active process that needs to be integrated into daily business rather than being tackled as an aside or as a temporary initiative. It requires early intervention and work on an ongoing basis. She gave some specific advice on the kind of systems that should be used for digital preservation:

  • They need to be resilient, based on standards and be able to be tested
  • They must include error checking and refreshment, be multi-media compatible, self-reporting and backed-up
  • They must provide authenticity checks on data to show alterations by generating a checksum for each digital item. This is unique to the item and would only change if the item has changed (by, for example, degradation or alteration)

We then moved on to Assessing Institutional Readiness. This was described as a benchmarking process to determine the actions required for digital preservation, and revolves around asking the following questions:

  • How much of the organisation is in scope?
  • How much can you rely on others?
  • What will you gain from the exercise?

Sharon suggested using the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation in this endeavour to create a document which identifies risks, sets objectives, prioritises developments and can be used as an advocacy tool.

We were introduced to the risks affecting digital material:

  • Media/technology obsolescence
  • Media/technology failure
  • Human error
  • Natural disaster
  • Malicious damage
  • Viruses
  • Network failure
  • Disassociation

One way to combat these issues is to migrate the data into a more technologically-stable, secure format and control access to the data through passwords and systems. Metadata which follows the PREMIS standard should also be recorded and preserved alongside the data so its context is not lost. The DPC recommends undertaking a risk assessment whereby the risk, its consequences, likelihood and impact are analysed and priorities are drawn out.

We were shown DROID, a characterisation tool developed by The National Archives which analyses the files on a system, recording how many files there are, how big they are and what formats they are in. It also generates a checksum for each file.

Digital Asset Registers were recommended to use as a coordination tool for actions. They gather all necessary information (Asset name/Location/Owner/Format etc.) into one place, assigning responsibilities and producing a document which can be shared, expanded and updated.

Some final advice we were given was:

  • Think of digital preservation as a shared activity, engaging stakeholders and assigning responsibilities to colleagues
  • Continually update your own skills and knowledge by attending training and identifying useful resources

Having attended this engaging and worthwhile workshop, we now have some foundation knowledge on what is involved in digital preservation and feel ready and excited to begin work on digital preservation at the Bodleian.

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