Digital Preservation Defined

In the past year, the ALA’s Preservation and Reformatting Section of the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services has been working on a definition for “digital preservation.”  Although it will continue to be developed and revised as we understand more about the subject, they have created three forms of the definition:  short, medium, and long.

The short definition reads:

Digital preservation combines policies, strategies and actions that ensure access to digital content over time.

The medium definition reads:

Digital preservation combines policies, strategies and actions to ensure access to reformatted and born digital content regardless of the challenges of media failure and technological change. The goal of digital preservation is the accurate rendering of authenticated content over time.

The long definition is much more detailed:

Digital preservation combines policies, strategies and actions to ensure the accurate rendering of authenticated content over time, regardless of the challenges of media failure and technological change. Digital preservation applies to both born digital and reformatted content.

Digital preservation policies document an organization’s commitment to preserve digital content for future use; specify file formats to be preserved and the level of preservation to be provided; and ensure compliance with standards and best practices for responsible stewardship of digital information.

Digital preservation strategies and actions address content creation, integrity and maintenance.

Content creation includes:

  • Clear and complete technical specifications
  • Production of reliable master files
  • Sufficient descriptive, administrative and structural metadata to ensure future access
  • Detailed quality control of processes

Content integrity includes:

  • Documentation of all policies, strategies and procedures
  • Use of persistent identifiers
  • Recorded provenance and change history for all objects
  • Verification mechanisms
  • Attention to security requirements
  • Routine audits

Content maintenance includes:

  • A robust computing and networking infrastructure
  • Storage and synchronization of files at multiple sites
  • Continuous monitoring and management of files
  • Programs for refreshing, migration and emulation
  • Creation and testing of disaster prevention and recovery plans
  • Periodic review and updating of policies and procedures

[from ALA]

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