World Digital Preservation Day
Today is World Digital Preservation Day, so here is a brief catch up on what we have been doing at Shropshire Archives from Archivist, Sara Downs….
During lockdown, I commenced a survey of our accession register to find all digital items that we have received. Currently, we do take certain digital items, but we are not able to look maintain them in an archival manner (see our interim Digital Policy). We are frequently asked ‘Why not just put them on a server or in the cloud?’ Well it is not that simple.
Digital archives like physical archives require certain interventions to maintain them. Like physical archives, they require quarantine, storage, and security measures with routine monitoring. Digital files as we all know can be subject to viruses, the same as physical records can have mould. This is something that needs to be stopped, so it doesn’t spread to the rest of the repository.
Digital records need to be provided with metadata so that we can routinely check their stability and ensure their authenticity. Ideally, we need to store three exact copies of a record on different media and in different locations to ensure preservation against the dreaded bit rot and the usual risks such as fire or flood that are faced by a traditional archive. We also need to ensure the security of the record in order to avoid malicious or accidental changes voiding its evidential properties.
The choice of file format has to be considered so that we have continued access, open source formats tend to be preferred over proprietary versions, which may be more difficult to access in the future. Some formats have ISO standards attached. Whatever formats we chose to take, we have to be able to ensure that the records can still be read.
We also have to consider how depositors transfer their digital records to us. How many of you still have floppy disks with files stored on them? If we agree to transfer files from such media we have to have the equipment, both hardware and software to extract the information forensically, so that no changes are made to the files on transfer.
This is just the tip of the iceberg and by conducting this survey, Shropshire Archives is making baby steps towards creating a digital repository.