Digital Preservation Plan: Ensuring Long Term Access and Authenticity of Digital Collections

For nearly two decades libraries and cultural heritage organizations have been fulfilling our role as stewards of digital resources by acquiring and reformatting analog collections into digital format and by making the digital resources available to our respective communities to meet their information and education needs.

During that time, millions of digital resources have been created, however little or no thought has been given to the long-term access to these resources. Yet when professionals across the cultural heritage community are surveyed, 78.4% respond that they expect to provide access to these collections for more than 10 years, 2.7% planned to provide access for less than 10 years, while 18.9% didn’t know how long they would provide access. (Participants in 2006-2007 NEDCC sponsored, NEH funded Stewardship of Digital Asset (SODA) workshops completed a pre-workshop survey. This survey asked the participants a variety of questions regarding their digital programs. This author was one of the faculty members who have been cumulating data from the 110 institutions who participated in the SODA surveys.) At the same time only 20.7% reported that they had a digital preservation plan. Among the same group, 48% indicated that they planned to become a Trusted Digital Repository.

While the current economy may delay implementation of digital preservation programs, development of digital preservation plans can begin at anytime, allowing the organization to develop the foundation and knowledge required to develop a funding proposal for the digital preservation program. A digital preservation plan is the organization’s public statement regarding its commitment to preserve its digital collections through the development and evolution of a comprehensive digital preservation program. The plan will provide the mission, specific goals and objectives, and policies and procedures. It will define the preservation strategies, standards, digital content depositors, staffing, funding, roles and responsibilities, and the users. The digital preservation plan is based on two key documents: Trusted Digital Repositories: Attributes and Responsibilities (2003) and the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model (ISO 14721:2003).

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