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Digital document preservation

  • By Lucid Team
  • 10 March 2023

What is Digital document preservation

Digital document preservation is a process by which digital data is preserved in digital form in order to ensure the


durability and

intellectual integrity of the information contained therein

Need for digital preservation

Vast amount of ‘born-digital’ data, especially in science and engineering

Physical deterioration: medium is vulnerable to deterioration and catastrophic loss.

Digital obsolescence: Digital technology is on a fast track

Digital preservation: issues

data is maintained in the repository without being damaged, lost or maliciously altered;

data can be found, extracted and served to a user;

data can be interpreted and understood by the user; and

the above can be achieved in the long term.

Digital preservation process

  • Organisational

  • Managerial and

  • Technical

Organisational issues

Digital preservation policy

Justification for preservation

Organisational and financial commitment

Preservation of authentic resources and quality control

Metadata creation

High-level identification of roles and responsibilities

Training and education

Managerial issues

Preservation planning

Developing strategy

Taking sole responsibility for preservation

Dealing with IT staff or external preservation service providers

Methods of digital preservation

Bitstream Copying

Durable, Persistent Media





Preservation Metadata

Challenges of digital preservation

  • Technology obsolescence

  • Absence of established standards, protocols, and proven methods for preserving digital information

  • technological or economic feasibility of operating on a mass scale


Case study 1: E-mail preservation

Electronic Mail

  • Now ubiquitous in many business contexts

  • A mixture of records and other stuff

  • High-risk if not managed properly:

  • Loss of accountability, efficiency, public credibility, organisational memory, etc.

  • There also may be legal and financial consequences

  • An obvious candidate for the records management approach

Some specific challenges of E-mail

Inappropriate content

For example: spam, personal messages, illegal content

Wide range of attachment types – some will provide preservation challenges of their own

Unclear responsibilities:

Users can be reluctant to ‘manage’ incoming mail

E-mail seen as personal domain, not as organisational property ... this can have consequences …

Approaches to managing e-mail

  • Developing specific policies for managing email within an organisation

  • Produce guidance for creators (and others)

  • Identify the chain of custody through lifecycle

  • Need to involve all people involved, e.g. creators, managers, records managers, IT staff, etc.

E-mail preservation

  • Appraisal

  • Determining what content needs to be preserved

  • Destruction of transient/unnecessary e-mails

  • Saving e-mail records independently of the e-mail client

  • Check that content is complete - comprising message body, headers & attachments

  • Consider authenticity requirements

  • Ingest into an organisational EDRMS or repository

  • Make decisions on appropriate preservation strategies for content and attachments

  • Selecting a standard format?

  • Significant properties?


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