Clarifying preservation intentions is likely to be a good starting point for preservation planning for diverse digital collections. This applies both in terms of identifying what needs to be kept and what does not warrant the use of limited preservation resources, and in terms of opening up conversations about what is required in order to achieve preservation intentions. This paper describes an approach being explored by the National Library of Australia to negotiate formal and reviewable statements of 'preservation intent' for each of the digital collections in its care with those responsible for those collections. The paper looks at the relationship with the widely discussed concept of 'significant properties', as well as the other benefits that the approach is delivering. The paper also looks at the preservation intent statements for archived web collections at the NLA as an illustrative case.
The approach described in this paper is based on a conviction that methods and solutions in digital preservation do not exist in a policy vacuum. Rather, they are only meaningfully discussed as solutions to problems that threaten or frustrate the organisation's explicit access intentions.
This approach still refers to significant properties as a critical part of the preservation planning process. We believe it puts the full identification and evaluation of significant properties into a more useful context: that is, being later in the decision-making process.
At the very least, we aim to be in a position to know whether preservation action will be needed and whether a bit-level preservation copy will be good enough when access to content is lost.
As with most preservation processes, evaluating and articulating preservation intentions is likely to be an ongoing process requiring proactive management and periodic review. Our current conception of it still requires further development but it has given the NLA a useful start in real preservation planning.
Without some kind of understanding between curators and preservers, we are doomed to recurring nasty surprises based on mismatched expectations.