Saturday, September 05, 2015

New Case Study: Digital Preservation Strategies for a Small Private College

New Case Study: Digital Preservation Strategies for a Small Private College. Meg Miner. Society of American Archivists. May 19, 2015.
     Well established “best practices” in digital preservation do little to address day-to-day realities in repositories that do not have the money or staff for digital preservation activities. The question then is how to provide good stewardship for digital content before a complete preservation system is in place?

They assumed their institutional repository (IR) would work as a preservation platform. After attending a NEDCC workshop about digital preservation program attributes, it became apparent that IWU’s repository, DigitalCommons, hosted by bepress,  did not meet the requirements for a full DP system. It lacked included bit-level analysis on ingest and during storage, file format normalization, and a means for detecting and replacing corrupt files.

The article is an in-depth explanation of actions taken by IWU’s archivist prior to the POWRR Project and the workflows established as a result of it. The Archives does not currently have a full scale preservation solution, but insights from the POWRR helped establish digital records’ documentation practices and storage strategies.

In 2009, files were copied to a 5-disk Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) drive that was monitored by library IT. One disk failed in 2014 and the entire RAID was replaced with one of reduced capacity and relocated from the library. Several project members were looking for a quick, simple solution, but from the workshop they realized no tool will replace making decisions about which historical records hold significance to our institutions. These values and individual behaviors are what the cultural heritage community truly needs to spend time on.

Anne Kenney and Nancy McGovern on digital preservation: “A fully implemented and viable preservation program addresses organizational issues, technological concerns, and funding questions, balancing them like a three-legged stool.”

A lack of answers for everything does not mean "being free to stand by and do nothing. If support for a full preservation program is unlikely, there are less resource intensive ways to provide good stewardship for digital records". The lessons learned in the Digital POWRR workshop and confirmed by practices now in place show that "slight modifications to familiar accession workflows will create an audit trail and prepare digital objects for bit-level preservation storage". It is important to start documenting our decisions today so that future repository managers who will inherit the outcomes of our work, will be able to carry these objects into the next generation of preservation products.

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