Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Assessing Digital Preservation at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

Assessing Digital Preservation at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Alice Sara Prael, Abbey Potter. The Signal. March 2, 2016.
      The question is with all the data in the library holdings, how to preserve the digital files over the long term? The goal of the project is to ‘develop a long-range digital preservation strategy’ to address all digital archival holdings at the Library. This challenging goal consists of three phases:
  1. assess current infrastructure against community standards and make brief recommendations on how to improve digital preservation practices
  2. explore potential solutions to address the recommendations made in the first phase
  3. determine a single path forward based on the solutions explored and create an action plan for how to implement that solution.
Plans started by interviewing archivists and IT personnel about their processes and how they use the systems and then research the systems. Like many cultural heritage institutions, is in need of better documentation. The biggest gap in the existing documentation for digital archives is a digital preservation policy which is a record of decisions, including those that have been made but not documented or documented elsewhere. Important community standards and guidelines include
  • ISO 14721: Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS), 
  • ISO 16363: Audit and Certification of Trustworthy Digital Repositories,
  • the National Digital Stewardship Alliance Levels of Digital Preservation
Each of these items gives a slightly different perspective on what is required for digital preservation. With limited resources and staff time it’s important to recognize when to aim for “good enough” digital preservation, which can be defined for each institution by "the available resources, the needs of the collection, and priorities of the institution".  The NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation are not as in depth as but they are easier to understand. The intermediary levels can address digital preservation in a phased approach and also create a way for identifying strengths and weaknesses. Once the NDSR project is complete the Library will have a picture of the digital practices and a clear implementation plan for improved digital preservation.

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