Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Electronic Records Management Guidelines: Long-Term Preservation

Electronic Records Management Guidelines: Long-Term Preservation. March 2012, Version 5. Minnesota Historical Society. [Guidelines - Contents]
     Over the course of time, organizations generate many records. Some are of short term duration while others are to be kept permanently. “Tools such as migration, conversion, metadata, and eXtensible Markup Language (XML) will help you not only preserve your records, but also realize their full value.” Records need to be preserved, since “the greatest possible access to certain government information and data is essential to allow citizens to participate fully in a democratic system of government.”   

Some key concepts presented in the section on Long-Term Preservation:
  1. Needs Assessment. Understanding the value of the records and the information they contain will help guide decisions, determine their retention requirements, the access and use of the records, as well as preservation options. 
  2. Physical Storage Options. Record access requirements will help determine the type of storage to use, specifically
    1. Online storage. Immediately available on the network
    2. Near-line storage.  Records are stored in automated optical disk or tapes libraries attached to a network.
    3. Offline storage.  Records are stored on removable media that must be retrieved manually.
  3. File Format Options. For long-term file preservation, non-proprietary formats are preferred, but they also have limitations.
  4. Digital Preservation Techniques. There are several approaches to ensure that electronic records remain useful over time.
    1. Emulation. Using emulator programs to simulate the behavior, of original programs.
    2. Encapsulation. Combining the object to be preserved with all of the necessary details of how to interpret it within a wrapper or package.
    3. Migration. This is the more common approach, which is the process of  moving files to new media or computer systems to maintain their use. 
  5. Preservation Planning.  “A preservation plan should address an institution’s overall preservation goals and provide a framework that defines the methods used to reach those goals.  At a minimum, the plan should define the collections covered by the plan, list the requirements of the records, practices and standards that are being followed, documentation of policies and procedures related to preservation activities, and staff responsibility for each preservation action.” This plan needs constant updating and cost/benefits must be addressed. Policies should be developed to put the plan into practice.

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