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Visualizing Digital Preservation Workflows

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting Steps in a Digital Preservation Workflow as part of the American Library Association/Association for Library Collections and Technical Services Online Learning program.  I talked about planning and building a staged process for preserving digital information in a cultural heritage context.

Part of what I covered relates to ideas connected with a dynamic digital life cycle, and I used some of the same diagrams presented in my earlier post, Life Cycle Models for Digital Stewardship. I said that digital life cycle models and workflows are closely related concepts.  The life cycle is basically a higher level view of what a workflow depicts.  Both illustrate how digital information comes under stewardship control and is kept useful and available over time.

In this post, I’ll show some of the workflow visualizations I used in my presentation.

Workflow models are rooted in practical steps that a particular institution intends to follow to preserve a specific batch or stream of content.  Workflows can vary in detail depending on the maturity of the process or on the extent to which an organization plans to work with the content involved. Here is a depiction of a workflow at the most basic level that could be used in developing a early pilot project.  Thinking through each of the steps would lead to a more granular description of each activity.

workflow at the most basic level, by wlef70, on Flickr
workflow at the most basic level, by wlef70, on Flickr

More mature workflows can have a great deal more detail, including associating specific steps with specific tools.  One example of this is shown below.

Increasingly, digital preservation workflows involve distributed tools and services.  An example of a workflow that includes such “cloud” services is from the Carolina Digital Repository.

Workflows can also drill down into very specific details for one digital stewardship process.  Here is an example that focuses on ingest, from the Public Record Office of Victoria in Australia.

Public Record Office Victoria:
Public Record Office Victoria:

And workflows can also be depicted in a more narrative manner without losing the sense of sequential action.  Below is a detail from the Portico process for preserving digital content.

These are just a few examples of digital preservation workflows.  If you have other examples that can be shared, we would love to hear from you.

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