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Analysis of Current Digital Preservation Policies: Archives, Libraries and Museums

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The following is a guest post by Madeline Sheldon, a 2013 Junior Fellow with NDIIPP.

My major project as a Library of Congress Junior Fellow was to identify and analyze cultural heritage institution digital preservation policies. This project was an update and extension of work done in 2011 by another Junior Fellow, Kristen Snawder. My full report is available here. What follows is a overview of my findings.

Several parameters were established for my project:

  • Focused primarily on digital preservation, not digitization
  • Published, or last updated, between 2008 – 2013
  • Written (or translated) in(to) English
  • Published on the internet
  • Identified as a policy or a strategy

I located a total of 33 digital preservation policies/strategies from around the world. They were almost equally divided between archives and libraries, with only two documents located from museums. About half of the documents were from U.S. institutions, with the rest primarily from western European nations.

The bulk of my analysis focused on developing and applying a taxonomy to describe the topics covered by the documents. I prepared the taxonomy to permit a high-level comparison among the various policies with regard to their scope and coverage. Due to the larger number of documents I identified, and their more recent publication, I found it necessary to modify Snawder’s earlier taxonomy somewhat (see table 1).

Access and Use Preservation Model/ Strategy
Accessioning and Ingest Preservation Planning
Audit Rights and Restriction Management
Bibliography Roles and Responsibilities
Collaboration Security Management
Content Scope Selection/Appraisal
Glossary/Terminology Staff Training/Education
Mandates Storage, Duplication, and Backup
Metadata or Documentation Sustainability Planning
Policy/Strategy Review

Table 1: Digital preservation Policies Taxonomy

I used the taxonomy to create a matrix in which I indicated coverage for each topic within each document. This involved a level of subjectivity, in that I indicated coverage only if the document dealt with the topic in what I judged to be a substantive manner. In other words, the treatment was detailed enough to potentially inform another institution in developing or revising their own policy document. The full results of this analysis are included in my report, but it is worth noting that the three most commonly used taxonomy elements were preservation strategy/model, collaboration and content scope. The three least commonly used were accessioning/ingest, audit and preservation planning.

The policy documents I used for this study, along with current links, are listed in table 2. Note that Archives New Zealand and the National Library of New Zealand co-authored a strategy, which I counted as two separate institutions. The United Kingdom Parliamentary Archives published two documents, one policy and one strategy, which I included as two separate documents, and chose to count the body as one institution, not two.

As Snawder found earlier,  the state of institutional digital preservation policies is developmental. Given that more than many more than 33 institutions around the world are likely responsible for digital stewardship, it seems safe to say that most are still considering how best to define and document their policies. I hope my work in some small way helps move that process along.

Archives New Zealand te Rua Mahara o te Kawanatanga and National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa Digital Preservation Strategy (PDF)
Boston University Libraries: Digital Initiatives & Open Access Digital Preservation Policy
British Library Digital Preservation Strategy (PDF)
Cheshire Archives (UK) Digital Preservation Policy
Dartmouth College Library Digital Preservation Policy
Florida Digital Archive FDA Policy and Procedures Guide, version 3.0 (PDF)
Hampshire County Council Archives Digital Preservation Policy
HathiTrust Digital Library Digital Preservation Policy
Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship IDEALS Digital Preservation Policy
John Hopkins Sheridan Libraries JScholarship Digital Preservation Policy
London Metropolitan Archives Interim Digital Preservation Policy (PDF)
National Archives of Australia Digital Preservation Policy
National Library of Australia Digital Preservation Policy 4th Edition
National Library of Wales Digital Preservation Policy and Strategy (PDF)
National Museum Australia Digital Preservation and Digitization Policy (PDF)
North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Archival Process for Data and Image Preservation: The Management and Preservation of Digital Media (PDF)
PlymouthCity Council (UK) Plymouth and West Devon Record Office Digital Preservation Policy 
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland Digital Preservation Strategy (PDF)
Purdue University Research Repository PURR Digital Preservation Policy
Rhizome at the New Museum Digital Preservation Practices and the Rhizome Artbase (PDF)
State Library of Queensland Digital Preservation Policy (PDF)
StatsBiblioteket State and University Library Digital Preservation Strategy for State and University Library, Denmark, version 2.0 (PDF)
Swiss Federal Archives Digital Archiving Policy 
The Royal Library: The National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library Policy for long term preservation of digital materials at the Royal Library (PDF)
United Kingdom Data Archive Preservation Policy (PDF)
United Kingdom Parliamentary Archives A Digital Preservation Policy for Parliament (PDF)
United Kingdom Parliamentary Archives A Digital Preservation Strategy for Parliament (PDF)
University of British Columbia Library Digital Preservation Policy (Draft) (PDF)
University of Manchester Library Digital Preservation Strategy (PDF)
University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries Digital Preservation Policy (PDF)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: The Howard W. Odum Institute for Social Science Digital Preservation Policies
University of South Carolina Libraries USCL Digital Preservation Policy Framework (PDF)
University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library Digital Preservation Program: Digital Preservation Policy

Table 2, List of Digital Preservation Policies

This post was edited on 7/15/14 to update broken links.

Comments (2)

  1. I am sure Madeline’s work will be very useful for institutions developing or reviewing their own policies and strategies. To add to the mix, the National Archives of Australia also has a published policy ‘Digital Preservation Policy: Preserving Archival Digital Records Transferred from Commonwealth Agencies’ (July 2009, updated July 2011) available at

  2. 2020 Update (Some links posted above don’t work anymore, so I looked up the policies)
    – Archives New Zealand te Rua Mahara o te Kawanatanga and National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa:

    – Boston University Libraries:

    – Chesire Archives (UK):

    – Hampshire County Council Archives:

    – London Metropolitan Archives:

    – National Archives of Australia:

    – North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources:

    – University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries:

    – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: The Howard W. Odum Institute for Social Science:

    – University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library:

    I couldn’t find anything for these institutions
    – Florida Digital Archive
    – John Hopkins Sheridan Libraries
    – The National Library of Wales
    – Plymouth City Council (UK)
    – Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
    – State Library of Queensland
    – Swiss Federal Archives
    – University of Manchester
    – University of South Carolina (except for a short blurb on their main page)

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