The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (PMC) recognises that its born-digital and digitised records are an essential business and research resource. Usability and accessibility of digital information over time is of paramount importance to the day-to-day work of the Centre and, in accordance with the Centre's Archives & Records Management policy, has an ongoing research value for future generations. This policy sets the Centre’s requirements for maintaining the digital continuity of its business resources and digital preservation of assets valued for their testament to the Centre's legacy and historical research potential.
Digital preservation is the management and protection of digital information to ensure authenticity, integrity, reliability and long-term accessibility.
It is the utilisation of:
policies and procedures
This guarantees ongoing access to digitised and born-digital information, despite the challenges of:
Digital preservation efforts seek to provide accurate and authentic rendering of content, while ensuring its future functionality and usability over time.
Digital continuity is the ability to use digital information in a way that is reliable, for as long as necessary.
Born-digital refers to records that originate in a computer environment.
Digitised refers to records that originated as analogue information but were subsequently converted to digital form through a process of digitisation. Digitisation may transform information stored in analogue physical formats (such as paper) or in analogue but electronic formats (such as magnetic tape). Records can be digitised through scanning or photography or by conversion of analogue audiovisual information into bits.
Scope and Purpose
The aim of this policy is to provide a framework for managing the Centre's digital information and to ensure that born-digital and digitised records of long-term historical and research value are captured, maintained and remain accessible as part of the institutional archive for the interest of future generations.
This includes ensuring that records identified as having medium- to long-term value (e.g. for legal, financial, personnel, building-related requirements etc.), but not needing to be kept permanently as part of the institutional archive, remain accessible for as long as required in accordance with the Centre’s Records Management programme.
The policy applies to all digital information created, received and maintained by the staff and employees of PMC in the course of their work as well as records belonging to the collected archives held at the Centre. Born-digital archival acquisition is a new process being developed at the Centre.
The policy is to be read in conjunction with the:
Archives & Records Management Policy
Digital Preservation Strategy
Digital Asset Register
Collections Care Policy
Collections Development Policy
IT Security Policy
Statement of Principles
Digital content plays a vital role in delivering the mission of the Paul Mellon Centre. The Centre is committed to digital preservation capacity building through:
allocating resources for developing procedures and processes to safeguard authenticity, integrity and security of the digital content
maintaining the required technical infrastructure to store and preserve digital content
addressing software and hardware obsolescence
ensuring that digital preservation is embedded in the process of assessing the sustainability of the Centre’s new digital projects and systems
following existing community-based, open standards in developing the technical and organisational capability for digital preservation that promotes interoperability and creates opportunities for cooperation within digital preservation community by:
ensuring independence from information technology vendors and service providers
deploying tools to ensure that proprietary file formats can be migrated into accessible open formats (whenever possible vendor-independent and non-proprietary file formats based on open standards and with published specification will be used)
following the principle that any preservation action must be reversible
ensuring any related costs will be assessed against outcomes of preservation actions
Although network transfer is now the most common method of depositing born-digital records, care and preservation of physical storage media (as carriers of data and audiovisual content, including legacy formats) for as long as feasible remains an integral part of the digital preservation work.
Requirements and Standards
There are legal (data protection compliance and intellectual property rights legislation), financial (sustainability and maintenance costs), business (good data governance) and technical requirements that the policy aims to meet. These are explained in detail in the Archives & Records Management Policy.
Archival processing procedures for digital material will be established in line with the OAIS model. NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation will be implemented to monitor the status of progress.
Archival description will follow ISAD(G) standards. To record preservation actions, technical metadata and technological dependencies the Centre will seek to employ PREMIS and METS standards to the required extent, subject to available resources.
The list of relevant standards includes:
ISO 14721:2012 Space data and information transfer systems – Open archival information system (OAIS) – Reference model
Levels of Digital Preservation, 2013, National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA)
PREMIS Data Dictionary for Preservation Metadata, Version 3.0, June 2015, the Library of Congress
METS: Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard, Version 1.12.1, October 2019, the Library of Congress
ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description – Second edition CBPS – Sub-Committee on Descriptive Standards, 1 September 2011, International Council on Archives (ICA)
The Director and Senior Leadership Team areresponsible for approving and promoting the digital preservation efforts, and supporting the work required to maintain digital continuity as per the Digital Asset Register.
The Digital Preservation & Records Manager is responsible for delivering the operational activities of a Digital Preservation Programme and implementation of all related procedures and guidance, including the delivery of the Digital Preservation Strategy.
TheArchivist, Records & Data Protection Manager is responsible for strategic oversight of all aspects of the management and development of both the archive material acquired from external sources (the Collected Archives) and the Paul Mellon Centre’s own records, irrespective of format. They are also responsible for developing and implementing a strategy for data protection legislation adherence across the institution, which increasingly impacts on digital continuity and digital preservation work.
TheDigital Lead supports and oversees the Centre’s digital preservation solutions and their impact on all areas of work at the Centre, with focus on ensuring that there is digital infrastructure in place to support them. This includes guiding the Centre's digital projects and digitisation work by initiating digital preservation planning and managing all aspects of user-centred design across all digital systems.
Relevant best practice procedures are currently being developed and will be made available in the Centre’s Digital Preservation Strategy document, together with existing workflows and solutions to maintaining digital continuity. For advice on specific issues staff should contact the Digital Preservation & Records Manager, who is responsible for maintaining the Digital Asset Register, which informs digital preservation planning and work.
Policy Ownership and Effective Dates
Policy Owner: Archives and Library
Agreed by: Senior Leadership Team, November 2023
Review date: November 2028
Version: Version 2 (25 October 2023)
General International Standard Archival Description defines the elements that should be included in an archival finding aid. It was approved by the International Council on Archives (ICA/CIA) as a standard to register archival documents produced by corporations, persons and families.
Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard is a metadata standard for encoding descriptive, administrative and structural metadata regarding objects within a digital library, expressed using the XML schema language of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The standard is maintained as part of the MARC standards of the Library of Congress and is being developed as an initiative of the Digital Library Federation (DLF).
NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation
A resource and a self-assessment tool for digital preservation practitioners for building and evaluating a digital preservation programme. Developed by the National Digital Stewardship Alliance, an international consortium of organisations committed to the long-term preservation of digital information, it is now in its second version.
Open Archival Information System is an archive, consisting of an organisation of people and systems that has accepted the responsibility to preserve information and make it available for a designated community (e.g. academic researchers, general public, scientists etc.). It acts as a functional model for any digital repository. It describes processes and functions required for the digital material to be preserved and accessible for as long as necessary.
The PREMIS Data Dictionary for Preservation Metadata is the international standard for metadata to support the preservation of digital objects and ensure their long-term usability. Developed by an international team of experts, PREMIS is implemented in digital preservation projects around the world, and support for PREMIS is incorporated into a number of commercial and open-source digital preservation tools and systems.