Preservation Digitisation Standards

For the digitisation of physical RNA records

Preservation, Collection Management

February 2021

Executive summary

The Preservation Digitisation Standards set out the required standards for digitisation of physical records of archival value (RNA) and are designed for internal, outsourced and agency digitisation of RNA records. These standards ensure that preservation digitisation activities produce a digital copy which is an effective long-term surrogate for paper and analogue originals. They also enable the creation of derivative files to meet access requirements and minimise the physical wear and tear caused by handling fragile collection items.

The standards have been developed in line with the standards of national and international GLAM (Gallery, Library, Archive and Museum) institutions. They set out the technical requirements for digitisation outputs produced under the National Archives' National Digitisation Plan, which supports the National Digitisation and Preservation Strategies.

The preservation format for all non-audiovisual records is TIFF, with JPEG and PDF file formats used for access derivatives. TIFF is designed to capture all the attributes of typed or written text accurately as high quality images in a stable format and is widely supported for the digitisation of archival records. The preservation standard for audiovisual formats varies for audio, video and motion picture film, but is compliant with industry standards.

Background

The National Archives of Australia has a key responsibility to preserve and make publicly available Australian Government records that reflect our history and identity.

The National Archives' collection traces events and decisions that have shaped the nation and the lives of Australians. It includes a wide range of formats including files and documents, volumes, registers, index cards, maps, plans, charts, photographs, films, and video and audio recordings in a variety of analogue and, increasingly, many diverse digital formats.

The unique and diverse analogue collection contains formats that are physically deteriorating through use, inherently unstable, or at risk of becoming inaccessible due to the technological obsolescence of the appropriate playback equipment.

The Preservation Digitisation program ensures that Australians have continued online access to a national archival collection so they may better understand their heritage and democracy.

Purpose

The National Archives has a key responsibility to preserve and make publicly available the archival resources of the Commonwealth.

Preservation digitisation reduces the physical wear and tear on fragile records and is an effective tool to preserve records at risk of being lost if they are held on unstable media or subject to technological obsolescence. The creation of derivatives during the digitisation process assists the National Archives to make its collection accessible and available online to a wide and varied range of current and future users.

The Preservation Digitisation Standards set out the technical requirements for digitisation outputs produced under the National Digitisation Plan, which supports the National Digitisation and National Preservation Strategies.

The Preservation Digitisation Standards should be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that they are in line with the standards of other national and international GLAM institutions.  Digital technology is continually evolving and, to take advantage of increased capability which may enable the National Archives to digitise to a higher standard, the standards should also be reviewed, when technology emerges, industry standards changes, or when new digitisation equipment is purchased.

The Preservation Digitisation Standards are guided by the nature of our collection and the National Archives' vision to secure, preserve and make accessible this priceless information for the benefit of current and future generations.

The technical standards are informed by the following guiding principles to ensure that preservation digitisation activities produce a digital copy which is an effective long-term surrogate for paper and analogue originals.

The preservation digital surrogate will:

  • capture a complete, accurate archival record of analogue collection items
  • be preserved and accessible for the foreseeable future
  • enable the re-use of the digitised content to meet known, unknown and likely current and future access requirements
  • enable the creation of derivative files to meet access requirements and minimise the physical wear and tear caused by handling fragile collection items

To support these standards, supplementary guidelines and procedures will provide additional capture, handling and quality assurance requirements for each format.

Archival Master File Format (digital surrogate)

Preservation digitisation is not geared for any specific output and should be done in a use-neutral manner using a format that preserves the essential characteristics of the original records and is uncompressed or has lossless compression. The master image files produced should be usable for a wide variety of applications and outputs.

The choice of Archival Master file format for each analogue format for these standards has been based on an environmental scan of national and international cultural institutions and organisations.

TIFF is the preservation file format for all non-audiovisual records, with JPEG and PDF file formats utilised for access derivatives. The preservation standard for audiovisual (AV) formats varies for audio, video and motion picture film, but is compliant with industry standards.

Access File Format

The choice of access formats is dependent on the intended business use of the digital file. These derivative files are generally created as an additional product when digitising for preservation.

For paper formats the standard provides specifications for the creation of three access copies in line with current practices for providing access via RecordSearch: large JPEG (viewing copy), small JPEG (thumbnail) and PDF (complete item).

For photographic, aerial and microform formats, only a large JPEG (viewing copy) and small JPEG (thumbnail) are derived from the Archival Master to provide access via RecordSearch.

Access copies for audiovisual formats are created on an as needs basis, as RecordSearch is not currently able to make these formats available online.

Commencement

These standards apply to all digitisation commenced from:

  • 1 January 2019:  all internal proactive digitisation projects, including where outsourced
  • 1 July 2019:
    • all digitisation by Australian Government agencies of material that is of archival value (RNA), including under the Agency Digitisation Service
    • on-demand digitisation undertaken by the National  Archives in response to client (agency, public) demand

Preservation Digitisation Standards

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