Digital Preservation Policy

Preserving Archival Digital Records Transferred from Commonwealth Agencies

Version 1.4
30 June 2020

1. Policy statement

The National Archives of Australia will secure, preserve and provide access to digital records of enduring value.

2. Policy aims

Digital preservation aims to address the following risks:

  • The content of digital records becomes inaccessible due to future software obsolescence,
  • data loss due to the obsolescence or failure of the hardware or media used to store digital records,
  • data loss due to inadvertent or malicious alteration of content, and
  • inauthentic or unreliable data due to incomplete or inadequate capture of digital records and metadata at the time of transfer.

This Policy describes the digital archiving principles and approaches adopted by the National Archives of Australia (Archives) to ensure these risks are mitigated as much as possible.

Further policy documents, procedures, standards, and guidance will be developed in future to address specific aspects of the Policy.

This Policy addresses the following target groups:

  • Archives' staff
  • Commonwealth Government agencies
  • Expert groups in the digital archiving community
  • Public clients

The Policy relates to other key policies and strategies, including:

4. Scope

This Policy applies to digital records of enduring value. These include:

  • Born-digital records, which were created and managed digitally for business purposes and subsequently transferred into the custody of the Archives. Born-digital records include not only the common image and document formats, but also emerging formats, email, audiovisual records, mixed media, structured datasets and computer code.
  • Digitised records , which were created in analogue form, but have been subsequently converted to digital form for one of the following reasons:
    • Business: Created by an agency.
    • Preservation: Created by an agency or the Archives to preservation standard.
    • Access: Created by an agency or the Archives.
    • General Records Authority 31 and Disposal of Records in the Archives' Custody Following Digitisation: Created by an agency or the Archives to preservation standard and the analogue record subsequently destroyed.

Digitised records are digital material that is subject to the same broad challenges of preservation and access as born-digital records.

For the purposes of this policy, a digital record consists of content (encoded in an object such as a data file) and metadata describing the content. Both the content and metadata are essential components of a record. This policy provides for the preservation of the content and associated metadata, the maintenance of a persistent link between the two, and the creation of new metadata to document the preservation actions undertaken.

5. Standards

Standards play an important role in digital preservation. In particular, they provide clear benchmarks for defining requirements and measuring outcomes, and support interoperability between contemporary and future systems. Internal and external standards that the Archives applies to digital preservation include:

  • Conceptual models and standards such as the Reference Model for Open Archival Information Systems and the Archives' Performance Model
  • Metadata standards such as the Commonwealth Record Series (CRS) system, the Australian Government Recordkeeping Metadata Standard (AGRkMS), and Preservation Metadata: Implementation Strategies (PREMIS)
  • File format standards such as ISO/IEC 26300: Open Document Format for Office Applications, ISO/IEC 15948: Portable Network Graphics, TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) Revision 6.0
  • Internal standards for digitisation, preservation formats, transfer and storage and retrieval.

6. Principles

The following principles underpin the Archives' approach to digital preservation. The principles are designed to ensure that digital records in the Archives’ custody remain authentic and accessible to anybody who wants to access and use them in the future.

7. Policy Requirements

8. Skills and Training

The Archives will ensure that its digital preservation activities are carried out by sufficient staff with the appropriate skills. The Archives may use a combination of in-house staff, contractors, and consultants to achieve its objectives. The Archives will provide training opportunities to allow staff to develop, maintain or enhance their digital preservation expertise. These opportunities may include participation on courses, self-directed learning, attendance at national and international seminars, workshops and conferences, study visits, internships, and working exchanges with other institutions and professional bodies.

9. Research and collaboration

The Archives will maintain professional relationships with the wider digital preservation community in Australia and internationally. Where appropriate it may actively participate in initiatives, through partnerships and collaboration with appropriate organisations, e.g. the Australasian Digital Recordkeeping Initiative, the Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities, the International Council on Archives, the UNESCO PERSIST Programme, the International Organisation of Sound and Audiovisual Archives, the Open Preservation Foundation, and the Digital Preservation Coalition.

10. Roles and responsibilities

Implementing a digital preservation solution will require working across traditional boundaries within the Archives and, from time to time, with external partners.

Broadly, Collection Management Branch will be responsible for setting, maintaining, and monitoring compliance with digital preservation strategy and policy; transfer; technology watch (with Applications and Business Engagement); storage and lending of digital records, preservation planning; preservation action (with ICT Infrastructure); and outreach.

ICT Infrastructure is responsible for ensuring that the ICT Technology Roadmap and all ICT projects comply with this Policy and associated standards.

Different areas of the Archives are responsible for creating or modifying digital resources, for example Digitisation and Imaging Services create preservation master versions and other surrogates, the Declassification Unit creates redacted versions for access, Public Programs create digital content for exhibitions. Content creators are responsible for ensuring that digital resources are created and managed in accordance with this Policy and associated strategies.

11. Digital Archiving and other standards

This policy is aligned with or references the following standards:

12. Glossary

The right, opportunity, means of finding, using or retrieving information (AS ISO 15489.1)
Records that can be identified, located and accessed as required.
A contiguous sequence of bits, representing a stream of data. In digital archiving, the "original bitstream" is the record in its original format.
Born-digital record
Records created and managed digitally
Digital archiving
The identification, appraisal, description, storage, preservation, management and retrieval of digital records, including all the policies, guidelines and systems associated with those processes, so that the logical and physical integrity of the records is securely maintained over time.
Digital object
An object composed of a set of bit sequences.
Digital preservation
An essential and necessary component of digital archiving ensuring longevity of a digital record. Digital preservation covers the processes and operations involved in ensuring the technical and intellectual survival of authentic records over time (such as the ongoing monitoring, migration and storage of records and managing the metadata which describes the origin and successive treatment of the record).
Digital record
A record produced, stored or transmitted by digital means rather than physical means. A digital record includes born digital records and digitised records.
Digital surrogate
The record produced as a result of a digitisation process, or photographic imaging.
The process of creating digital files by scanning or otherwise converting analogue materials.
A means of overcoming technological obsolescence of hardware and software by developing techniques for imitating obsolete systems on future generations of computers
Fixity check
A method for ensuring the integrity of a file and verifying it has not been altered or corrupted. It is most often accomplished by computing checksums such as MD5, SHA1 or SHA256 for a file and comparing them to a stored value
Structured information that describes and/or allows users to find, manage, control, understand or preserve other information over time. Record title and creating agency are examples of metadata.
A means of overcoming technological obsolescence by transferring digital resources from one hardware/software generation to the next.
The process of transforming a digital record from one data format (typically proprietary) to an archival data format (typically an open standard).
Preservation master
Produced when original records are at risk for loss of information, typically deterioration or obsolescence. Preservation master files are created at high to maximum capture specifications and can therefore serve a variety of purposes, including satisfying long-term preservation needs as well as fulfilling client requests for high-quality files.
Significant properties
Characteristics of a particular object subjectively determined to be important to maintain through preservation actions.