Preserving information and records means ensuring they remain accessible and usable. Information and records will deteriorate over time, whether they’re paper, photographic, digital or audiovisual. While the rate of deterioration will differ, the lifespan of your information and records will depend on how they are managed and the preservation actions applied throughout their lifecycle.
The preservation strategies you apply should take into consideration:
- the ongoing value of the information to your business compared to the cost of preservation;
- how long the information and records need to kept; and
- how accessible the information needs to be.
Preserving digital information
In line with Digital Continuity 2020 policy, Australian Government information and records generated as agency business will be created and managed digitally by 2020. One of the challenges faced by agencies is dealing with technological obsolescence, and ensuring the ongoing accessibility of these assets.
The Archives has a legislative responsibility to manage, preserve and make accessible the archival resources of the Commonwealth for current and future generations. These archival resources include a large quantity of digital material, and more is being transferred into our custody all the time. As a consequence, the Archives has undertaken extensive research and testing in the area of digital preservation. The Archives uses the term 'digital preservation' to describe the software, infrastructure and processes it has developed. The Archives recommends long-term file formats that are considered a low risk of becoming inaccessible over time.
Each agency should develop its own digital preservation strategy to ensure that it can manage and access its digital records in the long term. Other relevant publications and information include:
- Transferring records to the Archives - on transferring your records, including digital records, to the National Archives
Preserving physical records
Careful handling, transport and display procedures, along with a controlled storage environment, will help the preservation of your physical records.
The Archives can provide recommendations for the creation and storage of archival documents. The following links give advice on choosing storage media and how to protect and handle records on these media:
Archival papers and products
- Choosing the right paper
- Archival quality paper and board products
- Rules for use of 'Archival Quality' certification trademark
- Register of certified archival quality products
- About the Photographic Activity Test
Format-specific preservation advice
- Preserving paper documents and artworks
- Preserving paper files
- Preserving photographs
- Preserving maps and plans
- Preserving objects
- Preserving archival volumes
- Preserving motion picture film
- Preserving microforms
- Preserving CDs and DVDs
- Preserving magnetic media
- Preserving gramophone discs
Other advice on physical preservation
- Preserving electrostatic copies (photocopies and laser prints)
- Managing records on thermal papers
- Disaster recovery of flood or fire-damaged records
- Recovering flood-damaged records
- Recovering fire-damaged records
- Integrated pest management
- Guidelines for packing and transporting non-digital archival records
- Creating a time capsule
- Standard for the Physical Storage of Commonwealth Records (PDF, 326kb)