The Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) recently conducted a survey to identify digital preservation issues facing museums. In response to these issues, CHIN is releasing a Digital Preservation Toolkit, a suite of documents that offer concrete steps to identify digital material found in your museum, the potential risk and impact of lost material, and how to get started in the development of Preservation Policies, Plans and Procedures.
Digital material is a broad term for any electronic media in binary format. In the context of a museum, it includes administrative materials (e.g. office records), records of a museum’s physical holdings (e.g. collections management records), and resources that are born digital (e.g. digital video of intangible cultural heritage). Museums are unique in that they tend to have a large number of digital materials of disparate formats, all serving different purposes and bound with different rights and obligations.
In some cases, these obligations include an agreement to preserve the material. Yet most museums do not have the resources to identify, let alone carry out, the recommendations required by current digital preservation standards. The tools in this kit are designed to help museum professionals navigate existing standards, to understand their importance, and to implement what they can, given the resources at their disposal.
Taking Stock of a Museum’s Digital Resources
The kit starts with a Digital Preservation Inventory Template, which helps museums take stock of what they have. It also helps museums consider the degree to which this material should be preserved, for how long, the risk and impact of losing access to the material, and the ease of replacing the material should it be lost. This template should be used as a first step in assessing the size of the digital preservation problem faced by your museum.
Developing a Digital Preservation Policy
After identifying what must be preserved and under what conditions, a policy needs to be established. The Digital Preservation Policy Framework Development Guideline will help your museum design a policy that is compliant with existing standards and recommendations such as the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model and the Attributes of a Trusted Digital Repository (TDR).
Deciding What Resources to Preserve
The Digital Preservation Decision Trees provide small to medium-sized museums with a simple and high-level mapping of all issues that should be considered when deciding what to preserve. These can be used at the policy development stage, and referred to again when new forms of digital material arise.
Best Practices for Both Creators and Preservers
Guidelines developed by the InterPARES 2 Project, with translation by CHIN, help both content creators and preservers develop procedures for long-term digital preservation. These guidelines should be referenced both at the policy and plan development stages.
Putting a Digital Preservation Plan into Practice
Finally, the Digital Preservation Plan Framework will help your museum develop an action plan to implement its policy. The framework leads project managers through the plan development and selection process, and outlines all information that should be found in the plan.
All of these tools are useable by museums of all sizes, including those with limited resources.CHIN encourages museums to try these tools, and to provide feedback.