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Archives & Special Collections (ASC)

Digital Preservation Policy: Home

Introduction

The University of Louisville’s Archives and Special Collections (ASC) has a primary responsibility for preservation of digital content in their possession, including content donated by community members. ASC is committed to performing preservation actions that will increase the life of its digital assets and to provide ongoing access.

Policy Statement

ASC's mandate to preserve digital content (born-digital and digitized) has the following legal and ethical bases:

  1. University Archives and Records Center (UARC), a constituent part of ASC, is identified in 2.5.6 of the Redbook, the University of Louisville's governance document, as the official custodian of University records. In addition, UARC is charged to "preserve proper and adequate documentation of University policies, decisions, procedures, functions, and essential transactions."
  2. Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 171.640 requires "The head of each state or local agency shall cause to be made and preserved records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organizational functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency…." Public agencies are not exempt from providing access to public records simply because the technology becomes obsolete.
  3. ASC is obliged to preserve digital content as part of its commitment to donors and to the community. The community donates their records and creative content, trusting us to preserve it so future generations may learn about and from them.
  4. As part of the archival profession, ASC adheres to the Society of American Archivists’ Code of Ethics for Archivists, which calls upon archivists to "take steps to minimize the deterioration of records and implement specific security polices to protect all records in every format."

Scope

ASC is responsible for identifying strategies to provide long-term preservation of and access to select digital objects. Both born-digital and digitized objects are identified for long term-preservation based on ASC's collecting policies, professional appraisal standards, and state retention requirements. ASC is committed to the following priority areas, depending on sufficient financial and human resources:

  1. Born-digital objects: The highest effort will be made for accessioned, permanent records for which no analog instance has ever existed. These include university records as well as community collections and metadata created for digitized collections.
  2. Digitized objects with no available or an unstable analog resource: Every reasonable step will be taken to preserve materials without a physical analog and/or when re-digitization is not possible. Also included are analog resources that are physically unstable, where digitization would compromise the resource.
  3. Digitized materials with an available analog resource: Reasonable measures will be taken to extend the life of digital objects with readily available physical analogs that are typically of a unique nature. These include university records as well as community collections. The cost of re-digitizing will be weighed against the cost of preserving extant digital assets as needed.

Conversely, materials that are already commercially available elsewhere or that have short-term or temporary value are beyond the scope of this policy. This includes, for example, faculty preprints (for which a published version exists) and undergraduate posters.

Selection Criteria

ASC preserves and provides access to primary resources for research, study, and teaching within the University’s instructional programs, and offers distinctive and unique resources for the region and the scholarly community worldwide. The units of ASC: University Archives and Records Center, which also administers the University’s Oral History Center; Digital Initiatives; Photographic Archives; and Rare Books, may accept gifts, in any format, which support this mission. Some digital objects may be technically challenging and thus expensive to preserve and ASC cannot be expected to commit to preserving these objects without a clear understanding of what that entails and how it will be funded. Conversely, ASC should not limit its commitment to preserve technically challenging content just because it is technically challenging as in many cases the content’s value may justify additional expense. Therefore, ASC will commit to one of the following levels of preservation at point of deposit:

No preservation action taken

Content is saved on working servers which are backed up.

Basic preservation

Content is saved on working servers and monitored to preserve its integrity. Preservation actions include:

  • Identifier assigned
  • Preservation metadata created

Extended preservation

Content is saved on working servers and monitored to preserve its integrity and understandability. Preservation actions include:

  • Identifier assigned
  • Preservation metadata created
  • Virus check
  • Basic processing

Advanced preservation

Content is saved on working servers and monitored to preserve its integrity and understandability in diverse and distributed preservation storage. Preservation actions include:

  • Identifier assigned
  • Preservation metadata created
  • Virus check
  • Advanced processing
  • Versioning
  • Ingest into the distributed digital preservation network

Strategies

  1. ASC receives born-digital files in a variety of formats from community donors as well as university employees. We do not have full control over the format(s) and resolution(s) received, although we encourage donors to follow Library of Congress recommendations whenever possible (for which see http://www.loc.gov/preservation/resources/rfs/). The curator responsible for accessioning the collection (University Archivist, Archivist for University Records and Records Management, Archivist for Manuscript Collections and Director of the Oral History Center, or Photo Curator, as appropriate) will make selection and preservation decisions about born-digital materials received, in accordance with the Selection Criteria listed above.
  2. We also now receive electronic copies, in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) format, of students’ theses and dissertations in lieu of bound paper copies. These files are directly deposited in the servers operated by the vendor, Berkeley Electronic Press (bepress), which runs nightly backups in triplicate and offsite on Amazon Glacier, and monthly backups to tape (maintained for one year). Bepress also backs up our theses and dissertations to a UofL Amazon S3 account, which can be submitted for preservation in the MetaArchive Cooperative’s distributed digital preservation network.
  3. ASC faculty, staff, and students create digital surrogates of analog primary source materials in ASC collections in order to reduce wear and tear on a fragile original or to provide access, via our Digital Collections website; outreach; or patron request (for personal use or publication/broadcast).
    Even when the access copy will be low-resolution and/or compressed, we produce uncompressed high-resolution files as our preservation masters, and store them on virtual servers that are maintained by the Office of Libraries Technology (OLT).
    • Daily snapshots are taken and retained for a week locally.
    • Monthly full backups, with once-a-week incremental backups, are taken and retained both locally and in the cloud.
    • The backup software uses changed block tracking and appends it to the full backup file. Data is recovered at a slower rate from the cloud with additional cost to the subscription due to extra bandwidth use. Therefore, restoring from the cloud is only for complete disaster scenarios (server room fire/flood/etc.).
  4. Collections proposed for digitization are approved by the Digital Initiatives Librarian. Upon completion of a digital collection, master files and metadata may be submitted for preservation in the MetaArchive Cooperative’s distributed digital preservation network.
  5. Consistent, thorough metadata, including following standard file naming procedures and creating collection-level and item-level records as appropriate, will enable long-term access to digital objects.

Permissions/Access

Derivative digital files may be made available in accordance with any relevant state and federal laws, institutional regulations, licenses, and donor agreements. Lower-resolution versions of many born-digital and digitized files may be publicly accessible from the web-based institutional repository or digital collections.

Challenges

Digital preservation is defined as "the series of management policies and activities necessary to ensure the enduring usability, authenticity, discoverability and accessibility of content over the very long term." (JISC, 2006) Digital preservation differs from analog preservation in several ways. The primary difference is that digital preservation requires active management. While many analog materials, such as books, can survive for years when simply stored in a climate-controlled environment, digital materials that are left alone for long periods of time are much more likely to degrade beyond repair, and this degradation is generally not discovered until there is an attempt to use the data. Additionally, the preservation needs of analog materials, such as books, journals, film, and tape, are well understood and have not greatly changed over time. Digital preservation, however, is a developing field with best practices that are always evolving. New tools and technologies will require that digital preservation activities be responsive and adaptable. Specific challenges include:

  1. Technology: Identifying and keeping pace with developments and changes in technology.
  2. Resources: These include accounting for and addressing staffing, equipment, software, infrastructure, and miscellaneous other costs.
  3. Developing and sustaining a network of relationships: A central component to the success of ASC’s digital preservation strategy will be developing and maintaining a framework of communication that can adequately identify and address changing needs, practices, and values of key constituencies within ASC, administrators, and users.
  4. Maintaining a focus on preservation: preservation planning or work can sometimes be seen as something that can be put off or neglected in favor of immediate access. Preservation is an essential component of ASC services as it enables long-term access, and as such it requires sustained attention.
  5. Visibility: administrative buy-in is a key for organizational viability. The success of ASC’s program requires commitment from senior management so that the benefits of digital preservation are not just passively recognized but may be championed across the organization.

Outreach and Education

ASC will provide open access to this policy by including it with related policies and forms available online and will engage in training opportunities surrounding the policy and its implementation as needed. ASC is dedicated to providing appropriate training and staff development in areas related to digital preservation while maintaining its ongoing commitment to education in managing public records.

Authors/Dates

This document was created by a working group consisting of Carrie Daniels, Heather Fox, Kyna Herzinger, Rachel Howard, and Elizabeth Reilly, in December 2016. This revision was produced by the same authors in January 2022.

This document will be reviewed in 2027 or as personnel or technology change.

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