SAA 2013 New Orleans

Session 604: Defining Levels of Preservation and Management for Electronic Records

This session addressed the initial steps or levels of preservation for electronic records management. It was held on Saturday August 17, 2013 at Archives 2013 New Orleans.

The four presenters and their presentations were-

  • Ricky Erway of OCLC Research presented on the report “You’ve Got to Walk Before You Can Run: First Steps for Managing Born-Digital Content Received on Physical Media”

  • Megan E. Phillips of National Archives and Records Administration presented National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s “Minimal Processing for Electronic Records”

  • Jefferson Bailey of Metropolitan New York Library Council  presented on National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s “Levels of Digital Preservation”

  • Ann B. Jenks of the State Historical Society of North Dakota presented on CoSA’s use of the Digital Preservation Maturity Model

Ricky Erway focused her discussion on the three reports released by OCLC regarding electronic records management- First Steps, Walk This Way and Swatting the Long Tail. These reports detail the inital steps of managing electronic records by describing techniques for inventorying, migrating from obscure media to a more easily managed format, and addressing physical media in collections that can’t be read. She acknowledged that not every archive will be able to handle outdated formats and called for profession wide collaboration to outsource the transfer of media to a more easily managed format.

Megan E. Phillips presented on the Processing Data/ Processing Collections session at CurateCamp on July 26, 2012 and subsequent blog post from The Signal that summarized the experience. From this unconference session, a short list of required minimum steps for processing of all born digital collections was created-

  • establish fixity

  • create backup copy

  • document the chain of custody

  • document so it can be found in a collection

Based on these requirements, NSDA’s “Minimum Processing for Electronic Records” has focused on realistically scalable processing methods, minimal processing procedures to avoid backlog creation and how to wisely allocate resources to maximize processing for collections.

Jefferson Bailey talked about NSDA’s “Levels of Digital Preservation”.  The goal of this digital preservation management chart is to help institutions mitigate risk of digital content and to create basic documentation for planning and undertaking digital preservation activities. It is oriented towards implementation and use, scalable and functional independence, and is resource agnostic. The Levels of Digital Preservation can be used as a guide for programmatic planning and self assessment for local implementation of digital preservation programs at cultural heritage institutions.

Ann B. Jenks discussed the local implementation use case of the Digital Preservation Capability Maturity Model (DPCMM) at the State Historical Society of North Dakota. The DPCMM is an institutional self assessment to evaluate organizational readiness for digital preservation capabilities and the continuity of practice to preserve electronic records. The State Historical Society had executive level buy in for the assessment and implementation of digital preservation infrastructure. Every two years the institution updates its policy and assesses its quality of digital preservation infrastructure. Coming away from this presentation, it would be interesting to compare the feasibility of implementing TRAC audit versus DPCMM.

A common theme in these presentations was that these models are strategic road maps to put into practice digital preservation programs and how to effectively manage electronic records. Managing digital records can be a balancing act between backlog triage and road mapping for the future.  An interesting aspect of the presentations was that different roads can get an institution to the same destination of building out a sustainable digital program. The best avenue for creating a high function digital program at Rockefeller Archive Center may be to evaluate all of the models and customize a hybrid local implementation that best fits our needs.