Help with digital preservation

How can organisations assure the long-term accessibility of their digital information? A NetIKX seminar tackled digital preservation.

Access to digital information

Does your organisation have processes to assure the continuing accessibility of its digital information?  Will you be able to access the information you need - for as long as you need to?  The Information Commissioner's Office (UK) website publishes plenty of examples of organisations that have failed to maintain their information appropriately.  At the latest NetIKX learning event, two speakers outlined the principles of excellent digital information management - and how these principles might be followed in practice

In the UK The National Archives (TNA) has published guiding information principles for the public sector.  Mark Merifield, their Manager of Records and Information Services, outlined the seven principles TNA believes organisations should aspire to when reviewing their digital information practices.

  • Information is recognised as a valued asset
  • Information is managed
  • Information is fit for purpose
  • Information is standardised and linkable
  • Information is reusable
  • Public information is published
  • Citizens and businesses can access information about themselves (within the legislation)

While these principles provide guidance for organisations, a more user-centric view would be to say that organisations should be able to ensure that those who need to (and have the right to) can:

  • Find what they need - when they want it - irrespective of systems and devices
  • Open/view the information
  • Work with the information in the way they need to
  • Fully understand the information they are working with, especially the context in which the information was created
  • Trust the information they are using

The key to digital preservation is to realise that technology and content are as important as each other.  Rob Gethen Smith, IS Director at the Tate, spoke about how they are progressing in their aim to assure the long-term accessibility of the organisation's digital information.  With four galleries, a large art store, an archive, a library -and of course, artwork collections - the Tate has a wide range of digital assets to manage and maintain.

Key lessons from the Tate

  • An initial survey or audit will give you the ‘as is' picture
  • What categories of digital information do you have?
    • The Tate identified 65 categories including audio and video lectures, interviews, images of the art collection and 'born digital' artworks
  • What is the risk associated with each category?
    • For each organisation the risks are different. Questions may revolve around reputational risk, or the cost of replacing the item, or what it cost to purchase/create
  • A higher value may be given to categories or items that are key to the organisation's mission
  • A survey may identify a lack of information management skills or awareness in the organisation
    • A key success factor at the Tate was to take a 'joined up information management' approach
  • When you have developed a policy be clear about what needs to be done about it
    • Clear communications and training as necessary
  • Don't set out to eat the elephant!
    • The task may seem dauntingly huge. What worked at the Tate was setting one year, five year and 10 year goals

The Tate has been clear in its vision.  Teams from across the organisation were brought together to identify digital assets and move the project forward.  The Tate wants to be a world leader in digital artwork preservation and has lessons to share for organisations which may only just be starting a digital preservation project.

  • Define your business requirements - what is important to the business?
  • Define your information usability requirements
  • Plan in the information/ technical life dependencies
  • Have an exit strategy
  • Can you identify owners for the information?

The NetIKX event took place in London in July.  NetIKX organises several learning events a year, focusing on practical KM and IM in the workplace.  It has members from all sectors.  NetIKX is currently seeking to appoint new management committee members.

Error image courtesy of Nick J Webb via Flickr.