“Many archives have digitisation programmes. Is this digital preservation?” - @ArchiveHour

There appears to be a growing trend of debate on twitter; It’s usually an hour during the day where like minded people discuss a topic using #somethinghour. Now Archives appear to have jumped on the bandwagon with #archivehour (not that jumping on the bandwagon is a bad thing). Unfortunately I was unable to take part in the first #archivehour on 26th October as I was in Russia. However the intriguing topic hosted by @ARAScotland was digital preservation. One question posed was: 

I would now like to answer this question from the perspective of Royal Voluntary Service Archive and Heritage Collection’s digitisation projects.

Over the years we have had a few digitisation projects including the Bulletins, Narrative Reports, photographs, posters and now the publications (more on that in a later blog). One reason for these projects was to provide online access to our records as we cannot currently provide physical access to the collection. Another reason was the general preservation of the physical document, not the digital reproduction. Digitising means less handling of fragile items and keeps them in the ideal environment rather than constant temperature changes as they move from store to search room. This is digitisation providing access to analogue/traditional archives to help preserve the originals. Therefore digitisation is not digital preservation but preservation in its wider sense, for Royal Voluntary Service digital preservation applies to its born digital records.

Interestingly we have very few born digital archives, a lot of our records are still produced in a physical format. However we do have a set of born digital records which have been mentioned several times; the Voicesof Volunteering Oral Histories and their transcript/summary sheets. The oral histories were recorded as WAV the transcripts and summary sheets were typed as word documents. Over time we will need to monitor how these records are kept the word documents have already been converted to pdfs. An open source document which follows archive standards of digital preservation and allows easy access, they have at least three backups each. The WAV files are already at an archival standard for audio records however the file format makes them two large for access purposes we have created MP3 versions for Archive Online. Over time we will need to make sure these files don’t become obsolete, corrupt or suffer from bitrot as well as making sure they are not accidently deleted. This is digital preservation protecting born digital documents from many dangers and keeping them accessible for future generations.

In conclusion digitisation programmes are not digital preservation because they are about access to original documents and digital preservation is about protecting born digital records from destruction once they have made their way to the archive. I am sure at some point someone will raise the question is a digitised copy of a traditional archive a born digital record i.e. an archive/document in its own right and therefore keeping it a case for digital preservation. However I don’t have enough words in the blog to look at this now it is a discussion for another day.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 06 November 2017.

Labels: Archive, Royal Voluntary Service, Digitisation, Digital Preservation, Access, Twitter

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