Digital Preservation Strategy
With the ever-increasing volume and technical complexity of digital records, Concordia University Records Management and Archives (RMA) has created a Digital Preservation Strategy (DPS) in order to respond to challenges linked to the preservation and management of digital records. This Strategy reinforces RMA’s commitment to collecting, preserving and making digital holdings accessible for future researchers.
As a next-generation University, managing digital assets with long-term historic value will play a central role. Therefore, this Strategy puts in place a framework that will ensure the enduring usability, integrity, authenticity, discoverability and accessibility of digital archives housed at RMA.
This Digital Preservation Strategy is in line with the Strategic Directions of Concordia University. With this endeavor, RMA, while being the guardian of the institutional memory, takes a step forward by collecting and making accessible digital records. This Digital Preservation Strategy follows the Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS) (ISO 14721).
This Strategy will contribute to double its research as RMA provides the institution with means to keep records related to research for future generations. Furthermore, research data collected today will become the research material for tomorrow’s researchers.
According to the Archives Act, institutions like Concordia University, have to preserve their records: Every public body shall establish and keep up to date a retention schedule determining the periods of use and medium of retention of its active and semi-active documents and indicating which inactive documents are to be preserved permanently, and which are to be disposed of. (RSQ c. A-21.1, s. 7)
Concordia University recognizes the importance of records, analog or digital, and understands the necessity to preserve them according to administrative, legal and historical needs. Concordia also recognizes that donors gifting their documents as private donations come to rely on the University’s commitment to best practices, including digital preservation.
RMA currently has three key policies in place that outline the responsibilities and mandate of the department:
- Policy on the Acquisition of Archives (SG-8)
- Policy on Records Management and Archives (SG-10)
- Policy on Email Management (SG-11)
RMA is responsible for the collection, long-term preservation, as well as, granting access to records holding historic and/or legal value. Furthermore, this responsibility applies to individuals and/or groups that have made private donations to Concordia’s RMA.
Digital preservation encompasses the procedures, polices and technical processes necessary to ensure long-term accessibility to authentic digital records as well as surrogates produced to preserve analog records.
The Society of American Archivists defines a Digital Record [Electronic Record] as, “Data or information that has been captured and fixed for storage and manipulation in an automated system and that requires the use of the system to render it intelligible by a person.” In the context of RMA, this will also include the preservation and accessibility of related metadata.
This Strategy looks to establish a framework for activities that RMA will undertake in the next years relating to digital preservation, including in particular:
- Acquisition and implementation of a digital preservation system
- Establishment of a digital repository acting as a central hub for digital records and related metadata
- Realization and expansion of a digital preservation lab
- Creation of digital preservation policies, procedures and workflows
There are many challenges facing archivists responsible for the acquisition, arrangement, and accessibility of digital records, including in particular:
- Managing the rate of digital records proliferation
- File format obsolescence
- Physical degradation and damage to legacy hardware and physical storage media
- Securing large scale preservation storage and backup
Due to these primary challenges, the long-term accessibility of digital records is threatened.
RMA adheres to the following digital preservation principles:
- Long-term preservation and access to born-digital records and surrogates
- Commitment to professional standards and best practices
- Ongoing monitoring of technology
- Acquisition not being impaired by technology
- Original kept and not being affected by preservation actions
- Integrity being retained through preservation actions
- Authenticity being assured through preservation actions
- Auditability of documented and transparent preservation actions
The Secretary-General owns the program and delegates its administration to the Director, RMA.
- University Archivist
The Director, RMA oversees the program and allocates suitable resources for its sustainability.
- Lead, Historical Archives
The Lead, Historical Archives supervises and works closely with the digital archivist in all aspects of the program and insures that all steps are done according to best practices and in due time.
- Digital Archivist
The Digital Archivist is responsible for overseeing the planning, implementation, and management of the digital archives program and digital preservation lab.
RMA will ensure that enough resources are allocated to pursue the digital archives program in the future by:
- Maintaining and training staff with appropriate skills
- Monitoring technology and professional standards evolution
- Auditing practices and measuring success
The implementation of this strategy will start in fall 2018 with the objective of launching the Digital Preservation Lab in 2021.