Open Preservation Foundations new Strategy

There are several member organizations active in digital preservation. Knowing their position in the preservation landscape will help preservationist to decide which of them fits best to their needs and which to join. The Open Preservation Foundation (OPF) launched recently their new Strategy (2018-2021) and shows the plans for the next coming years. The vision of OPF  “Open sustainable digital preservation” is accompanied by a new mission, thanks to the influence of the new director Martin Wrigley, and states


Enabling shared solutions for effective and efficient digital preservation; the Open Preservation Foundation leads a collaborative effort to create, maintain and develop the reference set of sustainable, open source digital preservation tools and supporting resources.

This set of tools (including software and standards) enables organisations to evaluate, validate, document, mitigate risk, and process digital content to be preserved in line with desired policies and community best practice.

One of the core values of OPF is the focus on serving the [currently 26] members with tools they need and to foster their effective and efficient preservation activities. The  OPF members were involved in shaping this strategy during their annual meeting in Tallinn in spring 2018. But as two other values are “openness”  and “collaboration” a larger group of preservationists will benefit from the OPF activities.

At the heart of the planned activities is the OPF Reference Toolset. In general there is a wide range of tools available for various preservation tasks (see Coptr) and of different maturity and robustness. OPF want to improve this situation so that members can be supported in choosing the right tool for their purpose. This will be done by creating a OPF Reference toolset, the development of which will be influenced by the OPF members.  The OPF Reference Toolset will not just being a set of useful tools, but is more. “The reference toolset includes software, standard test data sets (or “test corpus”), other standards and best practice (including policies), and may rely on external components that have a robust support mechanism.” 

As Knowledge exchange and Collaboration are still part of the action plan for the next coming years, the larger preservation community can be part of these development, but as nothing is free, an increase in members will certainly contribute to achieving the goals sooner. More details about the planned activities and a more extensive explanation of the OPF Reference Toolset can be found in the Strategy.

ENUMERATE 2017 and digital preservation


A new version of the ENUMERATE survey results was just published with a separate report on the Dutch results. The ENUMERATE survey monitors the digitization activities in memory institutions in Europe, whereby memory institutions are defined as “ institutions having collections that need to be preserved for future generations”. It is always risky to interpret survey results without the raw data. My knowledge of the context of the participating organisations will also colour the results. As will the knowledge of the persons who supplied the survey answers. But some interesting outcomes in relation to digital preservation are worth pondering about. Around 1000 cultural heritage institutions in Europe replied to the 37 survey questions: libraries, archives, museums etc. .A lot of institutions have not supplied answer to all questions, making interpretation even more difficult. Lees verder

SCAPE Preservation Policies continued


This week we launched a Dutch translation of the Catalogue of Policy Elements as  Duurzaamheidsbeleid , a wiki on the website of the National Coalition for Digital Preservation (NCDD).

The original Catalogue was created in the European project SCAPE (2010-2014) and is hosted on the website of the Open Preservation Foundation and one of their popular hits. The Dutch translation was initiated by the Network Digital Heritage, a national initiative to improve the accessibility, usability and sustainability of the Dutch cultural and scientific heritage.

The original catalogue is based on the SCAPE policy framework of three levels: the Guidance Policies on strategic level, the Preservation Procedure Policies on tactic level and the Control Policies on a detailed operational level. In the translation we followed the framework and the template but added Dutch policy examples from the archival and audio-visual domains. It is planned to extend this with examples from digital art collections, research data centres  etc.

During the SCAPE project we found it hard to phrase preservation policies on the lowest level, the Control Policies. Control Policies require a thorough technical knowledge in order to formulate policies that are not only human readable (after all more people need to understand the requirements and policy decisions) but also computer actionable for automated workflows.  Hence we decided to leave out this category in the Dutch  translation.

But some new developments might help us. In the European project Preforma three suppliers are working on developing tools for conformance checking of file formats:

The work done on the conformance checkers generated a wealth of knowledge about the features of these file formats and one can use this information for the Control level policies. “Feature extraction” is one of the facilities that will be offered to the users of the tools. But the tools will also offer the possibility to indicate policy rules, based on these features. And this is exactly what we were hoping for when we were designing the SCAPE policy framework! This way it will be possible to create a consistent set of policies, whereby the lowest levels can refer to higher level decisions.  It requires some file format knowledge to make a well-founded decision but the tools will assist the user. See for example the recent webinar about the VeraPDF policy checking of the Open Preservation Foundation.



Whitts cure for preservationists despair?

A cure for preservation despair?

A cure for preservation despair?

After Christmas I tried to reduce my digital pile of recent articles, conference papers, presentations etc. on digital preservation. Interesting initiatives (“a pan European AIP” in the e-Ark project:  wow!) could not prevent that after a few days of reading I ended up slightly in despair: so many small initiatives but should not we march together in a shared direction to get the most out of these initiatives? Where is our vision about this road? David Rosenthals blog post offered a potential medicine for my mood.



He referred to the article of Richard Whitt “Through A Glass, Darkly” Technical, Policy, and Financial Actions to Avert the Coming Digital Dark Ages.” 33 Santa Clara High Tech. L.J. 117 (2017). Lees verder

Developments in Preservation Policies

Often it is unclear whether results from European projects have any follow-up after the project is finished. If so, how can one monitor this? With regard to our work in SCAPE, including the Catalogue of Policy Elements and the list of Published Preservation Policies, however I am under the impression that these tools are still supporting organisations in creating preservation policies. People sometimes tell me this directly and sometimes I see references in articles and presentations.


One initiatives I’m involved in myself is a Dutch working group under the flag of the Network Digital Heritage, that will use the SCAPE Catalogue to create Dutch Guidelines for creating preservation policies, with a focus on smaller organisations in various domains. Not only libraries and data centres – which were involved in the creation of the SCAPE version – but also archives, museums and organisations collecting digital art and architectural materials. These Guidelines should support these organisations and also help them to not only write the preservation policies, but to also implement them in their organisations (often it is the other way around: policies are not written down but actions are based on implicit “policies” ).

The Institute for Sound and Vision is partner in this working group.. Annemieke de Jong, whom I mentioned earlier in a blogpost about their work to become a TDR , created Preservation Policies for their institute. I’ve read all the preservation policies collected here, but this policy is exemplary and should be high on the list of Best Preservation Policies. This is the first preservation policy that looks good, reads well and covers all main topics mentioned in the SCAPE catalogue. The design of this policy shows that this document is not seen as an obligatory task, but as way of communicating with the Producers and Consumers of the content of the digital archive. From what I’ve seen of policies so far is that they are seldom attractively designed. In this case, the text itself is understandable and clear, without too much jargon, but instead explaining the concepts and approaches in a clear language. And as said it covers all topics we identified as Guidance Policies in the SCAPE Preservation Policy model and added much information to it that is part of the Procedure Policies, the middle level in which you translate the high level policies into practical approaches. Based on this policy you will get a good overview of what the Institute is collecting and how this is preserved. With additional internal guidelines, referred to in the text, it should be clear to the employers of the Institute what is expected from them and as I mentioned earlier at iPRES 2014, this is one of the goals of a good policy. A new item on your reading list!

Crystal clear digital preservation: a management issue

Digital Preservation of awareness for digital preservation was a frequently used phrase when I started in this field ten years ago (never regretted it, hurray!). We preservationists have made progress. But the story is still not explaining itself. So I like reading how others persuade and convince people. Recently I found a book that really does the job. In crystal clear language, without beating about the bush and based on extensive up to date (until 2014) literature, digital preservation is explained and almost every aspect of it is touched upon. Edward M. Corrado and Heather Lea Moulaison have done a great job with their Digital Preservation for Libraries, Archives and Museums , Rowman and Littlefield, 2014. ISBN 978-0-8108-8712-1 (pbk.) — ISBN 978-0-8108-8713-8 (ebook)

In fact, I should start this blog post with “Dear manager, I have found a book that tells you all you need to know about digital preservation. Spare some time and read the chapter that is dedicated to you (part II) , the sooner the better” [preservationist, please forward this to your manager, they might even read the rest of the book!]

The book starts by explaining what digital preservation is not ( like “backup and recovery”, access, “an afterthought”). Followed almost immediately by the (positively phrased) starting point, that guides the whole book:

“ensuring ongoing access to digital content over time requires careful reflection and planning. In terms of technology, digital preservation is possible today. It might be difficult and require extensive, institution-wide planning, but digital preservation is an achievable goal given the proper resources. In short, digital preservation is in many ways primarily a management issue”.

The red line/ metaphor in the book is the authors “Digital Preservation Triad”. The triad is a new variety of the Three legged stool of Nancy McGovern and is symbolized by a Celtic knot. The knot is used in order to better symbolize the interrelated activities.


These activities are divided into :

  • Management-related activities,
  • Technological activities and
  • Content-centred activities.

Each set of activities is further explained in a dedicated chapter. The chapter about Management activities immediately starts to explain the basics of the OAIS model. Clearly showing that this is the essence of digital preservation. Knowledge of OAIS should be present on management level of an organisation. Only then management can deal properly with aspects like human resources (skills and training), and sustainable digital preservation (costs etc).

The Technology part is more concerned with metadata and file formats and the technical infrastructure or repository, which is closely related to mechanisms of trust (audit and certification).

The last part of the book discusses aspects related to the Content, like collection development.

The text is based on a large literature list in which many recently published conference papers, (EU) project results and reports are used. The authors are well informed about what is going on and do not restrict themselves to the US.

What I liked in this book is the very practical approach and the unvarnished description of digital preservation (‘not easy but doable’). The authors stress that preservationists should convince over and over again management “that digital preservation is important to the overall mission of the organization”, and not just “an experimental technology project” and “communicate the multiple ways in which digital preservation brings value to the organization.”

One of the barriers in this process, at least in my experience, it that people often try to connect their experience in analogue preservation with that of digital preservation. Sometimes this leads to monstrous analogies. This book does not try to map the two worlds, but clearly states:

“The digital item created and made accessible as part of a digital preservation system is fundamentally different from an analogue item. Period.”

Unavoidably some recent developments are missing, like the Cost model work that was done in the 4C project and the work on Preservation Planning and Policies in SCAPE.

But if you still need to convince your management, point them to this book – also available as an epub!

Preservation Policies & Maturity levels


Recently at the iPRES 2014 conference in Melbourne I gave a presentation on the SCAPE Preservation Policies.  Not only I explained  the SCAPE  Preservation Policy Model , but I also summarized my findings after analysing 40 real life preservation policies. You can read the detailed information in my article (to be published soon). Basically I think that organisations not seldom overstretch themselves in formulating preservation policies that are not in line with their maturity. And I propose to extend the SCAPE Catalogue of Preservation Policy Elements with information indicating in which maturity level  this policy element is relevant.  The 5 levels are based on the Maturity Model of C. Dollar and L. Ashley.

The SCAPE project is finished, and that is why  I can use your input. The current wiki on the Open Preservation Foundation will be open to OPF account holders and  you will be able to help by adding this maturity level to the preservation policies. This way it will reflect a collaborative view, rather than my own opinion.

Currently the OPF website is undergoing  some changes, but when this is finished, I’ll remind you!

nestor Preservation Policy guideline (as yet: for German readers only)


People who can read the German language should have a look at the recent publication of nestor, the German digital preservation coalition, about creating an institutional preservation policy, or Leitfaden zur Erstellung einer institutionellen Policy zur digitalen Langzeitarchivierung.

This 26 pages long guideline describes various aspects of preservation policies, like the usefulness of a policy, who to address with the policy and what to put into a policy. In this chapter a warning is made not to mix up the real situation in the preservation policy with the situation an organisation would like to achieve (the “ist und soll”). In practice this happens frequently I think; a topic I will discuss more on iPRES 2014 now that my paper is accepted.

Each chapter has some questions formulated related to the topic, and I assume this is to foster internal discussions.

I looked with special interest to this guideline, as I was involved in creating a Catalogue of Policy elements in the European project SCAPE . This catalogue gives an overview of elements that should be part of a preservation policy. The elements of the SCAPE policy and the nestor guideline overlap for most part, sometimes differing in granularity, for example when describing the technical environment of the repository. The nestor guideline has one interesting addition however and that is the chapter about collaborative digital preservation, where more than one organisation is involved.

There is no reference to the policy work in SCAPE and this is a pity in my (slightly biased) opinion. A reason might be that the SCAPE Catalogue is not in German but in English. But reference to this work would have been a useful additional source for organisations in creating their preservation policies.

Taking notice of the outcomes of European projects could also have extended some topics, like the “Technology and Community Watch” to which now often is referred to as Preservation Watch. Preservation Watch is less limited to technology and community only –two elements mentioned in OAIS – , but also will take into account i.a. changes in the organisation itself, see for example the report on the Planets Functional Model on this and the uptake of this concept in the SCOUT tool.

The guideline ends with a list of examples of preservation policies, a list that has a striking resemblance with the SCAPE site of Published Preservation Policies .

It would be nice if the nestor people will make an English translation of this document (of course incorporating some SCAPE work as well ). Many organisations are currently working on creating preservation policies, and not only small organisations. This could be a worthwhile supportive document and get a wider audience, if in English.

Update 2015: the English translation is there !

Too early for audits?

I never realized that the procedure of getting to an ISO standard could take several years, but this is true for two standards related to audit and certification of trustworthy digital repositories.  Although we have the ISO 16363 standard on Audit and Certification since 2012, official audits cannot take place against this standard until the related standard Requirements for bodies providing Audit and Certification (ISO 16919) is approved, regulating the appointment of auditors. This standard, similar to the ISO 16363 compiled by the PTAB group in which I participate, was already finished a few years ago, but the ISO review procedure, especially when revisions need to be made, takes long. The latest prediction is that this summer (2014) the ISO 16919 will be approved, after which national standardization bodies can train the future (official) auditors.  How many organizations will then apply for an official certification against the ISO standard is not yet clear, but if you’re planning to do so, it might be worthwhile to have a look at the recent report of the European 4C project  Quality and trustworthiness as economic determinants in digital curation.

The 4C project (Collaboration to Clarify the Cost of Curation) is looking at the costs and benefits of digital curation. Trustworthiness is one of the “economic determinants” of the 15 they distinguish. As quality is seen as a precondition for trustworthiness, the 4C project focusses in this report on the costs and benefits of “standards based quality assurance” and looks at the 5 current standards related to audit and certification: DSA, Drambora, DIN 31644 of the German nestor group, TRAC and TDR. The first part of the report gives an overview of the current status of these standards. Woven in this overview are some interesting thoughts about audit and certification. It all starts with the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model. The report suggests that the OAIS model is there to help organisations to create processes and workflows (page 18), but I think this does not right to the OAIS model. If one really reads the OAIS standard from cover to cover (and should not we all do that regularly?) one will recognize that the OAIS model expects a repository to do more than designing workflows and processes. Instead, a repository needs to develop a vision on how to do digital preservation and the OAIS model gives directions. But the OAIS model is not a book of recipes and we all are trying to find the best way to translate OAIS into practice. It is this lack of evidence which approach will offer the best preserved digital objects, that made the authors in the report wonder whether an audit that will take place now might lead to a risky outcome (either too much confidence in the repository or too little). They use the phrase “dispositional trust” . “It is the trustor’s belief that it will have a certain goal B in the future and, whenever it will have such a goal and certain conditions obtain, the trustee will perform A and thereby will ensure B.”(p. 22). We expect that our actions will lead to a good result in the future, but this is uncertain as we don’t have an agreed common approach with evidence that this approach will be successful.  This is a good point to keep in mind I think as well as the fact that there are many more standards applicable for digital preservation then only the above mentioned. Security standards, record management standards and standards related to the creation of the digital object, to name just a few.

Based on publicly available audit reports (mainly TRAC and DSA, and test audits on TDR) the report describes the main benefits of audits for organisations as

  • to improve the work processes,
  • to meet a contractual obligation and
  • to provide a publicly understandable statement of quality and reliability (p. 29).

These benefits are rather vague but one could argue that these vague notions might lead to more tangible benefits in the future like more (paying) depositors, more funding, etc. By the way, one of the benefits recognized in the test audits was the process of peer review in itself and the ability for the repository management to discuss the daily practices with knowledgeable people.

The authors also tried to get more information about costs related to audit and certification, but had to admit in the end that currently there is hardly any information about the actual costs of an audit and/or get certified (why they mention on page 23 financial figures of 2 specific audits without any context is unclear to me) and base themselves mainly on information that was collected during the test audits that the APARSEN project performed and the taxonomy of costs that was created. For costs we need to wait for more audits and for repositories that are willing to publish all their costs in relation to this exercise.

Reading between the lines,  one could easily conclude that it is not recommended to perform audits yet. But especially now the DP community is working hard to discover the best way to protect digital material, it is important for any repository to protect their investments and to avoid that current funding organizations (often tax payers) will back off because of costly mistakes. The APARSEN trial audits were performed by experts in the field and the audited organizations (and these experts) found the discussions and recommendations valuable. As standards are evolving and best practices and tools are developed, a regular audit by experts in the field can certainly safeguard organizations to minimize the risk for the material. These expert auditors need to be aware of the current state of digital preservation, the uncertainties, the risks, the lack of tools and the best practices that are there. The audit results  will help the community to understand the issues encountered by the audited organizations, as audit results will be published.

As I noticed while reading a lot of preservation policies for SCAPE, many organisations want to get certified and put this aim in their policies. Publishers want to have their data and publications in trustworthy, certified repositories. But all stakeholders (funders, auditors, repository management) should realise that the outcomes of an audit should be seen in the light of the current state of digital preservation: that of pioneering.

BVIM and digital preservation policies

toy (solar clock)  Digital 360 computer

Toy clock Digital 350 computer

Organizations must evaluate their activities and show the relevancy of them to their funders. It  is no exception that organizations like libraries and archives are facing severe budget cuts, which will affect their current activities like their digitization projects. Simon Tanner of the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, wrote an interesting report, in which he explains the Balanced Value Impact Model. This model will support organizations (especially memory institutions) to do an Impact Analyses of their digital resources in order to show how the use of digital resources will benefit  and change people. Not with vague notions, but in an evidence based approach. The results can be valuable input for further plans and can support decision makers at various levels. Decisons could be made not only on economical grounds, but also by taking the impact values into account.

Tanner distinguishes the following impact areas:

  • Social and Audience impacts : “the audience, the beneficial stakeholders and wider society has been affected and changes in a beneficial fashion”
  • Economic impacts “the activitiy is demonstrating economic benefits to the organisation or to society”
  • Innovation impacts: “that the digital resource is enabling innovation which is supporting the social and economic benefits accrued”
  • Internal process impacts: ”that the organisation creating/delivering the digital resources have been benefitted within its internal processes by the innovation demonstrated”. (p.45)

The model consists of 5 stages, of which the first two are “Context” and “Analysis and Design”. In these steps the digital environment in which the organization operates ( “the digital ecosystem”), are described, as well as the stakeholders who either benefit from or at least are affected by the digital resources.

It is not my intention to explain the model here and I would advise you to read the report. But it occurred to me that this exercise could benefit the case of digital preservation in an organisation as well. Part of the digital resources will be preserved for the long term after all.

As digital preservation is a costly activity, it is important to show the value of it. Why are we keeping all this digital material for an undefined amount of years? The Balanced Value Impact Model could be very helpful as this exercise will lead to an overview of the current ecosystem, and the current stakeholders for the digital resources. It will also show the value the stakeholders relate to the digital collections. Values for society and for individuals, economic values and values for the organization itself.

The  information collected for the Balanced Value Impact Model can help the organization to identify the areas they need to monitor in their Preservation Watch to safeguard that this ecosystem and the identified stakeholders will be served over the years. The Designated community, –  for many memory institutions quite a vague notion -, will be  described better, as well as the value this Designated Community experiences with the digital resources. These values could be an ingredient for the organization in establishing their preservation policies, in which they will describe whether and how  they will keep these values in the digital collection present.

Creating a Balanced Value Impact model will not be an easy task for an organization. But it could be a very useful exercise to support the preservation policies too.