Digital Preservation Seeds

by Barbara Sierman

NARA needs your input

You will have one month, until November 1st 2019 to give your feedback on NARA’s 15 File Format Digital Preservation Action Plans. During the AdHoc session at iPRES2019 Leslie Johnston presented NARA’s Preservation Plans. This was a follow up of last years presentation at iPRES 2018 of NARA’s Risk Assesment Matrix. This Risk Assesment Matrix is based on a list of over 50 elements that represent generally well known factors that influence the risk of a file format. Like for example the openness of a file format, the level of adoption, the age of the format etc. For each of the over 350 file formats in the NARA archives, this risk assesment resulted in a score and a final verdict about the risk of the holdings with that file format.

After having identified the risk, next step is to create a Preservation Action Plan to mitigate the risk. For a set of 15 records types (like Email Formats, Textual and Word Processing Formats, Still Image Formats) this is done. With input from existing resources like of the Library of Congress. The results are open for public feedback and can be found on github

Like was promised last year, for each file format in a record type, the description:

  • links to format documentation,
  • identifies essential characteristics, aka significant properties to be preserved from the format
  • identifies the relevant preferred and acceptable formats from the NARA Transfer Guidance,
  • refers to the internal NARA reference format ID (unfortunately not to other well used file format identifiers),
  • gives the outcome of the NARA risk matrix analysis,
  • gives the Proposed Preservation Action Plan with a justification(transform records to new formats, procure/develop tools that enhance or extend NARA’s capability to manage records in that format, or to explore additional options),
  • if applicable, gives preferred normalization/transformation tool(s),
  • if applicable, sums up preferred available viewer(s).

The current draft is not yet machine readable – during the Ad Hoc session Leslie Johnson replied that this is planned for – , which for this kind of information would be highly advisable. In the digital preservation community we had lots of discussions about a file format registry. As a community we were not able to build one, for various reasons. But we now have several initiatives that, if combined, might give the preservation community a way to handle their file formats. Machine readable and processable information is a minimum requirement to do this.

But have a look for yourself, especially if you have experience with preservation actions on certain file formats and give your feedback on github!

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© 2019 Barbara Sierman

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