The Dutch extension to the 4C Cost Model for Digital Preservation


The Beggar (Rijksmuseum)

Based on the 4C Cost Model for Digital Preservation, a dedicated working group in the Network Digital Heritage created and validated an extension to the 4C Cost Model for Digital Preservation. This model will offer better insight into the costs of digital preservation, by detailed information based on activities and processes. Link this information to the institutional and preservation policies and this will offer a better insight in the costs and a better steering mechanism.

The Network Digital Heritage was initiated by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, with a focus on exploring more the Dutch digital cultural heritage, by making our digital collections more visible, more connected with each other and more sustainable. This working group is one of the activities in the Program Sustainable acces.

Inspired by the European Project 4C

The financial experts from BMC Research used the results from the European project 4C (Collaboration to Clarify the Costs of Curation). In this project a cost model was delivered (amongst other valuable results) and a tool, the CCEx module, which enables on an international scale to benchmark the costs related to digital preservation.

Let’s start by saying that the Dutch extension to the Cost Model is also an Activity Based Cost model and compatible with the CCEx module, so when there are more financial figures of Dutch organizations, international benchmarking is still possible. The main extensions were initiated because there was a need for a more detailed level of costs in order to make a relation between cost drivers and the actual costs.

Cost drivers and policies

Cost drivers are based on the mandate and policies of the organization: how will they design their activities and processes. Luckily for the Dutch organizations, in the same Network Digital Heritage we recently made a translation of the SCAPE Catalogue of Policy Elements, so that every organization is able to write a preservation policy.

The cost drivers will lead to the actual costs. Change in policy might lead to different costs. Having this detailed information offers the opportunity to better steer the activities. Improving the steering activities, not only on a local level, but also on a domain level or nationwide level was one of the drivers of this research. Understandable, as the funding of the Network Digital Heritage comes from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.


The model distinguishes activities based on OAIS, so entangles the activities Selection and Pre-Ingest, Ingest, Processing, Documentation, Archive, Access, User Support. In this last one we see the translation to the day to day practice when you implement OAIS in an organization; it does not stop with sending the DIP.  “User support” is one of the elements of which the working group partners wanted to have insight in their specific costs. The other elements are Metadata, Preservation Management, Infrastructure and ICT (btw, all incorporated in OAIS as well).

Validating the model

The working group had representatives from 4 domains, in total 9 participants representing Cultural Heritage, Archives/Government, Media and Science.  Some organizations were large, others (very) small. All participating organizations validated the Dutch model, and understandably it was not easy to get the financial figures quickly. Often the financial departments are structured differently, working with lump sums for Staffing and IT. Seldom the Activity Based Cost Model is implemented, which made it for some organizations difficult and for others almost impossible to gather the financial figures to this detail. If we want to use the Dutch extension to the 4C Cost model as a better steering instrument, this will need to change.

It showed that context is very important before you draw conclusions. Often the focus is on what organizations have in common, but it showed that it is also important how organizations differ from each other. Not only organizations, but also digital preservation in different domains. Digital art requires a different approach compared to research data. Different costs might be caused by different decisions and policy. Knowing these differences could lead to better collaboration and understanding.


Some conclusions only underpin what is common knowledge in preservation: staffing costs is for most organizations more than 50% of the budget, higher than the IT infrastructure. Selection/Pre-Ingest and Ingest will need most of these staffing costs. By the way don’t say this need to be automated: a lot of the (pre-)ingest activities are dedicated to make automation possible! You could say that these costs could be lowered by only accepting more streamlined content, but that expects the delivering party to do the job so you are just moving costs.

As digital preservation is not yet a mature activity and many organizations are still investigating how they will manage their digital collections, the current cost figures might change over the years.

Next steps

The project will be continued, and according to the Roadmap the first priority is to persuade more organizations in the Netherlands to fill the Dutch extension to the 4C Cost Model to draw some more generic conclusions. With this information it should also be possible to better link digital preservation services to organizations in need of these services (as described in the DPC Award Winning project Constructing a network of nationwide facilities together). Finally this information could be input for a Social Cost/Benefit Analyses for digital preservation.



© 2024 Barbara Sierman