Digital Preservation Policy
The Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) fosters and supports a broad community of users examining the history of philanthropy and its related endeavors. We acquire, preserve, make accessible, and encourage research and scholarship in the papers and records of the Rockefeller family and Rockefeller-founded philanthropies, and those of other foundations, nonprofit organizations, and related individuals undertaking philanthropic work and scientific and medical research.
In accordance with its mission to preserve the materials entrusted to the Center, this statement formalizes the RAC’s commitment to ensure continued access to the digital content in our care through a policy of active digital preservation.
Digital preservation encompasses a series of activities, processes and tools necessary to ensure continued access to authentic digital materials for as long as necessary. This digital preservation system stabilizes digital materials to ensure access beyond the limits of media failure or technological change. The objectives in this policy define a framework to:
- Establish and communicate an institutional commitment for digital preservation to the RAC user community, including but not limited to researchers, donors/depositors, and staff.
- Identify and select digital assets to be preserved, and clarify the levels of preservation the RAC can provide for specific groups of digital materials.
- Maintain a minimum of bit-level preservation for all objects entering the preservation system.
- Comply with community standards for the preservation, acquisition, access, and description of digital materials.
- Clarify the roles and responsibilities for those engaged with ensuring the sustainability of the digital preservation system.
- Develop and maintain in-house expertise for responsible stewardship of digital materials as a core function of the archive.
The RAC mandate for ensuring the preservation of deposited digital content stems from two primary areas of responsibility:
Contractual and Legal Obligation: To the extent that deposited digital content requires persistent, contractually mandated and legally-binding access, RAC islegally required to preserve that content.
Organizational Commitment: The RAC has an obligation to preserve and maintain access to the digital materials that are under its stewardship.
This policy addresses the preservation of digital materials for which the Rockefeller Archive Center is the primary custodian. This includes:
- Digital materials created by the RAC, which are deemed to have permanent archival value.
- Digital surrogates created (either internally or via outsourcing) by the RAC which are deemed to have permanent archival value.
- Unique digital materials which have been officially appraised as having permanent archival value in accordance with the RAC’s Collections Development Policy, legally transferred to the RAC, and accessioned by the RAC.
- Unique digital materials which have been officially appraised as having permanent archival value in accordance with the RAC’s Collections Development Policy, and acquired on a deposit basis through a separate agreement provisioning for their long-term care.
Digital preservation programs face multiple challenges and risks. These include, but are not limited to:
- Technological change: Establishing a program that can identify and keep pace with rapid changes in technologies used to capture, store, and represent digital materials.
- Maintaining a focus on preservation: Providing a balance between access and preservation, while being mindful of preservation’s core role in maintaining access.
- Sustainability: Developing a sustainable digital preservation model that will respond to staffing, equipment, software, and infrastructure changes as needed, without under- or overestimating the needs imposed by these changes.
- Training and awareness: Continuing to update staff expertise, where appropriate, as technologies change.
- Flexibility: Responding to evolving technological capabilities and changing user expectations without jeopardizing the ongoing care of digital content.
- Digital preservation is an ongoing activity. Preservation solutions must be cost effective so that they can be maintained over time.
- Whenever possible, the RAC is committed to using open source solutions for digital preservation processes. Adopting open source solutions reduces risks related to vendor reliance and ensures transparency in preservation practices. The RAC recognizes that open source solutions also require continued development and maintenance over time.
- The RAC will participate in the development of digital preservation community standards and solutions, and will adopt standards and best practices whenever possible.
Categories of Commitment
In recognition that digital preservation is an ongoing, resource-intensive endeavor, the RAC has outlined levels of commitment to different categories of materials.
- Born digital materials - Rigorous effort will be made to ensure preservation in perpetuity of material selected for preservation, including the RAC’s own digital records as well as archival materials acquired by the RAC This effort may include preservation strategies such as: migration, emulation, and geographically distributed and redundant bit-level replication. Digitized materials with no available analog versions will be treated with the same care as born digital materials.
- Digitized materials (available analog version) - In most cases the analog version of these materials will be considered the preservation format, and preservation activities for the digital materials will be limited to local and non-distributed bit-level replication. Whenever possible, digitized materials will be created using file formats conducive to long-term preservation activities. The cost of re-digitizing materials should be weighed against the cost of long term preservation. In cases where the analog carriers of information are obsolete or at great risk of obsolescence, such as audio/visual materials, the digitized materials will be considered the preservation copy and treated with the same care as born digital materials.
- Commercially available digital resources - Due to copyright and other licensing issues, the RAC will make no effort to preserve commercially available digital resources, including published content as well as proprietary software. To the extent that it is possible, the RAC will attempt to preserve archival data stored within proprietary systems.
- Legacy digital materials - Legacy digital materials are materials donated to the RAC prior to the development of a digital preservation system. Many of these materials were not officially appraised, accessioned, or evaluated for long-term value. Some of these materials are stored on obsolete media, encoded in obsolete file systems or formats, or are otherwise inaccessible. When possible, the RAC will attempt to recover this data and evaluate it for inclusion into the digital preservation system. The RAC makes no guarantee that recovery will be successful or that it will be able to provide the resources necessary to attempt recovery.
Frequency of Policy Review
This policy will be reviewed annually to assure timely updates as technology progresses, preservation strategies and experience mature, and the RAC further develops preservation workflows and capabilities.
Roles and Responsibilities
Digital Preservation is a highly collaborative endeavor that reaches across each functional area of the Rockefeller Archive Center and includes our communities of donors/depositors and researchers.
Donors, or depositors, are the creators of materials for inclusion into the archive and play a critical role in the preservation of digital materials. They are responsible for effective management of materials prior to transfer to the archives, including identifying archival materials, providing appropriate levels of description for those materials, and working closely with the RAC to ensure a successful transfer of the materials.
RAC Senior Leadership
The RAC President and Director of Archives are responsible for identifying relevant archival materials and communicating with potential and current donors and depositors, including negotiating the appropriate ownership and rights to be transferred with the materials.
The Collections Management team is responsible for accessioning digital materials, managing climate-controlled environments for digital media, and collaborating with the Reference team to digitize audio/visual materials. In collaboration with the RAC President and Director of Archives, the Collections Management team is additionally responsible for working with potential and current donors and depositors to assist them with the identification of archival materials prior to transfer to the archives.
The Digital Programs team is responsible for managing digital preservation systems, determining migration policies, conducting preservation planning, managing relationships with service providers, developing preservation workflows, and advising other RAC teams on digital preservation-related activities, including forensically imaging materials for processing, and providing access to digital materials.
The Processing team is responsible for working with the Digital Programs group to describe and process digital collections, includingforensically imaging materials for processing and identifying restricted digital materials and determining copyright.
The Reference team is responsible for working with the RAC researcher community to increase awareness of the digital materials that are available for research and to digitize select materials. The Reference team is also responsible for working with the Digital Programs team to provide access to digital materials.
RAC IT Services are responsible for the maintenance and security of the servers, networks, and storage systems employed by the digital preservation system. The IT Services team works closely with the Digital Programs team to ensure that systems are running smoothly and are optimized for efficiency.
Preservation strategies affect access capabilities. It is incumbent upon RAC researchers to communicate how different modes of access affect their research so that the RAC can provide appropriate access mechanisms as requested.
The RAC may occasionally contract with external partners to provide additional support for digital preservation activities, including but not limited to augmenting hardware or software capacity and providing development expertise or technical support for existing systems. The roles and responsibilities of these partners are contractually defined, and may vary substantially over time.
Appendix A: Glossary
Accession: To take legal and physical custody of a group of materials and establish physical and intellectual control.
Acquisition: A group of materials physically and legally transferred to a repository.
Bit-level preservation: The maintenance of a digital object’s original bitstream, as opposed to file format migration. It is the minimum standard for digital preservation and allows for future preservation actions.
Born digital: Information created in a digital format.
Deposit: Materials transferred to a repository without the transfer of title or ownership.
Digital preservation: The storage, maintenance and access to digital resources over the long term. Because of the risk of media failure and the rapid pace of technological change, digital preservation is an ongoing process.
Digital preservation system: A system, consisting of people and technologies, for ensuring the long-term usability of digital objects and materials, beyond the limits of media failure or technological change.
Digital surrogate/digitized materials: Materials that were originally created in analog form, but were reformatted (such as by scanning) into digital form, usually for preservation or access.
Emulation: The imitation of a computer system in order to allow programs and media designed for a particular system to operate in a different, usually newer, system. A method of overcoming technological obsolescence.
Migration: The transfer of digital resources from one hardware or software generation to the next, while preserving the essential characteristics of the data. A method of overcoming technological obsolescence.
Open Source: A software development methodology and licensing approach that makes computer source code freely available, open to modification, and redistributable.
Appendix B: Sources Consulted
Beagrie, N., Semple, N., Williams, P., & Wright, R. Digital Preservation Policies Study. (October 2008) http://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20140615022334/http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/preservation/jiscpolicy_p1finalreport.pdf
Columbia University Libraries. Policy for Preservation of Digital Resource. (2006) http://library.columbia.edu/content/libraryweb/services/preservation/dlpolicy.html
DCC. Preservation Policy Template for Repositories. (January 2010) http://www.dcc.ac.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Preservation%20policy%20template.pdf
ERPANET. Digital Preservation Policy Tool. (September 2003) http://www.erpanet.org/guidance/docs/ERPANETPolicyTool.pdf
Nelson, N., Shaw, S., Deromedi, N., Shallcross, M., Ghering, C., Schmidt, L., Belden, M., Esposito, J., Goldman, B., Pyatt, T. SPEC Kit 329: Managing Born-Digital Special Collections and Archival Materials. (August 2012) http://publications.arl.org/Managing-Born-Digital-Special-Collections-and-Archival-Materials-SPEC-Kit-329/
NESTOR. Guidelines for the Creation of an Institutional Policy on Digital Preservation. (2014) http://files.d-nb.de/nestor/materialien/nestor_mat_18-eng.pdf
The Ohio State University. Digital Preservation Policy Framework. (August 2013) http://library.osu.edu/documents/SDIWG/Digital_Preservation_Policy_Framework.pdf
Purdue University Research Repository. Digital Preservation Policy. (April 2012) https://purr.purdue.edu/legal/digitalpreservation
The University of Manchester Library. Digital Preservation Statement. (March 2020) https://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/about/policies/_files/Digital-Preservation-Statement-1.0.pdf
Yale University Library. Digital Preservation Policy Framework. (November 2014) https://web.library.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/YUL%20Digital%20Preservation%20Policy%20Framework%20V1%200.pdf