The North Yorkshire County Record Office seeks to collect, preserve and make accessible physical/analogue and digital records relating to North Yorkshire, as set out in the Acquisitions and Collections Policy. Records in digital formats make up a very small proportion of the total collections held, despite a sharp increase in the creation of digital records by North Yorkshire County Council, other depositing bodies and individuals in recent years.
Digital information plays a central role in many aspects our lives, making the ability for North Yorkshire County Record Office to collect, preserve and provide access to digital records an essential function. Compared to the management of physical/analogue records, digital records require more urgent and proactive steps to reduce risks such as hardware and software obsolescence; failure of storage media; and loss of contextual knowledge relating to the records, their creation, purpose and function.
Digital Preservation can be described as the series of managed activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital records for as long as necessary, in many cases in perpetuity. Risk management plays a fundamental role in digital preservation activities, as each action is a response to a potential risk to digital records.
This policy sets out the approach to digital preservation at North Yorkshire County Record Office and provides a commitment to preserving digital records within the collections and future deposits.
The potential loss of unique digital records poses a significant economic, reputational and cultural risk for individuals, communities, and North Yorkshire County Council, which can only be diminished through proactive, timely digital preservation activities.
The risk to our digitised collections without adequate digital preservation, should also not be underestimated as they have been created using substantial resources over many years and are a central part of the North Yorkshire County Record Office offer, for use with exhibitions, community engagement, social media and the online shop.
The scope of the Digital Preservation Policy includes digital records deposited, acquired or created and accessioned by North Yorkshire County Record Office in line with the Acquisitions and Collections Policy.
This policy also applies to digitised collections, as the surrogate records created from physical/analogue records for preservation and access purposes.
We will ensure organisational viability – North Yorkshire County Record Office is committed to ensuring the preservation of digital records as far as can be sustainably achieved with the available resources.
We will maintain appropriate policy and strategy – This policy will be supported by implementation strategies and procedures, informed by appropriate standards to ensure good practice. They will be regularly reviewed and updated.
We will operate from a legal and ethical basis – All relevant legal, regulatory and ethical requirements in relation to our digital preservation activities will be considered and our rights and responsibilities relating to acquiring, ingesting, preserving, storing and providing access to digital records are clearly defined and managed.
We will develop IT capacity – As technology is constantly evolving and the systems used by North Yorkshire County Council are updated, we will continue to develop our IT capacity specifically in relation to digital preservation actions and appropriate storage for digital records, working in conjunction with our colleagues in Technology and Change.
We will continuously improve – We will monitor our progress to assess our digital preservation capabilities using maturity modelling at regular intervals. Training will be completed where required to expand the staff skill set.
We will engage with the digital preservation community – We will maintain an awareness of developments both in the field of digital preservation and with technology and will ensure good practice by engaging with other professionals and organisations. We will share our experiences with others in the sector.
We will endeavour to maintain authenticity and security of digital records – By carrying out regular integrity checking, recording appropriate metadata within a Verifiable File Manifest and maintaining a Digital Asset Register, we will seek to maintain the authenticity and security of digital records within our collections.
We will maintain the capability to preserve and make accessible our digital records – by regular checking that we can maintain and access all file formats and media in our possession, monitoring for obsolescence, maintaining preservation metadata and keeping disaster management procedures in place
We will work to documented procedures – We will ensure all processes, such as acquisition, transfer, ingest, appraisal, bitstream preservation, migration, emulation, capture of metadata and cataloguing of digital records are well documented, in line with other policies and follow good practice.
We will communicate effectively with our depositors and customers – by providing guidance to digital depositors, and appropriate support and metadata information to users accessing our digital records
We will provide access to digital collections – We will seek to provide access as appropriate to digital records within our collections, taking into account all legal, regulatory and ethical considerations. Access will be provided at a minimum level using a dedicated PC in the public searchroom.
Roles and responsibilities
Responsibility for the preservation of digital records lies with North Yorkshire County Record Office staff, who develop and manage the collections, have responsibility for service policies and are the primary point of contact for the creators and users of digital materials.
The implementation of this digital preservation policy will require co-operative working between North Yorkshire County Record Office staff and teams within North Yorkshire County Council and, on occasion, external partners. The following can therefore be considered stakeholders in this policy:
- North Yorkshire County Record Office staff
- management of the appropriate Directorates of North Yorkshire Council
- staff from North Yorkshire Council as creators of digital records, depositors and researchers
- North Yorkshire Council Technology and Change who facilitate the IT systems
- North Yorkshire Council Records Management Team
- depositors of digital records (public or private organisations and private individuals)
- The National Archives who regulate our statutory duties under the Public Records Act
- researchers and academics
- community groups
- funders of heritage projects
Effective digital preservation requires ongoing resources and support to ensure the development of the technical aspects as well as staff development. With growth of digital record collections, increased resources will be required to develop capacity to ensure their long-term preservation.
- Access policy
- Acquisition and collections policy
- Appraisal policy
- Collections care and conservation policy
- Collection information policy
- Collections management policy
Standards and code of practice
BS ISO 11799:2015 – Document storage requirements for archive and library materials
ISO/TR 19814:2017 – Collections management for archives and libraries
BS 4971:2017 – Conservation and care of archive and library collections
BSI PAS 198:2012 – Specification for managing environmental conditions for cultural collections
BS ISO 14721:2012 – Space data and information transfer systems. Open archival information system (OAIS). Reference model
BS EN 16893:2018 Conservation of Cultural Heritage – Specifications for location, construction and modification of buildings or rooms intended for the storage or use of heritage collections
ISO 15836:2003 The Dublin Core Metadata Element Set
ISO 15489-1:2016 Records management. Concepts and principles
Digital Preservation Handbook, produced by the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC)
DPC Rapid Assessment Model, a digital preservation maturity-modelling tool
National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NSDA) Levels of Digital Preservation
This policy was issued in October 2020. It will be updated as necessary and at least every three years.
Access – Continued, ongoing usability of a digital record, retaining all qualities of authenticity, accuracy and functionality deemed to be essential for the purposes the digital record was created and/or acquired for.
Accession – Material that comes into an archive as a single acquisition is described as an accession. A number of accessions may form one single collection with shared provenance, for example, the records of a business may be transferred to an archive over time.
Appraisal – The process of identifying and selecting content that has continuing value and requires long term preservation and separating material that can be disposed of.
Authenticity – The digital material is what it purports to be. In the case of electronic records, it refers to the trustworthiness of the electronic record as a record. In the case of "born digital" and digitised materials, it refers to the fact that whatever is being cited is the same as it was when it was first created unless the accompanying metadata indicates any changes. Confidence in the authenticity of digital materials over time is particularly crucial owing to the ease with which alterations can be made.
Bitstream Preservation – At a fundamental level, all digital content is stored as a series of 0s and 1s, called “binary digits” or “bits” and it is these streams of bits or “bitstream” that form digital records and for preservation to be successful, must not be damaged or lost.
Born Digital – Digital records that are not intended to have an analogue equivalent, either as the originating source or as a result of conversion to analogue form. This term can be used to differentiate born digital records from
- digital materials that have been created as a result of converting analogue originals (digitisation)
- digital materials that may have originated from a digital source but have been printed to paper, for example, some electronic records.
Catalogue – A description of the material within an archival collection, providing essential information about the collection. Often also called an archival description or a finding aid.
Digital Asset Register – A high-level register of the digital collections held by the organisation. This may include metadata such as: collection name, provenance, number of files, size, storage location, value, and key risks.
Digital Preservation – The formal activity of ensuring access to digital information for as long as necessary. It requires polices, planning, resource allocation (funds, time, people) and appropriate technologies and actions to ensure accessibility, accurate rendering and authenticity of digital objects.
Digitisation – The process of creating digital files by scanning or otherwise converting analogue materials. The resulting digital copy (or digital surrogate) would then be classed as digital content and subject to the same broad challenges involved in preserving access to it, as “born digital” materials.
Electronic Records – Records created digitally in the day-to-day business of the organisation and assigned formal status by the organisation. They may include for example, word processing documents, emails, databases, or intranet web pages.
Emulation – The use of software (an emulator) to recreate an obsolete software and hardware environment, allowing access to original digital content and providing an authentic user experience.
Ingest – The steps required to process deposited digital content so that it is ready for preservation.
Integrity Checking – The process of using checksums to ensure that digital content has not been altered, lost, or damaged over time.
Maturity Model – A tool that allows benchmarking of digital preservation capabilities against levels of good practice. Using a maturity model helps monitor progress and plan for future developments.
Metadata – The set of information required to enable content to be discovered, managed and used by both humans and automated systems.
- preservation metadata is information which supports and records digital preservation processes, including provenance metadata, rights metadata, technical metadata, and structural metadata.
- descriptive metadata is created for discovery and identification and may be used within a catalogue.
Migration – A means of overcoming technical obsolescence by preserving digital content in a succession of current formats or in the original format that is transformed into the current format for presentation. The purpose of format migration is to preserve the digital objects and to retain the ability for clients to retrieve, display, and otherwise use them in the face of constantly changing technology.
Storage Media – Devices that store the original digital content for example, CDs, DVDs, floppy disks and hard drives.
Verifiable File Manifest – A list of the files within a folder/collection, including basic technical metadata and checksums (often captured using characterization tools) held in a processable format such as .csv (comma-separated values file). This allows the file manifest to be verified over time using tools such as CSV Validator.