Sally McInnes

Sally McInnes

Last updated on 6 February 2018

Sally McInnes is Chair of the ARCW Digital Preservation Group and Head of Unique Collections and Collections Care at the National Library of Wales

On International Digital Preservation Day last year, the Archives and Records Council Wales (ARCW) published the first national digital preservation policy.  The policy was produced in recognition of the significant strategic challenge which digital preservation presents to organisations in Wales which are creating, providing access and preserving digital information.  The policy also aims to raise awareness of the importance of effective digital preservation amongst archive institutions, practitioners and managers, through stressing that transparent, responsible and accountable activity relies upon the ability to evidence decision making and to provide a reliable audit trail.

ARCW is a representative body for institutions and organisations all over Wales which are involved with caring for archives, including local authorities, higher educational and national institutions. These organisations are accumulating digital material from their parent authorities and from external sources, but their resources to deal with the complex issues of preserving digital material is limited.  Following a survey of needs and issues, it was apparent that working collaboratively would be the only realistic option, enabling the sharing of resources, risks and skills.  However, although there was a common aim of preserving and providing access to digital material, the partners had differing governance arrangements, resource bases and strategic goals. The objective was to support digital preservation in a collaborative manner, whilst taking account of individual organisational imperatives. This challenge was tackled through the establishment of a Digital Preservation Group, which works together to consult the views of the differing partners, within the context of the common aim. Development is being led by the National Library of Wales with project staff supported by funding from the Welsh Government.

The policy is underpinned by a technical infrastructure.  As resources are limited, an open-source digital preservation solution was selected to answer the requirements of the partners. Following testing of a number of open source solutions, Archivematica was selected, as it was supported by a growing user community and was intuitive to use. Initially it was intended to install Archivematica onto local IT systems, but there was understandable reluctance to load unknown software onto partner systems. These concerns were addressed through proposing that partner content would be held centrally and securely at the National Library of Wales (NLW), whilst ensuring that partners maintained ownership and were able to  provide access to their data through their own, rather the NLW’s,  catalogue.

The workflow was developed based on content being uploaded using the Exactly tool, accompanied by metadata held on an Excel spreadsheet. Exactly was chosen as it uses the Bagit file packaging format, which allows all content to be uploaded as a single item,  whilst  retaining the  file structure,  it also creates a checksum prior to upload which can be checked for corruption and is a java app which does not need to be installed, negating the  requirement of obtaining  IT permissions. Once the content has been uploaded, it undergoes preservation processes in Archivematica, including normalisation, integrity checking, the generation of structural and technical information and the creation of METS documents. Once these processes are complete, the content is passed to Fedora, the NLW’s digital repository for management, with master copies held in the NLW’s Digital Archive. A link is then passed to enable partners to embed a link to the centrally held content into their local systems.

The workflow has, as yet, only been developed for PDF documents. At a recent roundtable of the stakeholders, the priorities for development were discussed. The storage of restricted access content was the top priority, followed by the development of workflows for images and Office documents. Models for sustaining the system were also discussed, as the development work has been funded through grants from the Museums, Archives and Libraries Division of Welsh Government, with support from the National Library of Wales. The transition from development work to a service model will need sustainable funding to establish a full system infrastructure which will  provide a cost effective solution for the preservation of the Welsh  digital record.

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