Jenny Mitcham

Jenny Mitcham

Last updated on 27 March 2023

Preoccupation (noun) - an idea or subject that someone thinks about most of the time (Cambridge Dictionary)

I guess this is a fair description of my relationship with digital preservation policies over the last week or so as we have been working on a revision of the DPC’s Digital Preservation Policy Toolkit.

What has been so good about having a bit of time to focus on this subject is the extent to which community resources and organizational policies already exist and can be easily located and accessed and more so the fact that many organizations have recently published new policy documents that we can look at for inspiration.

Originally published (for DPC Members only) in 2020, our Digital Preservation Policy Toolkit has been helpful to many, but we were aware that it was due for a refresh. We had also been planning to make it available to the wider digital preservation community for some time, but were keen to give it a tidy up first rather than publicising a version that was falling out of date.

It's release in April 2020 (when we were all still adjusting to ‘a short period of working from home’) does seem like a world away and clearly a lot has changed in those three years. Among other things, our toolkit now contained a plethora of broken links to example policies. Although we had linked through to the Internet Archive to enable archived versions of these policies to be easily accessed, we were quite keen that the toolkit reflected current good practice rather than good practice from three years ago so we still needed to update and refresh many of those links. 

Broken links everywhere...but that is no surprise

When we first created the toolkit (via a booksprint event at the University of Bristol) we could have predicted that links to policies would break. We had deliberately tried to select example policies which were not only recent, but being actively maintained. If all is going well, we could assume that these policies will be reviewed, revised and republished within that three year period….and if they hadn’t, then perhaps they no longer reflect current good practice …and perhaps we would find better and newer examples out there anyway!

So there is no surprise then that one of the main things that has changed in our revised Preservation Policy Toolkit are the example policies that we reference and quote. I would estimate that about 90% of example policy statements have changed in the new version. They may sometimes be referring to the same organization, but linking to a new policy version (sometimes with a slight rewording or change of emphasis). 

We have also found some new favourite digital preservation policies from organizations that did not make an appearance in the first version of this toolkit. The Postal Museum’s preservation policy for instance is an excellent example of a policy that has been written using our toolkit. It is great to be able to reference it back and use it as an example within the template section of the toolkit. Other favourite policies that I have found myself pointing to again and again include those from the British Geological Survey, Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Libraries, the National Archives of Australia and the Wellcome Collection

One of the challenges of selecting example policies is trying to represent a good mix of types of organizations from a range of different locations across the world. I did spend some time searching online for digital preservation policies of different organizations in order to provide that variety but very often my search came up with nothing. I think for some types of organization (for example universities) it is standard practice to have a preservation policy and to make it publicly available online, but for others there are reasons why this is not a key priority. 

It was helpful in my search for policies to be able to see the evolving work of Caylin Smith in bringing together a list of links to publicly available digital preservation policies. Unfortunately, she has been experiencing the same challenges as us with our toolkit, in that this is a fairly rapidly changing field and links can quickly go out of date. We reference this helpful resource from the toolkit and look forward to seeing more developments with it in the near future. 

So what else besides links has changed in this new toolkit version? There are too many minor tweaks and updates to mention, but just to pick out a couple of changes that might be of interest…

Is environmental sustainability 'the next big thing' for preservation policy?

The first version of this toolkit had a ‘Sustainability’ heading within the template but there was no mention of environmental sustainability in this section (all the examples focused on funding and the sustainability of the service itself). One thing I have learned in the last three years since the toolkit was first developed is how important this topic is to digital preservation good practice. As codified in DPC RAM, our Rapid Assessment Model, environmental impact should be one of the many factors that is weighed up in our digital preservation decision making. It makes sense therefore that this is mentioned at a high level in digital preservation policy. We have found a few organizations who already mention environmental sustainability in their digital preservation policy and we reference and quote these examples within the toolkit. These examples appear to be the exception rather than the norm, so I’m interested to know if there are more examples out there that community members would be happy to share?

 Policy review needs a fanfare too!

The original toolkit mentioned the importance of regular review of policies in the ‘Step-by-step guide to building a digital preservation policy’ but the text was brief and at the time we hadn’t really considered making it a separate section of the toolkit. We have now pulled this information out into its own section and expanded on it, including a link to two helpful case studies on policy review from DPC Members. I had been struck when I read Martin Gengenbach’s blog post on policy review last year, that this is indeed not only “an unheralded act” with no accompanying fanfare, but also that there is very little written about the process and procedure of the review. 

While we often hear members of the community talk about developing preservation policy we don’t often hear about what happens next, after that policy has been approved and adopted. Regular policy review is an important act of digital preservation maintenance that we should be talking about more. Adam Harwood’s new blog post is a great start in getting others thinking more about the benefits, process and drivers for regular policy review. To that end, if anyone else would like to blog about digital preservation policy review at their organization, or indeed point me to existing publications, I’d love to hear from you.


It is great to be able to release the revised Digital Preservation Policy Toolkit to a wider audience than ever before. Do make use of it. Do provide us with comment and feedback. I do hope it is helpful to you in your ongoing policy work. 

As well as the original booksprint team, I’d like to thank all of those organizations who have made their policy documents available for others to consult and learn from. This toolkit would have been very difficult to create without you!

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