Read Jaye Weatherburn's account of sessions at iPRES 2017. Jaye, who works at the University of Melbourne, attended iPRES with support from the DPC's Leadership Programme which is generously funded by our Commericial Supporters.

At iPres 2017 (in September | Kyoto, Japan) I attended the Digital Preservation Storage Workshop: Exploring Preservation Storage Criteria and Distributed Digital Preservation

I was particularly keen to attend this workshop, as in my role at the University of Melbourne I am actively working with the research support community to develop better understanding of what digital preservation storage means and its requirements, as part of our Digital Preservation Project. We have used the most recent version (version 2) of the preservation storage criteria to run a workshop with our archivists, records managers, and IT staff, and have found this list of 58 criteria extremely useful both for increasing knowledge and understanding about preservation storage needs, and for generating discussion about what is required for preservation storage for different digital collections at the university.

The preservation storage criteria were originally developed by Kate Zwaard, Gail Truman, Sibyl Schaefer, Jane Mandelbaum, Nancy McGovern, Steve Knight, and Andrea Goethals, and have been further developed through workshops and presentations at various conferences and meetings during 2016-2017 (iPres conferences, PASIG meetings, the Library of Congress Designing Storage Architectures for Digital Collections 2016 meeting).

The preservation storage criteria apply the term “Preservation Storage” to mean “Archival Storage” or “Digital Preservation Storage” – this means storage for digital materials under preservation management. It is not just the spinning discs and hardware involved in storing digital materials – it also encompasses all of the functions that ensure continued integrity of digital materials over time. The preservation storage criteria creators draw on OAIS terminology to clearly define what this means: “the services and functions for the storage, maintenance and retrieval of [Archival Information Packages, or] AIPs. Archival Storage functions include receiving AIPs from Ingest and adding them to permanent storage, managing the storage hierarchy, refreshing the media on which Archive holdings are stored, performing routine and special error checking, providing disaster recovery capabilities, and providing AIPs to Access to fulfill orders” (OAIS, 4-2[i]).

The preservation storage criteria were first developed for a workshop at iPres 2016 (Workshop 01, read the full paper here on p.299). The 2016 workshop drafted a set of “principles of preservation storage” as a tangible starting point for the digital preservation community to develop further. This identification of standard elements for preservation storage helps to facilitate discussion and action in institutions grappling with making decisions about this fundamental digital preservation infrastructure component. Like the NDSA levels of preservation, the preservation storage criteria can be used to assess what an organisation needs to implement (and maintain) to ensure ongoing preservation of digital materials in their care.

Of course, not all of the 58 criteria will be relevant to all contexts or organisations. At the University of Melbourne, for example, we are finding a range of different needs and requirements depending on the collections of materials, and the different service and process owners for the content. These inform what functions and services are performed at the storage level, and which are performed at the application level, by whom and when. This navigation of organisational context is often the part that is hardest to discuss, despite having a list of tangible criteria elements of what needs to be addressed to implement adequate preservation storage.

At the iPres 2017 preservation storage workshop, we formed four groups (Groups A-D) of around 5-6 people, and were given different categories of preservation storage criteria to discuss.

Four questions guided the examination of the categories of criteria:

  1. Is the category name accurate or is there a better phrase to use?
  2. Within this category, are there any key criteria left out?
  3. Within this category, is there something that doesn’t belong?
  4. Are the criteria descriptions clear, unambiguous, complete?

The vagueness of some language and terminology was sometimes an issue for the workshop groups. For example, Group A noted that clarification of the meaning of “true deletion” could be useful: for example, does it mean “just removing the file from the underlying file system or does it mean overwriting it with zeroes”. Consideration was given to developing a series of organisation case studies around use and implementation of the preservation storage criteria to demonstrate interpretations of meaning and application of the criteria, to avoid confusion, and provide examples for others to follow.

Some useful recommendations were made to improve understandability and clarify terms in the criteria. One interesting example came from Group C, who mentioned that more explanation would be helpful around Criteria no. 11 “Independence”. As it stands in version 2 of the criteria, “Independence” is described as “storage layer is independent from other systems”, whereas Group C suggested it could be rewritten to something like “Storage layer is separate from other systems in the digital preservation environment so that it could be replaced without affecting the entire infrastructure”. This extra information and clarity could assist when explaining preservation storage to stakeholders who are new to digital preservation processes.

In all, this was a really useful workshop, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the criteria group incorporates the latest rounds of feedback from the digital preservation community. 


For more information on the group discussions at the preservation storage workshop the collaborative notes are available.

To join and contribute to the main communication channel for discussion of preservation storage criteria see the Google Group.


My thanks to the DPC Leadership Program scholarship (made possible by Commercial Supporters ArkivumPreservica and Mirror Web) for the support to attend iPres 2017. 


[i] International Organization for Standardization (ISO), 2012. ISO 14721:2012, Open archival information system (OAIS) Reference model

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