Kim Harsley

Kim Harsley

Last updated on 25 November 2021

Kimberley Harsley is an Archivist at the Natwest Group.

The introduction of the DPC’s Rapid Assessment Model (RAM) in 2019 came at a perfect time for me. Still reasonably new to NatWest Group Archives, it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about our digital preservation work whilst contributing to it. This month, I revisited the RAM to assess how far we’ve come since then. I found it much easier the second time around as I was more familiar with the content and the archive itself. Having completed the RAM twice, here are my top tips.

1.     Talk it over

Although it’s certainly possible to do the assessment as a lone archivist, it’s useful to discuss your scores with someone else. Some parts of the assessment require careful consideration  about your particular situation. For example, working in a large organisation meant that assessing the commitment of senior stakeholders required close thought about who our senior stakeholders actually are. Rationally, the chief executive doesn’t need to be invested in our digital preservation programme for it to be successful (that’s not to say I wouldn’t be delighted if she were to give her support!). Being able to discuss this and challenge each other’s ideas made our eventual assessment more meaningful.

2.     Be realistic

When you’re thinking about where you want to be, you don’t always need to aim for the top score right away. Some organisations need to be filled with digital preservation experts at the heart of the digital preservation community, spotting bit rot from fifty paces. Other organisations need people that have a knowledge of the main issues and access to resources to solve more complex problems.  Aim for where you realistically can and need to be within the next 1-5 years.

3.     Be honest

It’s lovely to look on the bright side but if you end the assessment with nothing to improve, what have you gained? It’s worth being truly honest about where you sit within the assessment framework to give you, or your organisation, the impetus to improve.  Is your integrity checking really robust enough? Do you have a strong, connected group of policies or are they actually piecemeal?

4.     Consider why you’re doing this

Is this to create an action plan? Or to show management why you need a digital preservation system? As with any piece of writing, it’s important to consider your target audience and write for them. You should also consider what your timeframe is for achieving your target score. A year can go by incredibly quickly and it can be surprising how long things take.

5.     Do it again

Like all aspects of digital preservation, this isn’t something you can do once and forget about. The value of the RAM comes from repeatedly assessing where you are and where you want to be. I found that when we came back to the RAM, we’d changed some of our target scores and aspirations. Your initial assessment shouldn’t be set in stone, it’s only natural that over time your priorities will change. An annual assessment is part of our operating rhythm, helping us plan our digital preservation work for the year in light of what we have recently achieved.   

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