Jaye Weatherburn is Digital Preservation Officer at the University of Melbourne


Three years ago, at the September 2014 meeting of Academic Board at the University of Melbourne, the Digital Preservation 2015–2025: Strategy[i] and Implementation Roadmaps[ii] were endorsed. By early 2016 the Digital Preservation Project team had formed and commenced the “Establishment phase” towards implementing the Strategy. A central aim of the Strategy is to establish a university ecosystem of repositories with the capability to archive, preserve and provide ongoing access to the university’s digital assets.

The project has survived and thrived through a large-scale university restructure, and significant resourcing challenges, thanks to the ongoing dedication of the library Research & Collections team at the university, led by Donna McRostie.

The core digital preservation project team is:

  • Donna McRostie, Project Sponsor, and Acting Director Research & Collections
  • Lyle Winton, Manager Digital Scholarship
  • Jaye Weatherburn, Digital Preservation Officer

We get support from a wide range of others:

  • Peter Neish, Research Data Curator
  • Rachel Tropea & Ailie Smith, Senior Research Archivists
  • The archives and records teams
  • The institutional repository team
  • The research infrastructure team (Research Platform Services)

We have thought leadership and advisors in the form of Ross Harvey (advisor) and Gavan McCarthy (on the original strategy development team). And we’ve been assisted by a Panel of Experts, made up of several key internal university leaders, and also external experts Nancy McGovern and Seamus Ross.

Key outcomes to date

Since 2016 the project has engaged stakeholders across the University to identify gaps in current education, policies, workflows, and systems that are impeding effective long-term stewardship of digital assets.

The following major activities have been achieved in 18 months:

  • A review and report analysing organisational capability to support digital preservation, and identifying the service improvements required
  • Delivery of 4 Infrastructure “blueprints”, aiming to inform infrastructure planning for a digital archive ecosystem that supports multiple university areas.
  • 2 pilots of digital preservation workflows, one to support digital-only deposit of theses (a University policy introduced in 2017), and another to enable long-term digital archiving
  • 15 research data case studies were documented, aiding development of culture and community engagement, and future education planning
  • A review of current research storage services using international guidelines and standards (NDSA levels and ISO16363) to ensure best practice infrastructure and process development
  • The establishment of a digital preservation standards working group to ensure a consistent approach to service improvements
  • Embedding digital preservation within online training “Managing Data @Melbourne”, a data management resource for Graduate Researchers and broader academic community
  • A review of University policy, focusing on areas lacking in digital preservation and related process, and identified improvements required
  • Joining and actively participating in the Digital Preservation Coalition to support capability building, and to utilise international expertise in the field of digital preservation

Next steps

Based on recommendations and findings from the analysis activities and pilots, a business case is being co-developed for completing the “Implementation phase” of the Strategy. The project team and the digital preservation standards working group continues to address the required service and business improvements necessary to support long-term stewardship of digital assets.  An immediate focus is on developing generic guidelines for preservation quality storage.

The development of the business case has resulted in the following high-level work plan, based on the four areas articulated in the Digital Preservation Strategy:

  1. Culture – continuing digital curation education and awareness focusing on specific faculties with embedded activities, but beyond this, engaging a support staff community of practice
  2. Infrastructure – implementing an operational digital data repository service for research data retention and preservation, addressing standards-based levels of preservation storage and management; developing an operational, automated system for the Institutional Repository to support digital preservation functions for digital theses and other research outputs
  3. Policy – contributing to university-wide data governance improvements; reviewing and improving digital curation processes (retention & preservation); identifying key roles and responsibilities for services, governance, and process
  4. Organisation – focussing on change management processes, process improvement, and the necessary communications required for the services and infrastructure implemented

The Digital Preservation Project at the University of Melbourne is only two years into its active delivery plan for the ten-year Digital Preservation Strategy. Much has been achieved, and there is increasing support for and awareness of the need for digital preservation at the university. There are still many challenges to address and overcome, but with the growing awareness of the importance of digital preservation, these challenges are conquerable. 

[i] Digital Preservation Strategy http://hdl.handle.net/11343/45135

[ii] Digital Preservation Implementation Roadmaps http://hdl.handle.net/11343/45136

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