Jenny Mitcham

Jenny Mitcham

Last updated on 2 November 2022

It is always good to be able to release new resources on World Digital Preservation Day and this year is no exception. The resource I’m going to talk about isn’t exactly a ‘new’ resource, it was originally published and promoted by the Archives and Records Council Wales (ARCW) back in August, but they generously agreed that the work could be repackaged and re-released on the DPC website to ensure that a wider and more international audience could also benefit from it.

Why am I so excited to get this particular resource out on World Digital Preservation Day? Well the theme of World Digital Preservation Day this year is particularly inclusive - ‘Data For All, For Good, Forever’. Much of the work that I do at the DPC tends to have a focus on working with people who are already part of our community, and are already sold on the idea that digital preservation is ‘A Good Thing’. This is all good, but sometimes I am aware of the echo chamber within which I tend to reside.

Wouldn’t it be good on World Digital Preservation Day to get the message out to new audiences and perhaps even reach someone who has not considered digital preservation before?

What better way to ‘Let Digits Flourish’ than to encourage someone to take the very first steps to preserving their business records…?

Earlier this year, the DPC was approached by ARCW and asked if we could work with them on the production of an introductory guide to digital preservation aimed at small businesses in Wales. Survey work carried out as part of their ‘Records at Risk’ project had highlighted a gap in the literature and a very real need from the community for a simple guide to explain how to begin to tackle the challenge of digital preservation. We were keen to work with them on this and produce some guidance, but also immediately saw an opportunity to create something more generic that could be used internationally. This particular challenge is not easily contained by geographic boundaries!

So whilst ARCW released the original version of the guide (including a Welsh translation) in the summer, with the kind permission of ARCW, we have made some very minor revisions to it and are now able to release a version aimed at a more international audience.

Access the guide here: Digital Preservation for Small Businesses: An introductory guide

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ARCW provided a clear brief for this piece of work including a list of topics to cover, a suggested structure and an indication of length (short!) and tone (introductory!). Our chats with them to guide the creation of this resource were incredibly helpful and in particular their examples of the target audience of the guide, as revealed through their survey work, helped to focus the mind. I found myself continually coming back to the idea of a 100 year old shoe shop in Wales - a long standing family business (with no IT or records management department) and a clear need to manage its physical and digital records for as long as necessary. This case study helped to frame the content and tone of the guide as it was being created (as did conversations with a friend who owns a small art gallery and shop in York).

In working on this guide, it quickly dawned on me that its main focus must actually be on good day-to-day records management practices. Though purists may say this isn’t exactly ‘digital preservation’, we all know that one of the keys to successful digital preservation is to manage digital information well from the very point of creation.

Keeping the guide realistic around what a small business may and may not be able to do was important. The priority was to manage common and immediate risks to digital content and thus increasing the likelihood that the content would be available for the next generation. It may be unrealistic to expect a small business to establish their own digital archive, but perhaps more appropriate to direct them to web archiving services or encourage them to consider talking to their local archive to discuss the longer term preservation of their digital (and indeed physical) records. The tips within the guide focus on small practical actions that will help ensure the records are well looked after in the meantime.

So, the guide is out there and will sit alongside the other resources and publications on the DPC website. I feel like our main challenge now is getting it out to the right audience. If you know small businesses who might find this guide helpful, please do share the link to the guide and help us to get the word out. What better day to do this little piece of advocacy work than World Digital Preservation Day!

Let business records flourish!

My thanks go to ARCW (particularly Gemma Evans and Sally McInnes at the National Library of Wales) for the opportunity to produce this guidance and to The National Archives (UK) for supporting this work through the Covid-19 Archives Fund.

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