Anna McNally is Senior Archivist at University of Westminster in the UK

The University of Westminster’s Records and Archives team manage the institutional records of the University (founded in 1838), alongside the deposited records of several architects and town planners, and a garment collection (the Westminster Menswear Archive). We started actively managing digital records in 2016 but, in a relatively fast-paced area (compared with paper records!), it’s hard not to always think of yourself as a beginner. In 2017 we recorded a webinar titled ‘Work In Progress’, which - despite having been in production for nearly 3 years now - is still how I would describe our digital preservation activities. While our software solution gives us confidence that we are meeting our targets with the NDSA levels, we’re aware that there is a lot more we could be doing.

We joined the DPC in September 2019 and, as part of our welcome conversations, Jenny Mitcham suggested that it might be useful for us to work through the new DPC Rapid Assessment Model (RAM).

Prior to sitting down with Jenny to talk through the assessment, I watched the members’ introductory webinar. This highlighted a lot of useful pointers, such as defining the scope of the assessment. As an institutional archive, it’s important for us to think about the model on an institutional scale, but it may be different for those repositories who are predominantly collecting from outside their organisation. However, we chose to apply it only to our archival collections rather than including research data, which is managed by colleagues in a different team. It then took me around an hour to read through the paperwork and perform my initial assessment, including checking a few details with colleagues.

Having the opportunity to talk through my assessment with Jenny afterwards was a very useful step. Although the documentation encourages an ‘honest and realistic assessment’, there were elements where I had perhaps adhered to that a little too stringently! It can be easy in digital preservation to think that everyone else is further ahead than you. With her detailed knowledge of the sector, Jenny was able to provide a more pragmatic appraisal of where we stand in relation to other organisations.

So, having completed the assessment, how do we use it? My next step will be sharing the assessment with the rest of my team and producing an internal report on where we are and where we want to be.  Although nothing in the assessment came as a surprise to me, it did highlight a few key areas of work that need to be completed for us to move up to the next level in several competencies. This will help us to set priorities for the next year, and to communicate the rational for those priorities to senior management. We also intend to repeat the assessment next summer; as several of the competencies require us to demonstrate sustained management over time, we should then able to confidently tick off those levels. Then I believe we can start realistically describing digital preservation as ‘business as usual’.

Scroll to top