Endangered large

All manner of digital materials held in museums to support the access, interpretation and management of physical collections, including material generated by interaction with the public and in the course of research. It excludes those small amounts of digital material formally accessioned into museum collections.

Group: Museum Data

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Last update:2019

Previous category: New Entry

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within twelve months

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on many people and sectors.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a small effort to address losses in this group, requiring the application of proven preservation tools or techniques.


Digital photography, video, sound, oral histories, collections management systems, conservation records, exhibition records, archives, operational or business records, scientific research outputs, correspondence, social media, 3d digitization.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of repository infrastructure; external dependencies; dependency on cloud provider; poor storage; churn of staff; significant volumes or diversity of data; poorly developed digitization specifications; ill-informed records management policy; conflation of access with preservation; poorly developed migration or normalization; longstanding protocols or procedures that apply unsuitable paper processes to digital materials; inability to assume responsibility; encryption

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Repository and preservation infrastructure; strategic leadership; well-developed digitization and migration pathways; participation in the global digital preservation community;

2019 Review

This new entry brings together submissions from the open nomination process. The Jury takes the view that museums make creative use of digital technology but have weak incentives to preserve the outputs when compared to libraries or archives.  Museums take responsibility for the care of physical collections in the long term which brings a derived requirement to preserve digital materials relating to those collections. The museum sector is lacking preservation capability.

Additional Jury Comments

This entry is very broadly defined, and whilst it is useful to draw attention to the challenges, it might usefully be disaggregated in the future. For example, museums have significant incentives to maintain collection catalogues for audit purposes, and to share these with the public. Such databases are likely to face less severe preservation challenges than data generated about the collection through museum operations, conservation or research. Related data sets present different challenges too. For example, 3D digitisation is a particular challenge for museums as preservation standards are deficient and easily overlooked in the enthusiasm for fashionable or eye-catching trends which purport to extend access. Moreover, this sector is incredibly diverse and different needs are likely to exist in different kinds of museum or gallery.

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