This section provides an overview and introduction to DARs and how they can be used. Use this to find out what DARs are and why you might want one.

What is a Digital Asset Register?

A DAR is a tool for gathering information about digital content to support an understanding of the digital content held by an organization, and to facilitate efficient management of its preservation. It will capture information such as a brief description of digital content, where content is stored, its size, what formats are included, and who holds intellectual property rights. A DAR might take the form of a spreadsheet, a database, or another format that is useful for practitioners.

A DAR provides an overarching view of digital content that helps practitioners to identify gaps, overlap, related risks, and other information useful to making preservation decisions and managing content over time. The information held in a DAR can also be useful when making the case for digital preservation, as it allows the generation of key statistics about the content.

A DAR, as a high-level summary used for managing content, exists at one end of the spectrum of the information you will need to help manage digital content. At the other end of the spectrum, you may look to maintain item level metadata in what can be referred to as “File Manifests”. These capture detailed metadata about individual files that can include the file’s name, location, size, and format.

Why Build a Digital Asset Register?

Building a DAR can bring many benefits in relation to the management of digital content. By its nature, digital content is ephemeral. There is no easily identifiable “original” in the way there can be for physical, analogue records. Digital files contain binary information on storage media that is easy to replicate and requires software and hardware to be able to interpret it. To help manage this less tangible content, we need new ways to record information about what we have, where it is stored, and what we need to do to preserve it over time.

With these issues in mind, perhaps the primary benefit of a DAR is the ability to gain intellectual control of digital content held by your organization. Carrying out a survey to gather the information for your DAR will allow a unique opportunity to “get to know'' your digital content. You will get a better “big picture” understanding of the landscape of your digital content, whilst also gathering useful data on content types, file formats, intellectual property rights, risks, and more.

It also allows you to capture a view of your digital content in a “non-systems centric” way. This means bringing together information by intellectual grouping, e.g. by accession, collection, or series, rather than capturing simple information such as how many files are held in a particular storage area, repository, or digital asset management system.

Building a DAR can also facilitate better management of digital content by:

  • Capturing important information in one place that might otherwise be scattered across accession records, paper documentation, catalogues, or not captured at all.

  • Acting as a finding aid for content not yet fully processed.

  • Providing information needed to plan and prioritize ingest and processing of digital content.

  • Facilitating retention decisions and processes.

  • Establishing clear responsibilities for the management and preservation of digital content.

Building a DAR also brings a range of potential advocacy benefits, allowing engagement with a wide range of colleagues and providing a reason to discuss the importance of digital content and how it is managed. Due to its lack of physical presence, digital content can sometimes be “invisible” to those not working with them directly. The information and statistics that can be generated from a DAR can help to convey their extent. Ultimately, the resulting DAR can also help frame the digital content as an organizational asset, and the information it contains can be used to make the case for additional resources for digital preservation. Additionally, it provides a concrete reason to request the time and resources required to complete a full survey to assess the extent of your digital content. Without a defined and practical end product like a DAR, it can be difficult to persuade decision makers of the importance of this process.

Finally, you may wish to build a DAR as it is a recognized good practice activity that is recommended by a number of accreditation and bench-marking processes. In the UK, a DAR is a useful tool to help support Archive Service Accreditation, providing information needed for the application, as well as being a demonstration of robust management practices. The development and use of a DAR is also mentioned in the DPC’s Rapid Assessment Model (DPC RAM), and building your own will aid in leveling-up your digital preservation capabilities. These requirements can also, in turn, feed into advocacy activities, showing the importance of a DAR and how its development and use will reflect well on the organization’s digital preservation activities.


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