Why is digital preservation documentation important to you and your organization?

Digital preservation documentation is important to the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) and myself for a number of reasons. Firstly, digital preservation is a complex and ever evolving field of practice within collection management and access and, because of this, documentation allows for assessment of and justification for digital preservation tasks, such as bagging, disk imaging, checksum generation, within the ongoing collection management tasks of the Art Gallery of NSW. It also allows for all staff, beyond initial training, to understand how digital preservation may fit into their daily tasks, their importance, and how they can undertake them individually with minimal oversight and troubleshooting. 

Moreover, documentation allows for staff to test out and evaluate new workflows and do a risk and significance assessment of the collection and which digital preservation tasks may be most suitable for different collection sets, both generally and at particular points in time (such as very busy exhibition openings where only the core digital preservation activities may only be undertaken with the other being noted but only actioned at a later time). 


What tools or platforms do you use to create and provide access to your documentation? What works or doesn’t work well with these tools or platforms?

For the most part, AGNSW uses Sharepoint as the central hub for creating and providing access to documentation. This allows me to create draft workflows and share amongst digital preservation and time based art conservation to contribute and test workflows and instructional guides before sharing more widely or publishing on the Staff Hub intranet page. 

The potential drawback to creating documents on Sharepoint as the main hub is that other staff members may accidentally edit or delete. This can be overcome by editing sharing permissions to the main documents so they can only view certain documents or ensuring the only changes that are made via mark up or comments. This is also done so to avoid (or at least reduce) the possibility of multiple versions of the same file floating around in the system that would be more likely to happen if shared via email as an attachment. 

When do you create documentation and how often is it reviewed and updated?

Documentation is created whenever there is a process that is either developed or changed, or either impacts or is impacted by other existing collection workflows, such as curatorial acquisition workflows. 


What is the update process and how do you manage versions?

The update process is fairly manual at the moment, with each file version having the date recorded in the filename. This means that any changes to the file are saved as a new version with a new date. The older files are archived and retained on Sharepoint for reference for a period of time before deleting. This avoids the need to retain, and resulting confusion, in having multiple old and outdated workflow documents all kept in the same location. 


Do you have an example you can share with us? (even just as a screenshot if not publicly available)



What is next for digital preservation documentation at your organization?

Next steps include reviewing existing workflows as part of testing and implementation processes, as well as review of instructional guides as part of Working Groups. Once finalised, they are to be published on Sharepoint to accompany wider departmental training.


Are there any resources or examples that have been really useful to you in creating your own documentation?

I actually found that, beyond copying the existing documentation, that business briefs to managers and executive justifying new workflows and project funding, and requirements gathering from business areas about filling needs based gaps help identify how documentation should be written to maximise buy-in and training outcomes for staff.  


What tips do you have for people starting out on documenting their digital preservation activities?

Start any documentation by just trying to clarify it for yourself based on what you actually do each day, as more often than not, actually thinking about and explaining what you do is more difficult than people realise (especially when you do it do often day to day that it becomes second nature and you may lose sight of the larger reason why you’re doing it). Using that as a template, edit it according to the needs of those outside of your immediate business unit (digital preservation). Following initial trial run throughs with people, this is a good way of seeing whether your documentation is easy to understand and follow without you needing to explain each step of the digital preservation activity with them. If it is too detailed, go back and simplify explanations as there is little point in documentation if the detail is correct but it is too complex and confusing to follow and be successfully implemented and adopted longer term. 

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