The reason for preserving digital content is so that it can be accessed, but decisions need to be made around who can access it, how and when? The answers to these questions are rarely straightforward, particularly where many different types of content with different rights and restrictions are involved.

This is a really important section of RAM for us as access has always been the driver for any of the digital preservation activities at the University. Our collections have been the focus of all of our digital preservation activities to date and this work is really seen as an extension of our core role to support teaching, learning and research (which inevitably brings a need for access).” - Elisabeth Thurlow, University of the Arts London


  • Facilitating access to content is challenging if you don’t have the right information about licensing, permissions and confidentiality. You may need to put a substantial amount of effort into enhancing metadata and documentation about collections before you can consider access.

  • Make your access platform user-led. Find out what people are searching for, what terms they are using, and which searches are producing no results. Ask users how they want to be able to search.

  • Make web accessibility a part of every conversation about online access to digital collections - it should not be an afterthought.

  • Ensure it is clear to users of the content what they can and can’t do with it. There are great examples of clear infographics that explain Creative Commons licencing for users from Te Papa ( - click on download image) and University of the Arts London ( - click on ‘creative commons’).

  • Find ways of demonstrating the value and impact of increased access - gather case studies and examples of how digital content is being used.

  • Consider using online content for online exhibitions or online collaborations. Increased availability of content may enable other types of access that you had not previously considered.

Helpful resourcesRAMSignpostBackground

Case studiesRAMCaseBackground

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