Principles are high-level ideas or rules that guide decisions or behaviours. The principles section provides the agreed framework and directions for how an organization approaches digital preservation in a consistent way. The principles should reflect the key commitments and values which inform the organization’s preservation objectives.

The purpose of the principles section of the policy is to guide and support staff to make decisions and to develop lower-level procedures. Policy principles should be clear and easy to understand and stand the test of time. Avoid writing principles which mandate the use of specific software or file formats as this information will quickly become out-of-date. This type of detail can instead be added to a separate procedures or guidance document.

There is much variation in how different organizations approach this section of their preservation policy and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Some keep this section relatively brief, focusing on a very small number of key statements (see for example the University of Warwick who have six brief digital preservation principles), others are more expansive and cover a much broader range (see for example Bodleian Libraries who detail a much more extensive list of principles). There is also much variation in the topics covered under policy principles. Whereas some organizations keep much of the content of the preservation policy under this 'principles' heading, others pull out specific topics to sit under their own top level heading within the policy. Viewing a number of different preservation policies may be helpful in seeing some of the different approaches.

The principles section is often the longest part of the policy and is perhaps also the section that will require most thought. You may find it helpful to include subheadings within this section to make it easier for readers to find information.

Introductory Statement of Principles

Some organizations begin the principles section with an introductory statement that provides an overview of their approach to digital preservation and the key values that are prioritized in this principles section.

This could be a general summary statement, or could highlight key values that are prioritized by your policy principles. You could think in terms of organizational strategy, or your main stakeholders or user community when you choose these top level values. Policies sometimes include reference to broader principles such as trust, transparency and adherence to good practice in this introductory statement.

Example policy statements

Bodleian Libraries

Bodleian Libraries takes a proactive and risk-managed approach to digital preservation. It recognizes that preserving access to digital content requires ongoing planning, active management, and organizational commitment from the point of creation or accession. Bodleian Libraries’ principles for implementing digital preservation are all underpinned by this approach.

Bodleian Libraries Digital Preservation Policy (2022)

Wellcome Collection

We want to maximise access and use of all our collections, whilst also ensuring their security, authenticity and long-term preservation. Wellcome Collection takes an active and risk-managed approach to digital preservation.

Wellcome Collection Digital Preservation Policy 2019–2021 (2019)

Specific points of principle

The following sections are examples of topics or subheadings that you might cover in the principles section of your policy. These are based on the eleven sections of DPC's Rapid Assessment Model (DPC RAM). The intention of this categorization is to provide a logical grouping of related principles whilst ensuring coverage across the range of potential areas that should be considered - use these headings within your policy document if they are helpful to you, or choose an alternative structure as appropriate. Some organizations structure their principles under headings and others adopt a simple bulleted list.

Included under each of these sections are topics and example principles from a variety of existing digital preservation policies. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and it’s important to consider which specific areas are relevant to your organization and ensure that the wording is adapted to your own circumstances.

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