Abstract from Victoria Sloyan's dissertation:

"Providing access to born-digital archives is one area in the wider subject of digital preservation that remains underdeveloped in archival literature and discussion. This needs rectifying as there is little point preserving digital archives if they cannot then be meaningfully accessed by users. There are currently two predominant methods for providing access to born-digital archives: emulation and format conversion. Emulation provides access to records within the replicated original environment and these records retain full-functionality and original appearance. In contrast format conversion provides access to records which have been converted from their original, inaccessible files into modern formats. Data can be lost during the conversion process and records do not always retain all original features. Consequently, emulation appears to be the better strategy when considered theoretically. However, of those archival institutions that have adopted an access-strategy for born-digital archives, few have chosen to use emulation. This is an interesting turn of events and questions the feasibility of emulation when applied in a practical setting.

This dissertation investigates why emulation has not been more widely adopted and how appropriate it is an access strategy. There is first an examination of the theoretical arguments in support of emulation and against format conversion to demonstrate that emulation makes the most suitable strategy when considered purely from a theoretical perspective. This is followed by analysis of the evidenced gathered from four archival institutions who have adopted an access strategy for digital archives. Three institutions have rejected emulation, whilst one has adopted it. Their primary and additional reasons shall be assessed and conclusions shall be drawn. The findings will show that emulation is a suitable access strategy for certain types of records, but there are significant weaknesses. Moreover, it is concluded that emulation does not integrate well with high-level access procedures and policy, thus it is not being adopted by archival institutions."

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