Illustration by Jørgen Stamp CC BY 2.5 Denmark



There are compelling reasons and, in some cases, political pressure, to engage in greater collaboration within and between organisations in order effectively to confront and overcome the challenges of digital preservation. The range of skills required to do this demands flexibility within organisational structures to facilitate working in multi-disciplinary teams. There is a significant overlap in the digital preservation issues being faced by all organisations and across all sectors so it makes sense to pool expertise and experience. Communication with key stakeholders, using terms and language understood by them (see Advocacy) will play a major part in building and maintaining collaborations.


Internal collaboration


The usual assumption is that collaboration is external. However, most libraries and archives will be managing a combination of paper-based and digital resources for the foreseeable future and will need to structure their organisation to manage the disparate needs of the two. The blurring of boundaries and the lifecycle changes which digital technology produces means that sections and departments which are structurally distinct, will now need to co-operate in order to integrate the preservation and management of digital materials with other materials.

Such co-operation and joined-up working may well prove impossible unless there are mechanisms put in place to facilitate it and there is clear executive buy-in and sponsorship to promote action. At the strategic level, a cross disciplinary committee or project team charged with developing and overseeing objectives is one means of ensuring that all relevant sections can be brought together. At the operational level, consideration will need to be given to defining what specific tasks are required and where those responsibilities logically lie. Setting up of working groups to investigate specific issues is one means of blending the range of skills required. Good communication and advocacy to other stakeholders will also be important (see Advocacy).

Whilst the need for a policy or strategy relating to digital preservation may be well established within the repository team, the driver for internal collaboration is typically in response to a specific challenge faced by an organisation.


  • Makes good use of available skills and expertise and makes the case that digital preservation is an institutional issue and not one owned exclusively by the repository.
  • Promotes cross-team working by improving understanding of shared objectives and who needs to contribute.
  • The sooner digital preservation becomes part of the daily work of an organisation and its employees, the better it is for their transition to and readiness for a more digital world.
  • Recognises the diversity of skills required for the digital environment in general and digital preservation in particular.
  • Is more likely to be focused and aligned with institutional objectives and priorities.
  • Maintains a high profile for the work.


  • May be frustrating and time consuming in the short term.
  • Communication may be difficult initially - for example there are some issues surrounding terminology with the term 'archives' meaning different things to archivists and IT colleagues
  • Senior management may be unwilling to risk perceived lack of control.
  • Staff may feel uncomfortable with new ways of working.
  • Organisational structures may not be sufficiently flexible to facilitate effective collaboration between different sections.


External collaboration


There may be a number of drivers for external collaboration. There is the simple desire for lone specialists to work with other professional colleagues and seek external validation of their ideas or direction of travel. At the other end of the scale is the response to external funding opportunities, with funders now placing greater emphasis on collaboration. Some examples of types of external collaboration in the digital preservation sector are included below:

  • Collaboration around a specific problem to make progress easier and more affordable. The Digital Preservation Coalition itself is an example of this in the UK. Members are encouraged to engage and collaborate on a number of different digital preservation related issues both at a high level and on specific topics. Another example is the Section for Archives and Technology of the Archives and Records Association, which brings together members of the professional body to look at specific aspects of the work and to share current practice.
  • Collaboration around a standard. An example of this would be the call in 2015 to work together around the revision of the OAIS reference model. In an initiative coordinated by the DPC, practitioners working in the field were encouraged to engage and feed into a shared response. (See
  • Collaboration around a specific piece of software or system. An example of this would be the user groups that evolve around digital preservation software solutions, both commercial and open source. When exploring a piece of software for the first time there is huge value in being able to share experiences and learn from others.
  • Collaboration within a specific geographical area. There are many examples of organisations collaborating based on their geographical proximity and the ease of working together that this offers. One example of this is the Digital Preservation Group within Archives & Records Council Wales (ARCW) (see Case studies).


  • Organisational commitment and authority.
  • Formal agreements offer a clear allocation of responsibilities between partners.
  • Enhanced understanding of complex issues.
  • Greater practical benefit from pooled resources and expertise.
  • Enhanced reputation through successful delivery of a project or being able to manage digital preservation.
  • Improved prospects for future mutually beneficial collaboration.


  • Difficulty of establishing unambiguous agreements able to be accepted by all parties.
  • Time taken to establish teams or a collaborative framework.
  • Difficulties of communicating across different professional and organisational frameworks.
  • Potential bureaucratic barriers.

External collaboration can work on an informal or a formal basis and colleagues across the sector have always shared experiences, with informal collaboration often forming part of an individual's continuing professional development. Larger more complex collaborations are more likely to have a formal partnership agreement that can be useful to define the scope and boundaries of the working relationship and attribute specific responsibilities.



Benefits from Research Data Management in Universities for Industry and Not-for-Profit Research Partners

Applies a stakeholder mapping using the KRDS Benefits Framework to examine the data management benefits associated with Faculty-Industry and Faculty-Not-for-Profit research collaborations with the University of Bath. It presents a summary list of benefits to different stakeholders that can arise from research data management and data preservation in these collaborations.

Aligning National Approaches to Digital Preservation Conference Proceedings 2012

This publication contains a collection of peer-reviewed essays that were developed by conference panels and attendees. It aims to establish a set of starting points for building a greater alignment across digital preservation initiatives and highlights the need for strategic international collaborations to support the preservation of our collective cultural memory (342 pages).

North West Region Digital Preservation Group

The North West Region Digital Preservation Group is an example of an informal geographical collaboration involving local authority, academic and specialist archivists. Outcomes include guidelines for depositors, a workbook for archivists and pilot studies on web archiving and email archives.


Case studies

DPC case note: Welsh journals online: effective leadership for a common goal

This Jisc-funded case study examines a complex digitisation project at the National Library of Wales, an example of an organisation where there are many stakeholders and many different skills are required. Nominating a single senior member of staff as the lead officer for digital preservation and allowing them to work across different sections of the institution mitigated the risk of uncertainty around responsibility for preservation actions. June 2010 (3 pages).

DPC case note: Freeze Frame preservation partnerships

This case note examines the relationship between the relatively short lived Freeze Frame project at the Scott Polar Research Institute and the institutional repository which offered to provide long term preservation services to ensure ongoing access at the end of the project. The study shows that small organisations don't necessarily need to establish a sophisticated preservation infrastructure when they embark on digitisation. Partnership can bring unexpected benefits to both parties, but needs to be thoughtfully managed and documented. April 2010 (4 pages).

Community Action via UK LOCKSS Alliance

Presentation given by Adam Rusbridge at the Digital Preservation Coalition on Getting Started in Digital Preservation, 28 February 2011. It discusses the role of the UK LOCKSS Alliance and collaboration in e-journal preservation.

Archives & Records Council Wales Digital Preservation Working Group

This National Archives case study discusses the experience of a cross-sectoral working group of Welsh archives cooperating to test a range of systems and service deployments in a proof of concept for cloud archiving. It explains the organisational context, the varied nature of their digital preservation requirements and approaches, and their experience with selecting, deploying and testing digital preservation in the cloud. January 2015 (10 pages).

A collaborative infrastructure for permanent access to digital heritage in The Netherlands

In 2014 the Network Digital Heritage (NDE) was set up in 2014 by a group of national organizations in the Netherlands. The network presented a strategy for the development of a national, cross-domain infrastructure of digital heritage facilities. One of the programmes focusses on digital preservation (Sustainable digital heritage). The aim of this programme is to work on the cross-sector sharing, utilisation, and scaling up of facilities for sustainable preservation and access, while devoting attention to cost management and the division of duties. This programme is carried out by the NCDD, the National Coalition for Digital Preservation. (3 pages).

The SPRUCE project

The Sustainable PReservation Using Community Engagement (SPRUCE) project (2011-2013) sought to inspire, guide, support and enable HE, FE and cultural institutions to address digital preservation gaps and to use the knowledge gathered from this activity to articulate a compelling business case for digital preservation. This multi-institutional collaboration brought archivists and technology experts together through mashup events and a hackathon. Two key outputs from the project were the Business Case Toolkit ( and COPTR (Community Owned digital Preservation Tool Registry) (see

Filling the Digital Preservation Gap Case Study

A collaboration between the Universities of Hull and York. The aim of the project was to address a perceived gap in existing research data management infrastructures around the active preservation of the data. Both Hull and York had existing digital repositories and sufficient storage provision but were lacking systems and workflows for addressing the active preservation of data.