Digital Preservation: Theory and Practice
This page is the place to collect resources about preserving all kinds of digital stuff and making it available online. Lots of folks are concerned about both digital preservation and digital stewardship these days. Put your most recent finds right below this note. Look for older contributions by scrolling down. As this page gets too big we'll reorganize it into a series of pages.

Some Definitions

This US Library of Congress is concerned with three overlapping activities, 'Digital Stewardship', 'Digital Preservation' and 'Digital Curation'. Although sometimes these terms appear to be used interchangeably they require differing expertise and software tools. At HCLE we will try to use these terms consistently as follows:
  • Digital Stewardship is the overarching term that encompasses the others.
    • Digital Preservation involves getting the original material, whether image, hand-written manuscript, print-on-paper or digital medium into a digital format that is accessible by modern computers. Thenceforth, preservation requires periodic migration from older digital formats to modern formats as well as storage of original media under physical conditions that slow deterioration as much as possible.
    • Digital Curation means managing digital resources while stored and the process of creating exhibitions (including both physical and online/virtual exhibition) of these resources for scholars and the public. This can include cataloging, recording metadata, preparing digital artifacts for exhibition, providing interpretive labels and narratives to accompany exhibition and designing exhibits of collections of artifacts. As with physical collections, a curator will be concerned with the tools and equipment (software) needed for storage and handling of various kinds of artifacts but may not have expertise in building or operating these tools. See Wikipedia: Digital curation

For more discussion on this topic see

Digital Preservation, Digital Curation, Digital Stewardship: What’s in (Some) Names?

August 23, 2011 by Butch Lazorchak

In 2014 there are two different activities that might logically be called "digital preservation".
  1. The conversion (scanning) of print and graphic material to digital files and subsequent preservation of those files
  2. The care of born-digital materials intended to preserve their content and accessibility in the future

US government funders (NEH, IMLS and others) address these two activities under different grant initiatives. Since an educational computing resource (prior to 1990) is often composed of a diskette, cassette or cartridge that carries software, a printed manual for teachers and/or students, possibly large posters or manipulative objects, packaging and promotional literature, it is more like multimedia art than a book or manuscript. Because of this, many of the references below are to complex art projects.

Potential Display and Archiving Platforms

Roadmaps for Digital Preservation

Advice from others...

US Library of Congress: </san>

None of us can do everything at once.
This diagram gives us a roadmap of how to begin our preservation task.
US Library of Congress Levels of Digital Preservation
And here's the documentation behind it.
US Library of Congress Recommended Format Specifications

At HCLE we are setting up for Level 1. We have cartons of cassette, floppy disks and a number of reels of tape. Before we can get to the diagram's Level 1 we have to find a way to read the media. We are communicating with the Living Computer Museum in Seattle, WA, USA about whether they can do this for us.

Danish National Archives:

A 6 page paper, Strategy for Danish National Archives, gives a succinct overview and rationale for their strategy for preserving digital government records. Not all of it is applicable to HCLE but this is a useful reference document. Of note are the explanation of 'emulation strategy' and 'migration strategy' and reference to OAIS (Standard for an Open Archival Information System).


As new formats are originated their creators advocate for their adoption but preservationists take critical looks. Here, NDSA staff comments critically on the new PDF-A3 format.

Also see:

2015 National Agenda for Digital Stewardship
2014 National Agenda for Digital Stewardship

A Review of 6 Digital Preservation Models by Jefferson Bailey

'Preserving' also means 'cataloging'...

At the same time we are building our Catalog system so that we can track each item as it goes through the digitization process. After the items are cataloged and sustainably preserved we plan to donate the physical objects to institutions equipped to handle them. Destination institutions will not have to repeat the digitization task because our goal is to have all of our digital items freely available. Turn to the section of this wiki about our cataloging process.

Organizations concerned with digital preservation

How to Learn about Digital Preservation

Here are some resources: