The main objective of digital preservation is to ensure that data continues to remain accessible, even if the original operating environment, encoding format or other dependency is rendered obsolete. This goes beyond the simple long term storage of data to include the means by which a resource is interpreted and retrieved to ensure it remains accessible and useful. Managing the preservation of digital resources should be an active and ongoing process, to ensure that they continue to be accessible despite technological changes and developments.

Digital preservation is part of the wider topic of digital curation, which encompasses the sequence of management activities that occur over the lifecycle of an object. The curatorial activities are commonly outlined as a set policies and procedures for implementation.

Techniques used to ensure that resources remain accessible and usable over time include:

  • Bitstream Preservation:
    • Refreshment: copying the file in the same format onto the same type of storage medium (e.g. transferring data from an older CD to a newer one)
    • Replication: creating a duplicate copy of the file, to be stored in a different location

  • Content Preservation:
    • Normalisation: converting the file to a standardised format
    • Migration: converting the file to a format that is more accessible for the majority of users (e.g. using a format that is more compatible with newer systems)
    • Emulation: reproducing the functionality of hardware / software in a different technological environment (e.g. using an emulator to recreate earlier versions of Microsoft Windows)
    • Universal Virtual Computer (UVC): a virtual machine that reconstructs digital objects in their original appearance, and is independent of the architecture of the computer on which it is running (combines elements of migration and emulation)
    • Computer Museum: preserving and maintaining original hardware or software

It is important to check files for anomalies, to ensure that they have not been corrupted or altered during the preservation method(s) used.

Preservation metadata is commonly used to provide information about the object, including the technical composition of the file and the activities that that have been applied to it.

Related methods include: Curation and Disk publishing.

tool: FocusOPEN Digital Asset Manager

Open source Digital Asset Management solution designed for medium size preservation, cataloguing, media archiving and batch transcoding.
Methods relating to this toolCategory
AnimationPractice-led research
Cataloguing and indexingData structuring and enhancement
Collaborative publishingData publishing and dissemination
CollatingData analysis
Content analysisData analysis
CurationStrategy and project management
Data miningData analysis
General project managementStrategy and project management
Graphical interaction (synchronous)Communication and collaboration
Graphical renderingData structuring and enhancement
Image feature measurementData analysis
Image manipulationPractice-led research
Image segmentationData analysis
IndexingData analysis
Manual input and transcriptionData capture
OverlayingData analysis
PhotographyPractice-led research
PreservationStrategy and project management
Record linkagesData structuring and enhancement
Resource sharingCommunication and collaboration
Server scriptingData publishing and dissemination
Statistical analysisData analysis
Streaming mediaData publishing and dissemination
Text encoding - presentationalData structuring and enhancement
Text encoding - referentialData structuring and enhancement
Text miningData analysis
Text recognitionData capture
Textual interaction (asynchronous)Communication and collaboration
Textual interaction (synchronous)Communication and collaboration
Use of existing digital dataData capture
User contributed contentData publishing and dissemination
Video and moving image compressionData structuring and enhancement
Video editingPractice-led research
Video post productionPractice-led research
Video-based interaction (asynchronous)Communication and collaboration
Lifecycle stage:
Syndicate content