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Digital preservation

Digital preservation ensures that data remain accessible and usable over the long term. Data may vary widely in format and content (e.g. born-digital research data, digitised legacy audio-visual formats, 2D and 3D imaging reproductions).

The basic steps in digital preservation include:

  • creation of representative information to ensure discoverability

  • transformation of file formats to standards that ensure long-term access

  • auditing of data to ensure integrity.

The Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS) is a technical guide that recommends best practice for implementing trusted digital archiving and preservation systems.

Data preservation at UCT

UCT Libraries is building its Digital Preservation strategy.  It has implemented a digital preservation infrastructure, Archivematica, designed to maintain long-term access to data from ingest to access via AtoM.

Archivematica is an integrated suite of open-source software that allows users to process data in compliance with the ISO-OAIS functional model. It uses internationally-recognised standards to generate trustworthy, authentic, reliable, and system-independent Archival Information Packages (AIPs) for storage in a digital repository.

AtoM stands for Access to Memory. It is a web-based, open source application for standards-based archival description and access in a multilingual, multi-repository environment. - AtoM: Open Source Archival Description Software. Available: [2016, January 18].

Which data should I preserve?

As you begin to create data, you will need to carefully consider which data need to be preserved. In general, data should be preserved if:

  • it is historically significant

  • it is frequently requested for reuse

  • it supports published research

  • it is vulnerable

  • the data required for your research is not your own, and the future availability of the original data is uncertain

  • you wish, or are required, to share your data.

Also consider:

  • is it necessary to preserve multiple versions of a file or is the most recent version sufficient in terms of your funder guidelines?

  • is the project still in progress or is it complete?
    Long-term projects may require periodic preservation of data before the project is actually completed.

Once you have decided which data you should preserve, you may want to deposit your data within a trusted repository. See our deposit guidelines for assistance.