Tag Archives: Digital Objects

Recommendations for the production of Digital Preservation Plans (part 2)

By Luis Corujo, from Portugal, Archivist at the General Head Office of Archives (DGARQ), Portugal.

(Portuguese version available by clicking “Keep reading” ; Versão Portuguesa disponível em “Keep reading”)

Before the implementation of any strategy to preserve their DOs, it is necessary to take into account the best practices for document management and the contributions of the entire agency workforce related to the prodution of information.

Due to this, the development of a Digital Preservation Plan is divided into three main stages, namely:

1) Organizational Appraisal, in terms of the:

  1. Organizations Intermediate System (hardware and software used);
  2. Rules and standards by which the institution is governed and must comply;
  3. Administrative practices of the organization;
  4. Business and Document  Management System of the institution;

2) Identification of the requirements of the electronic record documents and information available in the electronic information system of the organization. These include only those that are produced in the institution, considered as institutional ownership, have a retention period of more than 5 / 7 years, according to the disposal and retention schedule, and are of recognized (vital) importance to the organization.

3) Planning the strategy of preservation, which includes:

  1. Definition of preservation strategies, which should take into account:
  • The characteristics of the DOs, in term of appearance, content, structure and behaviour.
  • The technical characteristics of electronic record documents and information systems, as the context, the storage medium, inter-relationships between different records, files, and metadata;
  • The characteristics of the process of preservation, related to usability, scalability and complexity;
  • The costs, which have a high importance on the choice of preservation solutions, and can be divided into technical and personnel costs.
  1. Definition of formats for preservation, before the creation of the digital object to be preserved, in order to avoid additional costs in its conversion to the final format. The use of standard formats and applications with open specifications ensures a continuity of use and support when compared with proprietary formats and applications.
  2. Choice of software, where, due to the choices defined in the Plan of Digital Preservation is necessary to adapt, change or replace the software. It is advisable to use, where possible, software with open specifications, non-proprietary and well documented, and should allow to execute all the necessary operations defined within the Digital Preservation Plan, be robust, easy to use and include an intuitive interface.
  3. Choice of storage solutions, you should consider the costs and available infrastructure support. This choice has to be designed for long term use, where an option that can prove to be less accurate, may require a shift of the entire plan devised.
  4. Definition of metadata (MI), which allows better management of DOs, intermediate systems, users and the features available. It is advisable to use different MI schemas, to be used in various layers, such as Descriptive MI, Structural MI, Preservation MI, Technical MI …

Before the implementation of the Digital Preservation Plan, the workforce of the agency should test the technical procedures. These tests must be performed on duplicates of electronic record documents and the relevant electronic information systems. The integrity, functionality, structure, content and metadata associated with the preserved digital information, should be periodically monitored after the implementation of the preservation strategy, to ensure its stability and to identify schedules for subsequent applications of preservation measures. Must be taken into account and specify the elements, such as human resources, calendar, etc.., which will be part of the monitoring effort of the entire Plan of Digital Preservation project implementation (manage, implement, test, evaluate, redesign , etc.).

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Recommendations for the production of Digital Preservation Plans (part 1)

By Luis Corujo, from Portugal, Archivist at the General Head Office of Archives (DGARQ), Portugal.

(Portuguese version available by clicking “Keep reading” ; Versão Portuguesa disponível em “Keep reading”)

The General Head Office of Archives (DGARQ), being the coordinator of the archival and records policy in Portugal, has since 2006, defined digital preservation as a strategic priority for action. This concern stems from the problems of digital material related to the short to medium term obsolescence, the loss of evidence value, and even the loss of information, and that ultimately have an effect on all the information that must be stored for more than 7 / 10 years, being it information for permanent keeping or disposal. In practice, these problems affect all organizations producing digital information, if not all organizations!

This is in fact a difficult problem to address in Public Administration (PA), which, because of the determinations from the Electronic Government initiative, must base their activities in electronic business processes, to facilitate those same business processes, ensuring a faster, complete and transparent service to citizens. This means that public institutions are producing larger amounts of electronic information, in many cases without any specific preservation operations due to the estimated obsolescence horizon of 7 / 10 years. The absence of any commercial software for this purpose has further aggravated this situation, since the initiative and responsibility for safeguarding the electronic information belongs to the producing organizations.

Against this background, the DGARQ has developed resources, processes and tools in order to address the need to preserve electronic information produced by AP, and that their continued preservation is regarded as necessary. Being said, there have been devised three lines of action, which includes the construction of a digital national archive – RODA – that allows the integration, management and dissemination of digital objects produced by the AP, counselling and technical support about the electronic document management and digital preservation, and, finally, the preparation of technical documents. The publication of the document Recommendations for the Production of Digital Preservation Plans (PDF in Portuguese) is part of this last line of action, being a technical document that aims to help public institutions to understand, manage and develop tools that allow for preservation of their digital objects. As the name indicates, it is a set of recommendations, a guide to developing a plan for digital preservation, not an attempt to provide an instant ready-to-use solution. It is the organization that must define its strategy, formalizing all procedures and their timing to preserve digital information in a document that will be the Plan of Digital Preservation of the institution. The Digital Preservation Plan is, therefore, a strategic document which contains policies and procedures geared towards the creation of a technical and organizational structure that will allow the continuous preservation of the electronic information through actions on digital objects (DOs) that are part of it. The Digital Preservation Plan should therefore be the result of a collaborative effort between the organizational units of the institution such as archival/record management and IT.

(Part 2 available soon)

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Arquivo Distrital do Porto: global ‘n’ virtual

By Maria João Pires de Lima, Director of the Porto Regional Archive, Porto, Portugal

(Portuguese version available by clicking “Keep reading” ; Versão Portuguesa disponível em “Keep reading”)

At the beginning of the millennium, the vision of Porto Regional Archive management for the relationship with the different publics/clients/users, envisaged the globalization of its presence using the information and communication technology. In the absence of the adequate resources, this global project could only be materialized through various projects, two of which – Digitarq and CRAV – with specific relevance, either for the financing obtained, or for the innovating nature and “contribution for the development of the Information Society” as recognized by the prize Fernandes Costa – Agência para a Sociedade do Conhecimento (Agency for Knowledge Society), awarded in year 2004.

DigitArq project (2003-2004) allowed that, as from April 2004, the user could search through the Internet on a database of archival descriptions and view digital images of documents whenever available. The project had two fundamental areas:

1) Conversion of all description/research tools of the almost 700 fonds in our custody, produced along the years, from their analogical supports and formats (paper) and digital (Arquebase, Word, Excel, Access, Filemaker) to one standardized from the archival point of view (EAD, ISAD, ISAAR; EAC) and computing (DTD-EAD e XML) tool.

2) Design and development of a structure to receive/integrate and manage digital objects (DO) limited to digitised images of documents.

We developed applications to manage the descriptive and technical meta-information and the search by user. This information system of archival description (DigitArq) keeps under different levels the description of documents that are being produced, the technical information of digital objects reproducing the documents and the images produced for Internet.

Since the beginning of 2008 that Porto Regional Archive allows the online access to the whole of services provided to users of reference and reading, including in this area, besides the search and reading/consultation of documents (since 2004), the supply of reproductions in digital format and the access to functionalities as the electronic payment of services (credit card and ATM). The system will allow, as soon as legally possible, the remote download of digital certified copies by users everywhere in the World.

This second project, CRAV – Consulta Real em Ambiente Virtual (“real reading in virtual environment”) – gave the user access online not only to the information in our custody but also to the services provided concerning the documents: the research, reproduction and certification.

The projects developed allowed the acquisition of knowledge relevant also to the consulting area and technical assistance. On the other hand, aiming to promote the preservation and access to national archival heritage, under the permit of the Directorate General of the Portuguese Archives (DGARQ) – and, previously, of Institute of National Archives/Torre do Tombo – , Porto Regional Archive allowed the use of the application developed by the DigitArq project to more than two dozens of other entities.

Presently these applications are provided by DGARQ “open source and no charge”. This is a significant step in the direct support to the archival community and to the national institutions extended to the international community.

The recognition of the work developed comprises still the adoption by DGARQ of the set of applications DigitArq for its archives network: remaining Regional Archives, Arquivo Nacional Torre do Tombo (National Archive) and Centro Português de Fotografia (Portuguese Centre of Photography, a national archive for photography).

For further information about Digitarq, please consult the following web pages:

1. “Digitarq project” document http://www.adporto.pt/ficheiros_a_descarregar/1-5_digitarq_project.pdf

2. Porto Regional Archive (CRAV) http://www.adporto.pt/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=17&Itemid=41&limit=1&limitstart=2

Porto Regional Archive can be contacted at info@adporto.pt

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