Handling Digital Archives Before Ingest


The field of digital archives and preservation is a constantly-evolving one, and there are unique problems associated with acquiring, appraising, accessioning, arranging and describing digital objects. While a broad set of digital preservation-related standards and practices is in place, it can be difficult for archivists new to handling digital materials to translate this guidance into concrete steps and decision points that they should keep in mind when embarking on their own projects.

This guide is developed and maintained as part of Scholars Portal’s Permafrost hosted digital preservation service. It is envisioned as a starting point for archivists looking for tips and resources to guide their work with born-digital materials. It treats the various steps an archivist may take up to the point that archival materials are ingested into a preservation processing tool like Archivematica. The guide is aimed at those who are well-versed in archival concepts, but less familiar with the technology and tools associated with preserving born-digital objects. It aims to provide information and resources about steps, approaches and tools used from acquisition up to ingest into a preservation processing tool without being prescriptive about how these steps should be implemented, as each institutional context and particular materials will necessitate evaluating the given set of options and decisions. While it aims to be as comprehensive as possible, please forgive any omissions, and please contact us to provide suggested additions or other resources.

The guide begins with a glossary of some digital preservation concepts and is then divided into five sections that follow the steps involved with bringing materials under physical and intellectual control: Transfer, Review and Appraisal, Accessioning, Arrangement and Description, and Pre-Ingest. Each section also contains a collection of associated case studies, suggested software tools, and resources. While the majority of the document has been written to be widely applicable to different institutions and situations, it is written with the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) model in mind. The final pre-ingest section was written to bridge the gap between the transfer, appraisal, and accessioning of born-digital materials and processing with a tool like Archivematica.

The guide was researched and written by Julia McGuire (Graduate Student Library Assistant at Scholars Portal, 2017-18). Feedback was kindly provided by Emily Sommers. Images were sourced from the Noun Project. Please contact us for any feedback, omissions or additions.

Scholars Portal is the information technology service provider for the Ontario Council of University Libraries. Founded in 2002, Scholars Portal provides a shared technology infrastructure and shared collections for all 21 university libraries in the province, including platforms for journal articles, books, geospatial data, numerical data; a shared platform for research data management; cloud storage services, and more. In 2013, the Scholars Portal journals platform was certified as a Trustworthy Digital Repository by the Center for Research Libraries.