More and more records are created in digital format and the University Archives team is working to ensure that our digital archive is as full as our paper one. What we collect shows whether your digital files are likely to fall within our collecting areas and our information about donations and transfers provides further information about our procedures for transferring material to us.
Below is some advice about how to manage your digital records, and what you can do to help ensure that the right University records get to the archives.
The University Archives team want to identify, manage and continue to be able to access important information and records held in digital form, in the long term. This requires active management of digital records starting with the owner to ensure they stay accessible and authentic, in the long term. Digital records are vulnerable, not just to fire, flood, dust and dirt, as analogue records like books and photographs are, but also to obsolescence of software and hardware, viruses, and corruption of the data.
Management of digital records
To manage your digital records for long term survival make sure files and documents are named consistently and accurately and identify what they contain. At the point of archiving, this will make sure we know what we are accepting and that it is what we expect to hold. Information about files is called metadata and is crucial for long-term use and reuse.
Records Management can provide advice on current and semi-current records (things you use every day, or every few months) but can then be disposed of once you no longer need them.
Depositing digital records
To work out if you have records that need to come into the archives, please consult the retention schedules and University Archives Selection Policy. These give broad categories of the kinds of information we seek to retain, for business, legal or informational purposes.
It is more likely that digital preservationists will be able to preserve in the long term, records which are created in non-proprietary, open source formats (e.g. OpenOffice or LibreOffice or PDF-A), because the coding behind open-source software is available for all to use, amend and distribute. For proprietary formats, longevity is dependent on the parent company being around to manage them, and often if the company disappears, support for the software will too – as well as the actual code not being available. However, if you have records in Microsoft Word, Excel etc, as many of us do, then we can look after these formats.
The Archives and Special Collections team is continually improving what we do, as our digital collections grow and we gain more experience looking after them.
For information on managing research data please consult the Research Services team.