digitisation and disaster
management: an overview
UKOLN, University of Bath
Digital disaster: are you prepared?, University College
London, 23 June 2000
UKOLN is funded by Resource: The Council for Museums, Archives & Libraries, the
Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher Education Funding Councils, as
well as by project funding from the JISC’s Electronic Libraries Programme and the
UKOLN also receives support from the University of Bath where it is based.
The presentation will cover:
• Some definitions
– Digital preservation
– Digital reformatting (digitisation)
– purpose and process
• Digital preservation
– the problem, some projects
• Digital disaster management
2 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
• A definition:
– “... The planning, resource allocation, and
application of preservation methods and
technologies necessary to ensure that
digital information of continuing value
remains accessible and usable” -
Margaret Hedstrom (1997)
3 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digital reformatting (digitisation)
• The creation of digital surrogates of
non-digital information objects
– Digital imaging technologies
– Structured text (e.g. SGML)
– As part of a preservation strategy
(preservation reformatting) - an addition to
the preservation tool-kit
4 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digitisation - purpose (1)
Reasons for digitisation:
• For access or preservation?
– “The primary use of digital imaging into
the near future will be to improve access”
- Anne R. Kenney (1998)
• For preservation, use microform
– “... microfilm has continuing priority as a
recording and storage medium on
grounds of quality and ‘future proofing’” -
DFG working group on digitisation (1997)
5 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digitisation - purpose (2)
Preservation depends on:
• An awareness of the digitisation life
• The use of standards were appropriate
• The creation of good quality master
files (with associated metadata)
– “... Strive to create access master files in a way
that makes them worthy of long term retention -
so that disposition decisions are based on
continuing value and functionality, not limited
by technical decisions made at the point of
conversion or anywhere else along the
digitisation chain” - Anne R. Kenney (1998)
6 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digitisation - selection (1)
Dependent upon the particular purpose of
any given preservation programme
• Some published guidance exists, e.g.:
– Selecting library and archive collections
for digital reformatting (RLG, 1996)
– Selecting research collections for
digitisation (CLIR & ECPA, 1998) -
includes a ‘decision-making matrix’
– Guidelines for digital imaging (NPO &
• Need for best practice (AHDS)
7 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digitisation - selection (2)
Ask some questions, e.g.:
– Who owns the intellectual property rights in the
– Are there similar products available?
– Does the intellectual nature of the original
resource warrant its digitisation?
– What is the physical condition of original
– Who are the current and potential users of the
– How will they need to use it?
– What are the costs and benefits of digitisation?
8 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digitisation - preparation
– handling of original material
– design of cradles
– lighting, etc.
• Who does the digitisation?
• Preparation of metadata
9 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digitisation - capture
Technical considerations, e.g: for imaging:
• Image quality
• File formats
• Colour space
• Bit depth
• Tone distribution
10 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digitisation - metadata
Making of America II testbed project:
• Descriptive metadata
– for resource discovery, etc.
• Administrative metadata
– information that allows a repository to
manage its digital collection
– e.g. date of scan, resolution, rights information
• Structural metadata
– metadata relevant to the presentation of a
digital object to users
RLG Working Group (1998)
11 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digitisation - conclusions
• No single set of guidelines appropriate
for all circumstances
• Be aware of the digitisation life cycle
• A need to embed digitisation into the
core mission of libraries and archives
– Cultural institutions “must now appreciate
that digitization is a normal part of doing
business - one that is worthy of
commanding its share of institutional
resources” - Anne R. Kenney (2000)
12 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digital preservation (1)
– “Digital technology makes it possible to
provide new and exiting methods of
access to information, but in the process
we cannot abdicate our responsibility for
preservation ...” - Deanna Marcum (1997)
• Report of the Task Force on the
Archiving of Digital Information (1996)
– Commission on Preservation and Access
– Research Libraries Group
13 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digital preservation (2)
Technical problems (potential disasters):
• Media longevity
– Magnetic and optical storage media
deteriorate (and can be re-used)
• Software dependence
– Information is often stored in formats that
are dependent upon particular software
• Hardware obsolescence
– Machines (computers, disk drives, etc.)
rapidly become obsolete and non-
14 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digital preservation (3)
• Intellectual property rights
– Does an organisation have the legal right
to preserve an object? If not, how should
this be negotiated?
– Is a digital object what it claims to be?
• A need for preservation policies
– RLG Needs and Requirements study
15 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digital preservation (4)
• Preservation strategies (none perfect):
• Creating hard copy
• Technology preservation
– Museums of obsolete hardware
– The periodic transfer of digital materials
from one generation of technology to a
– Programs that mimic the behaviour of the
original technical environment
16 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Some projects (1)
– North America: IMOSA, Pittsburgh
Project, UBC Project
– Europe: DLM-Forum
– UK (PRO) - Electronic Records in Office
Systems (EROS) project; National Digital
Archive of Datasets (NDAD)
– Austrialia: NAA Recordkeeping Metadata
for Commonwealth Agencies, SPIRT
Recordkeeping Metadata project
– International: InterPARES project
17 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Some projects (2)
Libraries and higher education:
– Cedars: CURL Exemplars in Digital
– Camileon: Creative Archiving at Michigan
and Leeds: Emulating the Old on the New
– NEDLIB: Networked European Deposit
– National Library of Australia
– PANDORA, Digital Services Project,
Preservation Metadata Working Group
– British Library
– RLG & OCLC - best practice
18 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digital disaster (1)
Digital materials vulnerable to disaster:
– e.g. fire, flood, adverse weather, pollution,
chemical contamination, war, sabotage,
power cuts, computer viruses, hacking,
accidental data loss, obsolescence, etc.
Need for disaster management planning:
– needs to be part of the wider institution’s
disaster management strategy
– risk assessment
– regular routines - backups, migration and
– regular maintenance of equipment
19 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Digital disaster (2)
Once disaster occurs:
– may need to contact data recovery
experts - either in-house or external
– data can be recovered in some cases, but
– Some examples:
– US 1960 Census
– Challenger space shuttle tapes (IBM)
– GDR files (no system documentation)
– Seamus Ross and Ann Gow, Digital
archaeology: Rescuing Neglected and
Damaged Data Resources (1999)
20 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
Some things to consider:
• The purpose of digitisation
• The importance of standards,
documentation and metadata
• Remembering the life-cycle
– “... how data is created and its form will
impinge directly upon how it can be
managed, used, retained and preserved
at any future date” - Neil Beagrie and
Daniel Greenstein (1998)
21 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
• The essential fragility of all digital
– “Being digital means being ephemeral” -
Terry Kuny (1998)
– “... digital information lasts forever - or
five years, whichever comes first” - Jeff
• Be aware!
22 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.
UKOLN Metadata Web pages:
Digital preservation bibliography:
23 Digital disaster: are you prepared? - UCL, 23 June 2000.