Archeology Program Office Digital Preservation Policy

Introduction

The Archeology Program Office of the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation was established in 1988 to excavate, preserve and protect archeological sites in county parks. It is a program of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC). As part of its mission, the program curates millions of artifacts. Over the years, related documentation has been created in various formats and on disparate media, some of which have become obsolete. This practice has led to content being hard to find and inaccessible.

Purpose

This policy will establish practices for organizing and preserving digital content. Such practices will help save staff time by making the files easier to find and access, consolidate digital content into one more easily manageable system, and minimize loss of irreplaceable cultural heritage materials.

Scope

This policy only covers preservation of digital content although documentation exists in both digital and physical form. Reports, catalogs, photographs and maps were historically created in print but are now born digital. A selection of print photographs and slides have been digitized, and there are plans to continue digitizing physical copies.

Content includes both historical and working files. Historical files are those that are considered in their final form, the content of which should remain unchanged. Working files are those that continue to be updated.

Standards

This policy draws from recommendations of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s Levels of Digital Preservation and the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative. Documentation follows MNCPPC’s Guidelines for Archeological Review.

 Storage

The department’s IT staff will maintain the storage systems, and monitor storage media to preempt obsolescence and system failure.

All content will be organized within the office’s shared drive and backed up nightly.

A complete copy of content will be stored in a different geographic location, either through another departmental storage system or by purchasing cloud services. This will protect content from loss due to equipment damage or a catastrophic event in one location.

 Data Integrity

 Directories within the shared drive will allow for three different levels of access: the Archeology Program Office, all of the Department of Parks and Recreation for Prince George’s County, and Dinosaur Park (another Prince George’s County program that shares workspace with the Archeology Program Office).

A designated staff person will maintain a list of staff with read, write, move and delete permissions to directories, subdirectories and special files. The list will be kept in the shared directory.

No one staff person will have write, move or delete access to all copies of files.

Historical files will be kept in separate subdirectories from working files, and will have limited write and delete permissions.

Fixity software will be used to create checksums. A designated staff person will compare checksums annually against all historical files, and for all files whenever transferring to a new storage system. This will ensure that files have not been altered or deleted.

Access and Confidentiality

The Archeology Program Office will explore potential repositories for sharing content with other researchers and with the public while still observing regulations protecting the locations of archeological sites.

 Metadata

Subdirectories and files within the Archeology Program Office directory will follow a naming system developed by staff. A file documenting the naming system will be kept within the directory so that it can remain accessible. All staff creating records will be responsible for following naming guidelines and saving content in the appropriate directory.

File Format

In order to keep files accessible, one or more designated staff people will maintain an inventory of file formats in use and monitor them for obsolescence. Whenever possible, staff will select commonly used file formats and use them consistently. This will help files remain accessible and facilitate migration if necessary. Currently, images are saved as jpegs. Microsoft Word, Excel and Access are used for text, spreadsheets and relational databases, respectively.

Prior to digitizing hard copies, staff will establish a standard for format and image quality appropriate for the material being digitized.

Review

This policy will be made available on the department shared drive, and undergo annual review by representatives of the Archeology Program Office and the Department of Parks and Recreation. Review will take place to evaluate compliance and amend the policy as necessary.

5 Replies to “Archeology Program Office Digital Preservation Policy”

  1. Tina, thank you for letting us know about PG County’s Dinosaur Park, because now I’m waaaaayyyy excited to check this out once the weather is nice again.

  2. Tina, I enjoyed the more general points that you make. Whereas my policy was very specific, I felt that I needed to make those pointed suggestions to help the group become aware of how things can and should be named or organized or stored. Since you are working with a Parks and Rec department, that probably wasn’t really needed and just the suggestion that something along those lines is needed. Really great job! I did get a little nervous when you said that IT was going to maintain the storage systems, but I’m sure they will do a good job with backups if not other things. The Archaeology Program Office is just gonna have to learn how to communicate in their language 😉

    1. Jen,

      From what I know about IT, they do know how to preserve and maintain servers and hard drives. They might not refer to it as “preservation,” though. You make a good point about communicating with IT and speaking their language. That’s definitely important for every organization that has to work with and rely on an IT department.

  3. Hi Tina,

    Differentiating between historical and working files was a great idea. I like how you included different security measures for them, as well. You did a good job at addressing each concern for the Levels of Digital Preservation and it was smart to factor in the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative, too. Nice job!

  4. I like the way that your preservation policy follows the NDSA categories, which draws a clear connection to the “next steps” and other work we’ve done. I also like that you are making a distinction between operational and historic files, and like Tricia, I’m super excited about Dinosaur Park!

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