The Baltimore Community Museum is responsible for documenting the history of the town of Baltimore, Ohio and the surrounding areas. Because the museum is currently undertaking digitization projects, digital preservation is becoming increasingly important for the organization. Staff need to be able to maintain the valuable digital files they are creating and hope to be able to make the scanned items available on the museum’s website in the future. The Baltimore Community Museum recognizes that digital preservation can be challenging because the policies and methods developed for analog preservation may not always be applicable. Because of the rate of technological change, digital objects require more active management. This digital preservation policy will help the museum to gain better control over its digital content today so the organization is better equipped to tackle new challenges (such as new media formats) in the future. This policy outlines procedures and responsibilities for the Baltimore Community Museum in order to ensure sustainable access to the museum’s digital content. In the long run, these guidelines should help to clarify workflows for staff and prevent unnecessary stress. The actions listed in this policy are intended to help the museum reach higher levels of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance Levels of Digital Preservation.
This policy applies to the digital content created by museum employees during digitization projects. Currently, staff are working to scan documents and photos from the Baltimore Community Museum’s collections. Issues of a local newspaper, the Twin City News, have also been digitized. Going forward, the museum will continue to select items to be scanned. The Baltimore Community Museum will prioritize documents and photos that are damaged and items that are of great importance to the history of the community. The organization also hopes to select and preserve items that would potentially assist members of the community working on genealogy projects. This includes family genealogies that have been donated to the museum, cemetery records, and township records.
The Baltimore Community Museum currently uses Google Cloud for photographs and Dropbox for documents. Going forward, the museum will maintain at least three copies of its files to prevent loss due to bit rot or storage system failure. At least one copy of the files will be stored in a different geographic location to protect against a regional disaster. The museum will continue to use cloud storage providers but will also store one copy of the scans on an external hard drive that will be kept in a secure location.
The museum will monitor the fixity of its files to ensure that digital files have not changed or degraded over time. The simplest way to monitor fixity is to keep track of the number of files being created and their expected file size. Each month, staff will update the total file count and file size figures. As part of this monthly check-in, staff will verify that fixity information has not changed unexpectedly. Staff should also double check fixity information after transferring any files to a new storage system. For additional peace of mind, staff can use AVP’s free Fixity tool to scan folders or directories and check for fixity issues, but this does not need to occur on a monthly basis.
Museum staff will create an inventory of its scans that is updated at fixed intervals. The inventory will at least include the file names, file locations, a description of each object, and any available fixity information. If time permits, staff will also begin upload information about scanned items into PastPerfect like they would for physical artifacts.
Access to the Baltimore Community Museum’s digital content should be restricted to the museum’s director, interns, and other staff. Members of the community may view the files on a staff laptop with supervision, but passwords should only be entrusted to museum staff members. The museum will also maintain a log that employees update whenever they delete or move files. This log should be audited on a quarterly basis.
The museum typically uses common file formats like JPEGs and PDFs for its scans. New staff members should be instructed to continue using these formats. If the museum decides to expand its digital collections in the future, staff will create an inventory of all of the file formats that are in use and monitor file formats for obsolescence.
Roles and Responsibilities
The museum’s director will be responsible for leading digitization projects, securing funding for resources like external hard drives, and training other staff members on digital preservation tasks. Other staff members will assist with tasks like making backup copies of files, checking fixity information, and updating inventories.
Best practices in digital preservation continue to evolve, so this digital preservation policy may also need to be revised in the future. The policy will be reviewed annually to ensure that the document still meets the organization’s needs. The policy should also be updated whenever there is a substantial change to the scope of the Baltimore Community Museum’s digital collections (for example, if the museum begins digitizing audiovisual materials). As part of the review process, the museum’s director should consult with interns and volunteers to identify any workflows that need be modified.
National Digital Stewardship Alliance. (2014). What is Fixity, and When Should I be Checking It? Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/documents/NDSA-Fixity-GuidanceReport-final100214.pdf
Owens, T. (2018). The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Phillips, M., Bailey, J., Goethals, A., & Owens, T. (2013). The NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation: An Explanation and Uses. IS&T Archiving, Washington, USA. Retrieved from http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/documents/NDSA_Levels_Archiving_2013.pdf
Schumacher, J., Thomas, L.M., VandeCreek, D., Erdman, S., Hancks, J., Haykal, A.,…Spalenka, D. (2014). From Theory to Action: Good Enough Digital Preservation for Under-Resourced Cultural Heritage Institutions (Working Paper). Retrieved from http://commons.lib.niu.edu/handle/10843/13610