Draft of Digital Preservation Policy for Putnam County Museum

Purpose

This policy aims to implement and maintain digital preservation practices for the Putnam County Museum in Greencastle, Indiana. While this policy focuses on digital files and formats, it may also apply to digitization practices. This policy is expressly for the use of staff and volunteers at the Putnam County Museum, and does not apply broadly to all county institutions. Policy should be revisited every 3-5 years, with input from the board, to address any new concerns or new opportunities. This policy is not meant to discourage grant applications, but to provide practices to work towards full preservation using any current resources.

 

Mandate and Scope

According to the museum website, the organization’s mission is to “collect, preserve, and interpret the natural, historical and cultural heritage of the county” (putnamcountymuseum.org). The organization has been a proactive collector in the county, and must focus on preserving the material, both physically and digitally. This policy addresses digital preservation issues by:

  1. Creating a file naming system to make files more accessible to researchers, the public, and staff.
  2. Ensure file fixity over time to preserve digital files.
  3. Create systems for removing environmental risks of files and drives.
  4. Ensure that a-c are manageable and affordable for an organization of its size.

 

Standards

This policy will refer to current modes of digital preservation, including National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA)’s “Levels of Digital Preservation and prioritizations of physical and digital copies of similar/the same material.

 

Policy Practices

Oral Histories

Standard practice when dealing with oral histories is to treat the original format as the artifact. Recordings should be checked regularly for listen-ability, and transferred to new – and different – formats. Different formats have different life cycles, and therefore having content saved on different formats will increase the likelihood that the file survives.

Existing oral histories that can be accessed digitally will be uploaded to the Internet Archive for longer-term preservation. Future oral histories will be taken via the StoryCorps app, which automatically archives the audio with the Library of Congress.

 

Scanned Images

Scanned images need to be as (or more) findable than the original document. Immediately upon scanning images on-site, staff/volunteers will:

  1. Locate and rename file with identifying information (i.e. “Red Cross Group Photo 1974”)
  2. Digitally placed in file hierarchy mimicking makeup of existing systems (i.e. “Scanned Photos/Newspapers/1950-1970).
  3. Be added to a “master list” of scanned images kept in multiple locations, per NDSA Levels of Preservation (i.e. printed copy on site replaced every quarter, digitally on the hard drive, saved digitally on a cloud-based system).
  4. Uploaded to an external, free service to preserve images (i.e. Internet Archive or Wikimedia Commons).

 

File Fixity

At least twice a year, staff/volunteers will create and maintain a “master list” of digital files, both digitized files and born-digital. As long as Putnam County Museum uses PastPerfect software, this can be completed (for collections data) via reports within the system. Otherwise, there should be a list created of non-collections digital files. Moving forward, file fixity checks will be completed at least once a year, at the end or beginning of the fiscal year, via AVPreserve. After the checks, staff will search for the locations of discrepancies between the two versions.

 

Roles and Responsibilities

Because staff is low at Putnam County Museum, much of the work will need to be done by volunteers. Staff will be responsible for recognizing volunteers most suited to this type of work and train them on the systems and practices above. Staff will also make this policy readily available to any volunteer who may interact with or manipulate digital files. Volunteers untrained in these practices should be discouraged from working with digital materials until training to ensure both security and consistency.

One Reply to “Draft of Digital Preservation Policy for Putnam County Museum”

  1. You make a good point about training, Leigh. I haven’t discussed that directly with my institution but I also thought it was an important point to include in the policy. In my case, I simply wanted to ensure that a member of staff was empowered (through job re-description, hopefully) to train volunteers. On the flip side, I think you’re wise to include a clause actively discouraging the untrained from handling digital objects.

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