StratComm Digital Preservation Policy

I. Purpose

This document describes the activities and responsibilities required for the preservation of Strategic Communications’ (StratComm) digital image collection. It is intended to outline the asset’s needs at each stage of the asset lifecycle and to diagram the organizational relationships necessary to execute each stage.

II. Mandate

StratComm creates and manages visual assets for its own use in communicating about the company’s work program, and also to enable the company’s employee population to produce their own communications products via self-service tools. This insight and self-efficacy in the use of the image collection at every level of the company directly strengthens StratComm’s brand objectives.

III. Definition of User Group

StratComm maintains the collection for its own use, and on a broader level, to enable company employees to communicate about their work. In that context, it is the goal of StratComm to preserve functional access to visual assets. As such, migrations of storage media and file format may be undertaken to ensure persistent access to these items is maintained in future computing environments.

Documenting the history of the company is also a priority, and StratComm partners with Corporate Archives in facilitating the retirement and long-term preservation of visual assets for that purpose.

IV. Scope

This policy applies to the following materials:

  • All photography produced by StratComm staff.
  • Some photography submitted by company employees, provided it has some reuse value in communicating about the company work program.
  • Some vector graphics produced by employees, provided they have reuse value and align with the company’s brand guidelines.

V. Collaboration

A Corporate Digital Preservation Committee will be formed in order to bring together the various stakeholders in the Strategic Communications, Corporate Archives, and Enterprise Computing departments. The group will meet at least annually to perform any scheduled audits and to evaluate opportunities to advance the search capability of the image collection.

The committee will include R504 and R301 leadership, Corporate Archives staff, StratComm photography staff, and representatives of Enterprise Computing capable of facilitating storage and backup services.

VI. Asset Lifecycle

StratComm’s visual assets require different stewardship activities at each stage of their lifecycle. These stages and needs are outlined below.

A. Creation

1. Preferred Formats

For final, edited images uncompressed TIFFs are optimal, however provided no exposure adjustments are needed, they are indiscernible from JPEGs saved at the highest possible quality setting. As such, JPEGs are acceptable.

Despite the more open documentation of Adobe’s DNG RAW format, its low adoption levels and scant software support make it somewhat less attractive as an archival format. In fairness, the ubiquity of Nikon and Canon native RAW formats offers no greater guarantee. In the interest of preserving maximum interoperability with today’s available RAW processing tools, native Nikon and Canon raw formats (NEF and CR2) are preferred, however DNGs are acceptable.

For vector graphics, SVGs are preferred, however AI and EPS files are acceptable.

2. File Naming Conventions

Imported RAW files should retain the camera-assigned sequential number, and ideally, also apply the creation date to the beginning of the file name in order to minimize the likelihood of duplicate filenames. They should look similar to the following standard: YYYY-MM-DD_D4S####.NEF

Exported final files should add the project or customer name to the beginning of the standard name outlined above for RAW files. This standard should like similar to this:

Project_Name_YYYY-MM-DD_D4S####.NEF

B. Management

1. Storage

a) Number and Location of Copies.

Three copies of final edited files should be established in different geographical locations in order to diversify StratComm’s disaster threat profile. To accomplish this, each location will save all originals to their site’s multimedia server. This copy will get duplicated to a corporate-level backup server at the same site, and then each location will send a third copy to a server at the other site to protect against any widespread disaster effecting the original site.

b) Folder Naming Conventions.

The photography section of the multimedia server should be organized by year. Each year folder will contain job folders organized chronologically by date, after which each will contain a few words explaining the project or customer. They will adhere to the following standard: YYYY-MM-DD_Project_Name

Folders for each month are acceptable practice for individual use in Lightroom, but should be avoided on the server where browsability by the group is of greater importance than brevity.

2. File Fixity

Checksums should be generated on a collection level for each job after all manipulation and processing of those files is complete. All files from that job will be zipped into a single package and a checksum will be generated for that package.

File fixity should be checked prior to, and after, any transfers or copies are made of the final edited files. The checksum should be stored in a text file accompanying the zip file that houses the collection of images, and it should be supplied to Corporate Archives for verification of fixity upon retirement of the assets.

3. Information Security and Access

Read, write, and delete access to the photography portion of each site’s multimedia server should be restricted to the photography staff and their immediate supervisors. The wider multimedia and design teams may have read-only access to this area, but should be encouraged to use the EnterMedia DAM system as the primary search tool.

4. Metadata

StratComm will record metadata at various points during the asset lifecycle to optimize the asset’s useful potential.

a) Technical

Cameras automatically record technical metadata associated with each capture, and record it as EXIF metadata. Photographers will ensure that EXIF metadata is conveyed from the RAW capture through to the exported final image.

b) Descriptive

Photographers will apply descriptive metadata on a collection level for each job using Lightroom and Bridge prior to uploading into the EnterMedia DAM system. This will consist of a title, description, and keyword tags that are aligned with the company’s subject taxonomy terms.

c) Access and rights

Photographers will program their cameras and metadata templates in Lightroom and Bridge to apply authorship, copyright, and usage guidelines automatically during import and export functions. This will include photographer name, contact info, copyright, and sensitivity level.

d) Preservation

Preservation metadata will be created in collaboration with Corporate Archives staff at the time of retirement.

C. Distribution

The EnterMedia DAM system will act as the primary access point for both StratComm staff and the wider population of company employees. This tool will feature custom, shareable image galleries for delivery of images to customers in a manner that is browsable and also enables download of the high resolution file.

D. Retrieval

The EnterMedia DAM system will also feature both keyword search functionality as well as curated collections of images to facilitate easy browsing of common subject matter.

StratComm will also partner with KICS to optimize the contents of EnterMedia to make them interoperable with the company’s EnterpriseSearch capability.

E. Archiving

1. Sunset Date

StratComm’s desire to use the most recent material possible in most communications products results in a diminished prevalence of usage with age. As such, StratComm will transfer all files to Corporate Archives once they surpass 5 years of age in order to preserve these objects for historical purposes and to make room for new assets. This transfer to Archives will be performed annually.

2. Selection and Accessioning

At time of retirement Corporate Archives and StratComm photography staff will meet to determine which files are appropriate for long term preservation and which can be safely deaccessioned. This may or may not include the deletion of RAW files. Corporate Archives will have ultimate say in the selection of items for long-term preservation.

If StratComm believes an item – or collection of items – should be retained for active usage longer than the 5-year sunset date, or in a non-archival format not supported by Corporate Archives, StratComm will assume the responsibility of maintaining that library of assets for nearline access.

3. Transformation and Migration

At time of retirement Corporate Archives and StratComm photography staff will collaborate on any required format migrations necessary to normalize the collection to an archival standard.

Corporate Archives reserves the right to perform transformations of the original files in order to maintain functional access in future computing environments.

VII. Audits

Annual audits should be performed to check fixity of currently held assets, to facilitate the retirement of assets to Corporate Archives, and to review this policy document for any needed changes. The parties responsible for each of these efforts are outlined below.

A. Fixity Audits

StratComm photography staff will assume full responsibility for performing all audits of file fixity, both before and after transfers, as well as annually to protect against bit rot.

B. Retirement

Corporate Archives and StratComm photography staff will work in tandem to perform annual reviews of materials eligible for retirement to Corporate Archives

C. Policy Review

The full Corporate Digital Preservation Committee, including R504 and R301 leadership, Corporate Archives staff, StratComm photography staff, and representatives of Enterprise Computing, will annually meet to evaluate the need for any changes to this document.

3 Replies to “StratComm Digital Preservation Policy”

  1. Hi Andrew, I enjoyed reading your policy. Did the section on sunset dates address the problem you mentioned a few weeks ago about determining how to archive files when customers request changes to videos?

    I also appreciated your discussion of TIFFs and JPEGs because I had struggled with which to recommend for my group. They have been using JPEGs. My understanding is that TIFFS are generally larger and I was hard pressed to recommend adding the burden of maintaining larger files if JPEGs would serve their needs.

    1. Hi Tina… no, the section on sunset dates was specifically addressing a contingent of StratComm’s management that wanted to know why we were saving all of these RAW files if they were so seldom used. Again, this was a politically very fraught topic. Management wanted to optimize disk space as much as possible, and the Boston photographer was horrified, considering their deletion tantamount to burning his negatives. My solution was to essentially give Archives the role of a disinterested third party. StratComm gives everything to Archives, and Archives will decide for itself if it cares to maintain those RAW files (and after talking with them, they actually might).

      My opinions on the TIFF vs JPEG topic are most certainly in the minority. I tend to think that TIFF is not as perfect as it’s given credit for and JPEG is unfairly (and incorrectly) dismissed as necessarily low quality. TIFF still wins on a lot of fronts, but yes, that enormous size and more limited software support comes with workflow costs for producers that might make the difference between photographers giving me the material I want, or those same photographers telling me that it’s too much trouble, and then I don’t get anything. Between JPEGs and nothing, I’ll happily take JPEGs.

  2. Andy,
    Really wonderful details in your policy! I can see how you focused on your specific audience when you wrote this. You did a great job of explaining things and showing your company what they should be doing. I hope they take this policy and all your work and suggestions to heart!

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