***This document should be considered a draft because it has not been reviewed by the organization. It will be updated if I receive any edits or feedback.****
As the College Park Aviation Museum (CPAM) seeks to expand its collections and facilitate greater access to its historic materials, a growing portion of its holdings will be either born-digital or digitized material. This document was created to establish guidelines on how to manage and organize these materials and to protect them against the risks of loss or technological obsolescence. In following these guidelines, the museum will be actively working to ensure that its digital collections continue to be available for future generations.
This policy covers both born-digital and digitized material. Born-digital refers to material originally created in digital form, such as photos uploaded from a digital camera or text files created using Microsoft Word. Digitized materials refer to any material that has been converted to a digital format, such as scanned photographs or documents.
While many of the museum’s digital files are on the common drive, this policy also encompass material currently stored in other formats such as USB-drives, floppy disks, CDs, and DVD+Rs. Although certain media items like VHS and cassette tapes are not typically put into the same category as digital files, these are “endangered” formats that are obsolete and have limited lifespans, so the best way to ensure ease of access and continued preservation is to convert them to digital files. With the expectation that their conversion will be a priority they should be considered to be within the scope of this policy whenever applicable.
This policy draws from the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA)’s Levels of Digital Preservation. The NDSA Levels were chosen as a basis for recommendations because it provides succinct, clearly-articulated standards and encourages an incremental, scalable approach to digital preservation. It recognizes the need to provide realistic options to institutions with limited time and resources, which is the goal of this policy as well.
CPAM will consult with their parent organization, the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (MNCPPC)’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) to determine what measures are already in place to back up the contents of their common drive and how often these back-ups are performed. CPAM will ensure that there are at least two complete copies of the contents of the common drive and that these copies are not located in the same place.
CPAM will make it a priority to get the images, videos, textual files, and other data that now exists in various media formats onto its common drive, which will simplify its care and management. It will phase out the use of formats like CDs, floppy disks, DVD+Rs, and USB-drives as storage, because those formats have a limited lifespan and are prone to damage or loss.
If CPAM runs out of storage space on its common drive and MNCPPC is unable to provide additional resources, CPAM will continue to use the common drive for administrative files and will use a secondary cloud storage system like Dropbox for media files like photographs, videos, and scans.
CPAM will continue to pursue a partnership with Digital Maryland (DM), which will enable them to continue to expand their digital holdings while also making them more accessible to the public. The files hosted by DM can serve as additional copies for preservation purpose, but CPAM will also keep two copies of all digitized files in its own storage systems.
File Fixity and Data Integrity
CPAM will use a tool like AVP’s Fixity to perform data integrity checks on all its digital files at least once annually, and will also aim to perform checks after large ingests or transfers of files. If the checks indicate that files are missing, unintentionally altered, or corrupted, the files will be restored using one of the museum’s back-up copies.
CPAM will identify who has the ability to read, write, move, and delete files and restrict those authorizations when appropriate. Restrictions will be recommended for all historic collections, although there may be a desire for more flexibility with administrative files. These restrictions will be documented on a spreadsheet and periodically reviewed so that changes can be made if necessary.
CPAM will create a mastery inventory of CPAM’s digital files that are deemed worthy of preservation, including those on the common drive and on various other formats such as DVD+Rs, CDs, floppy disks, or USB-drives. CPAM will also inventory all media formats such as VHS tapes or cassettes which are either obsolete or in danger of obsolescence, so that these materials can be prioritized for digitization. This can take the form of a single spreadsheet or multiple spreadsheets that are organized within one folder.
CPAM will chose the level of description most appropriate to the material being described and the amount of resources it is able to devote to the task, which realistically may not always be a file-level description. For the initial inventory, it is sufficient to say “1 CD containing 150 images of CPAM events, circa 2005,” which can be expanded in more detail at a later date if desired. At this stage, it is more important to get a general understanding of the scope and contents of the collections (including file formats) than it is to create detailed file-level metadata
CPAM will agree on naming conventions for all born-digital and digitized files that will be added to its collection in the future. If time and resources allow, it will also standardize its legacy holdings.
CPAM will encourage the use of preferred file formats for the creation of new digital materials. Preferred formats are ones that are commonly used, widely accessible, and open-sourced. A guideline for determining what digital preservationists consider to be a preferred formats is the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA)’s Recommended Preservation Formats for Electronic Records.
For text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations that are in their final form (and will not be edited), the preferred formats are PDF or PDF/A. For images, the preferred format is TIFF (uncompressed), for audio it is BMF-Broadcast WAV (.wav extension), and for video it is Motion JPEG 2000, MOV, or AVI. For a more complete listing of both preferred formats and acceptable formats, CPAM employees are encouraged to consult the table in the SIA guidelines.
CPAM will create a list of file formats in its collection and monitor each for obsolescence issues. Converting files to the preferred formats is only recommended for files in formats that are not considered acceptable by SIA.
Digital preservation is not something that is done once and then forgotten about, but rather it is an on-going, iterative process. In recognition of this fact, the digital preservation policy should be reviewed annually by staff members of the CPAM and revised when necessary. The museum should anticipate that evolving technology and standards may create the need to amend the policy. It may also need to be adapted in response to changes in the museum’s goals or priorities.