Next Steps for the Geneva Historical Society


The digital holdings of the Geneva Historical Society, located in New York, are spread out over various websites and institutions. The Society has partnerships with the Hobart and William Smith Colleges,, and the NYS Historic Newspapers website. The Society’s digital holdings can be found on these websites, their own Synology NAS storage system, and on Google Photos and Dropbox. These holdings include materials such as photographs, post cards, and microfilmed newspapers.

One of the largest problems the Society faces with their digital items stems from a lack of organization. When an employee digitizes an item, that item is saved and stored according to that employee’s own personal naming and filing system. Staff regularly do not know what other employees have scanned, leading to much duplication and difficulty in finding digitized materials.

Before writing a preservation policy for the Society, I will first review the Society’s current standing in the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation (LoDP) and then recommend next steps that the Society can take to improve their standing. The NDSA levels can be found here.


Although Metadata is ranked as the fourth priority on the NDSA LoDP, it is a critical concern for the Society. To address their duplication and disorganization issues, it is pertinent for the Society to create an inventory of their digital holdings. This inventory can be created on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and should have headers for information such as directory location, file format, and file size. Resolution would also be a beneficial header so that, in the future, staff members can know if the digitized image fits the proper resolution that they are looking for. There should be a backup of this inventory in case the original file is accidentally deleted or corrupted. Simple ways to backup the inventory include using Dropbox or Google Sheets.

Other than just creating the inventory, the Society would also benefit from standardizing the documentation of digital materials. This standardization should include a file naming policy so that items are always named in predictable and understandable ways, increasing findability. While creating the inventory, files should be renamed in order to fit the standard. Another way to standardize the documentation of the digital materials is to restructure the directories so that everyone may know the locations of items, instead of them being restricted to a single employee’s desktop. One way to structure the directories can be to base them on the physical locations of the materials. This way, if an employee knows where to find the physical object, they can use that same process to find the digitized version. Thus, the inventorying process would also involve relocating digital objects to fit into the new directory structures.

So that every employee will know how to name and locate items, the Society should create a “file plan” document. The purpose of this document will be to explain the standards for naming and storing items and why the rules exist. For future digitization, staff members should record file information in the inventory right after scanning.

Creating the inventory will be a high resource requirement. Due to the amount of time that creating the inventory will take, the Society can use community volunteers and dedicate staff hours to the project. The Society can also have a “file clean-up” day or time every so often so that every staff member can devote time to inventorying and cleaning up the collection.

Storage and Geographic Location

The Society currently uses a Synology NAS storage system. To satisfy the storage requirements of the NDSA LoDP, an organization needs to have multiple copies of their collection in different geographic locations. To meet the level 1 requirement of LoDP, the Society needs to create a copy of their digital collection. The Society could use an application such as Preservica to store their digital materials. To reach the second level, the Society will need to document the storage systems they are using and what they need to use them (such as access information). The Society will also need to create and find a storage location for a third copy of their digital collection. This third copy can potentially be given to one of the Society’s partners.

Fulfilling these steps will demand a medium resource requirement from the Society. Improving the Society’s standing in this area could cost both time and money (should the Society decide to use an application like Preservica).

File Fixity and Data Integrity

File fixity refers to the digital object remaining as intended through time and transfer, meaning that details such as content and file size do not change. The purpose of fixity checks are to ensure the digital objects have not changed. There are no fixity checks currently being done at the Society. To reach level 1 of LoDP, the Society needs to create fixity information upon creating and acquiring a new digital object. To do this, I recommend that the Society record the file size and file count. This information can be recorded in the inventory. To reach level 2 of LoDP, the Society needs to check file fixity for all acquired digital materials. The Society can do this using AVP’s free application Fixity. I would also recommend that the Society practice annual fixity checks to make sure none of their content has corrupted.

For materials already in the Society’s collection, the Society can record their file size and count while creating the inventory for future reference. Working on file fixity will be a low resource requirement for the Society. Documenting fixity information for existing files can be done while working on the inventory and the procedure for adding fixity information for new digital objects can be added to the file plan. Checking file fixity can be done using free applications, so there does not need to be a financial cost to the Society.

Information Security

Some information security is implemented at the Society in the Photo Archive. Although the public may use the computer, they cannot access all the files that staff can. These access restrictions can be further implemented to protect the digital collection. To reach level 1 of LoDP’s information security section, the Society needs to identify who has read, write, move, and delete authorization to individual files. This should be done after the inventory has been created and existing materials have been renamed and relocated. The benefit of having these restrictions is that unauthorized people will not be able to tamper with or misplace files, maintaining the order and efficiency of the organization. The Society should also document who has the authorizations and access restrictions for the content.

Implementing this level of information security will be a medium resource requirement for the Society. The Society will have to decide and document who will be able to access, alter, move, and delete which collection materials, which may require a lot of time.

File Formats

Although the employees at the Society already know that they use formats such as pdf, tiff, and jpg, it is still important to document all of the file formats in use. This can be done once the inventory is created. After documenting the formats for each item in the collection, the Society will be able to see each the formats being used. The Society should limit their formats to “known open formats,” meaning formats that are widely used and non-propriety. This lessens the risk of the format becoming obsolete. To reach levels 3 and 4 of LoDP, the Society will need to monitor these file formats to see if they are becoming obsolete and migrate at-risk formats when needed.

Working on the file format section of LoDP will be a low resource requirement from the Society, as it should be relatively easy to do once the inventory has been created.


The most pressing need for the Society is the creation of an inventory. Once the inventory is created, the Society will be able to advance in the other areas of LoDP with lower resource requirements.

Next Steps Preservation Plan for the Archeology Program Office


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 part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. As part of its mission, the program curates millions of artifacts, and over the years, related documentation has been created in various formats and on disparate media. Documentation is primarily in the form of digital and/or physical copies of reports, catalogs, slides, print photographs, negatives, drawings, maps, and videos. All artifacts and documentation are stored in the same facility. Their goal is to have all digital content centralized on one shared network which is currently in development.

This report outlines recommended next steps to preserve their digital content following a framework designed by the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA). NDSA’s Levels of Digital Preservation presents a series of recommendations based on five areas of concern for digital preservation – storage and geographic location, file fixity and data integrity, information security, metadata and file format. Level 1 recommendations relate to the most urgent activities need for preservation and serves as a prerequisite to the higher levels.


Establish a central storage system for all digital content and maintain at least one complete copy stored in another location.

Digital content is currently stored locally on five desktop computers, two laptops, a back-up drive of files from former staff, approximately 300 compact discs and about 700 3.5” floppy disks. Staff have been working on a shared drive to organize content in one place. While staff are backing up their own drives locally, there is no complete copy of all digital content.

Following NDSA’s Level 1 recommendation, staff should move all files off disparate media and into a storage system and create a complete copy of files that should be stored in a different location. This serves a number of purposes:

– Transferring to a new storage system will guard against potential loss of data on old media.

– Minimizing number of storage locations will facilitate data integrity monitoring.

– Creating a complete copy will provide a back-up in case files are corrupted or lost.

– Storing a copy in a different location will guard against loss specific to one location such as damage to equipment as a result of severe weather or a catastrophic event.

– This process is also a necessary first step in achieving a goal for the program, which is to have all files organized and accessible without extensive searching.

1. Create a complete copy of what is accessible right now.

The development of the shared network in coordination with the program’s IT department will likely serve as their established storage system. A portion of files are currently inaccessible on floppy disks. However, the bulk of digital content is stored locally on various hard drives.  Any content that is currently accessible on hard drives should be copied and stored in another location to safeguard against loss. See “File Fixity and Data Integrity” below for checking data integrity and creating a file manifest. In the short term, storage can be on an external hard drive that is kept in another location in a secure place. Alternatively, staff could use a cloud storage service such as Dropboxwhich would have the added benefit of storing files offsite. Once files are integrated into the shared drive, a copy can be created from this set of content. Staff can work with the IT department to see if they can use a back-up storage system that is already in place with other departments.

2. Establish a file structure in the shared directory

Staff can begin integrating current files that they work with into the networked drive in order to develop a workable structure that will be practical for finding files. Historical documents can then be organized into that structure. Once a structure and naming system has been established, staff should document and follow this structure. This can be done concurrently with the following step.

3. Copy files from compact disks and 3.5” floppy disks using an unnetworked workstation

It will likely take a while to sift through decades worth of files. Given the urgency of potential loss from old media and a potential risk of viruses from disks used by former staff, copy over all the files from compact and floppy disks first onto a an unnetworked drive and run a virus scan before combining with current files.

a. Drive space needed: Assuming approximately 700 MB of data per CD and 1.44 MB per floppy disks, there is approximately 211 GB of data if all the disks are full.

b. Install anti-virus software on unnetworked workstation: Speak with the IT department about installing antivirus software so that it can run in the background while copying over files. Establish a schedule to run full virus scans depending on how regularly files are being copied over.

 c. Install drivers for 3.5” external floppy drive on unnetworked drive: At the time of the survey, staff had an external drive to read 3.5” floppy disks but lacked the software to run the drive. This step is necessary in order to access any of this information.

d. Install fixity software on unnetworked and networked drives: See the section “File Fixity and Data Integrity” below.

e. Transferring files from CDs and floppy disks to unnetworked hard drive: Currently staff use context such as file extensions, file location, file name, and the author name to find content. Therefore, it’s recommended that they preserve these elements and related descriptive information that may be written on the disks as much as possible until they can sort out all the content. Disks were labeled in a number of ways. The majority of floppy disks where organized in boxes of about 10 disks with labels on the boxes suggesting that there were groups of related disks. Some disks had vague or no labeling. Related files kept together on disks or boxes of disks should be copied into a directory folder with the descriptive information from the label. This can either be transcribed onto a text file or a picture can be taken of the label and included in the directory.

f. Timing: While each floppy disk may hold a relatively small amount of data, the process of copying over hundreds of disks can be labor intensive. However, during this window, the work is not being backed up. Therefore, consider either setting a short window of time to copy over all of these files, or setting a schedule where small batches of files are copied over from disks and scanned for viruses before being copied to another location. This can either be added to shared drive or another external drive that is stored in another location. Once files have been safely transferred, they can be integrated into the file structure on the shared drive.

4. Set a schedule of back-ups to maintain a complete copy.


The NDSA Level 1 recommendation it to create an inventory of digital content and storage location. Like the digital content itself, the inventory should be backed up and stored in another location. As mentioned in the Section “File Fixity and Data Integrity” below, AVP’s Fixity software includes a function to generate a manifest of file paths that will assist with inventory. Staff can maintain this inventory as they continue to develop the file structure on the shared drive.

For file and directory naming, consider creating a controlled vocabulary and syntax to make it easier for staff to find files. This can include specific terms for archeological site names, document type (e.g., site form, report), and a version, year or other modifier (e.g., draft, final) when needed.


File fixity is a way of ensuring that files have not changed. It is recommended to run fixity checks whenever files are transferred (Owens, p. 110). This will generate an alphanumeric string called a checksum that can be compared before and after the transfer. Changing the content of the file including the format will change the checksum value. If the IT department does not already use fixity software, Fixity is a free tool from AVP that can be used to generate and compare checksum values and ensure that all files have been transferred. The software also generates a manifest of file paths along with the checksums that could prove useful in establishing an inventory of digital content.

The Level 2 recommends virus checking high risk content while Level 3 recommends virus checking all content. Virus checking high risk content is addressed 3b of “Storage and Geographic Location.” Staff should have antivirus software installed at their workstations and run scheduled scans.

Level 3 also recommends checking fixity as fixed intervals to ensure data integrity over time. Consider establishing a yearly schedule of validating fixity. Any corrupt or missing files can be replaced with a copy that passes fixity validation.


This step will outline who has access to the content and what they can do with it. This will prevent files from getting deleted or changed by unauthorized staff. NSDA Level 1 recommends to identify who is authorized to read, write, move or delete individual files. Related to this, Level 4 in the section on file fixity also recommends that no one is authorized to have write access to all copies. This reduces the likelihood of changing or deleting all copies of one or more files.

Staff have taken initial steps in the process by creating three different directories with different levels of access for their users: one directory for onsite archeology staff, one directory for the rest of the Prince George’s County Parks Department, and one directory for Dinosaur Park, another program of the Prince George’s County arm of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission that shares the same workspace.

However, more levels of access may be necessary if only one person in the office is allowed to have read or write permissions. In addition, staff should clearly delineate working files from historical files that should not change. This will help to prevent the document from being changed or deleted. It will also help with fixity validation since working files will likely involved changes in content which will change the checksum value. This can be accomplished by setting permissions to specific subdirectories or to specific sets of files. Document access restrictions and store in a location that all users can access.


 File formats can become obsolete. In some cases, once the format is obsolete the file might not be able to be opened in another format or will not be rendered in exactly the same way. The purpose of this section is to minimize these problems by using formats that are less likely to become obsolete, or that can be effectively rendered in another format. Widely used formats are generally considered to remain accessible because there will be a demand to either keep them accessible or develop a means of migrating them (Owens, 121).

Since some media have not yet been accessed, a current inventory of file formats that have been used is not available. Formats currently in use are jpegs andfiles generated from different versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and Access. Mapping files are created using GIS (geographic information systems) technologies. Older files have been created using WordPerfect, CAD (computerized aided drafting) software, and Paradox relational database. Staff are currently having trouble with opening Paradox files since the database is no longer supported and cannot be opened using current versions of Access or Excel.

Formats such as jpeg and Microsoft Word and Excel are commonly used, although the latter two undergo regular updates which may render slight changes if a file is opened in a new version. As the files are incorporated into the new directory structure on the shared drive, staff should develop an inventory of formats that they are using, work with the IT department to monitor them for obsolescence, and be prepared to migrate as needed.


NDSA Level 2 for storage recommends creating a third copy of the content and Level 4 recommends at least three copies stored in locations with different disaster threats. The Archeology Program Office could combine this recommendation with a means of sharing some of their content. This could be through a subject-specific repository for archeology or something more general like the Internet Archive.

Levels 2-4 address steps to maintain storage media so that files continue to be accessible in the long term. Staff should work with their IT department to document storage used for their shared drive and back-up copies, monitor for obsolescence, and have a plan in place for updating systems.

Staff also expressed an interest in resuming digitization of their physical documentation. Some reports and slides have already been digitized. As a starting point, staff can discuss their experiences with past efforts and lessons learned to establish goals for the program and how this will fit into the file structure that they are creating for current digital content. The Still Image and Audiovisual Working Groups of the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative can be a good resource to establish best practices for digitization.

Geneva Historical Society


The Geneva Historical Society is located in Geneva, New York. The Historical Society is committed to preserving Geneva history and using digital and analog materials to educate the community and sustain community interest in Geneva’s memory.  The Society is made up of a small group of employees who wear several hats. The Society’s greatest digital preservation concern comes from too many duplicates, a lack of a content management system, and no inventory of digitized items.

Digital Content

The Society’s digital content includes historical materials that are part of their archival collection, promotional and educational materials, and digital items generated through business-related actions. The historical collection includes materials available on the Society’s website, on, and on the Rochester Regional Library Council’s NYS Historic Newspapers website. There are photographs, videos, and audio available for public access on the Society’s websites. The items available on includes post cards, papers, and photographs. On are the Society’s microfilmed newspapers. The Society no longer has the original newspapers and now rely on this website for research, both internal and for the public. The Society also has StoryMaps, which are hosted by Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

The Director of Education and Public Information uses digital content for promotional and educational purposes. The Educator uses photographs and maps from the Society’s collection, public domain materials from websites such as Library of Congress and Wikimedia, and photographs taken at the Society’s events. The Educator uses Illustrator, Indesign, and Photoshop files for publicity and programming. The Curator uses Publisher files for exhibits.

The Society’s digital holdings also include image collections on the website media gallery through WordPress, a MailChimp media gallery, content on Google Photos and Dropbox, and other institution-based materials.

Content Management

Much of the Society’s current struggle with their digital content comes from the lack of management for these materials. The staff at the Society practice independent digitization. When a staff member needs something digitized, they do it themselves. Employees are unaware of what items others have already scanned. These digitized items are kept in folders on the employee’s computer, using their own filing system. This process has led to much duplication.

This duplication continues on the shared computer located in the Photo Archive. Using an Epson V300 scanner, staff scan items and store them on this computer. The materials saved on this computer are accessible to all of the staff through their own computers. This leads to duplication of the staff’s individual files.

The employees do not all have the same computer or operating system. They use Windows but not everyone has Windows 10. The digital formats used by the Society are generally jpg, tiff, and pdf. The digital copies have varying resolutions and file sizes and there is no standardized filing system, so finding objects that other employees have saved is difficult and time-consuming. If the Educator is looking for a certain image and knows it has already been digitized, she will ask the Archivist or Curator if they know the location. If the image isn’t digitized or easily accessible, the Educator will use the Epson V300 scanner and save the image to her desktop.

The staff agree that improving the state of their digital content is a priority. The staff believe that the digital content is too unorganized and that time is wasted looking for items and scanning materials already digitized. Getting their digital content under control is critical to the Society’s mission, as both staff and members of the public are negatively impacted by the disorganization. Organization is needed for more efficient access and use.

NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation

In terms of the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation, the Society is at Level 1 for the five areas. Although the Society has many copies, these duplicates are unintentional and uncontrolled and many have different factors (like resolution and size). The Society uses a Synology NAS storage system. Each employee’s desktop is backed up daily using Syncback Free to a Synology NAS over P2P network. The Society currently rests at Level 1 for the Storage section. When it comes to file fixity, there does not seem to be a process in place for checking fixity for digital objects. For the Information Security section, employees do not know what files other staff members are using as they digitize items independently, use different software, and have their own filing systems. There is no inventory for the Society’s digital content, so the Metadata section is also at Level 1. The Society does seem to use a limited set of formats with jpg, tiff, and pdf, but without an inventory of the digital objects, a complete list of the formats in use is unknown.

Further Collecting and Resources

There are more digital objects that the Society would like to collect. There are 50,000 photographs and business and family records that still need to be digitized. The archivist would actually like to digitize the entire archive but does not have the resources. To improve the state of the digital content, staff members could devote extra hours to digital preservation and the Society could accept community volunteers. The Society has previously worked with a yearly budget of $2000 for office equipment, including computers and software licenses.


The Society needs to get the content management of their digital materials under control, especially since they intend to add thousands of more objects into their holdings. Uncoordinated filing systems and a lack of an inventory contribute to their mass duplication and current struggle with inefficiency. Fortunately, the Society’s resources and staff commitment make the prospect of an improved digital preservation process likely.

Survey of the Archeology Program Office for Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation


 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 part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. As part of its mission, the program curates millions of artifacts, and over the years, related documentation has been created in various formats and on disparate media. The office has been located in a house in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, since around 1999/2000 where all artifacts and documentation are kept. It is currently staffed by three archeologists who are the primary users of the documentation.

The goal is to have all digital content centralized on one shared network which is currently in development. Ideally physical copies would be digitized. This content would likely have variable levels of access; some files could be made available to the public through a research portal while some would remain for internal use only.

Scope of Holdings

Documentation is primarily in the form of digital and/or physical copies of reports, catalogs, slides, print photographs, negatives, drawings, maps, and videos. The following includes a description of digital content and some of the physical holdings since there is interest in digitizing them.

Digital storage media

Digital content currently resides on five desktop computers, two laptops, and a back-up drive of files from former staff. The three current staff people also keep back-up drives at their desks. Content is primarily kept and backed up locally, but the staff are just beginning to test a shared network.

Additionally, files are also stored on approximately 300 compact disks and 700 3.5”floppy disks. This may be an underestimate as some disks are kept with hard copy reports. The disks are labeled but not necessarily enough to discern the contents. Approximately 600 of the 3.5” floppy disks are kept in boxes with a consistent labeling format. Staff have an external floppy drive provided by an offsite IT department to read the 3.5” disks but the drivers have yet not been installed.

Reports and catalogs

While the exact contents of the storage media are not known, staff anticipate that many reports and catalogs were originally written with WordPerfect. More recent reports are written using Word. Versions will vary. Catalog data was originally kept using Paradox relational database software and staff currently have no means of reading these files. Current catalog information is kept on both Excel and Access. There are approximately ten shelves of archeological site reports (25 linear feet) and four filing cabinets of site-related files.

Photographs, contact sheets, negatives, and slides

Digital images are saved as jpegs.These are both born-digital and digitized from a portion of the photograph and slide collection. There are two shelves (approximately 5 linear feet) of binders containing photographs, contact sheets, negatives and slides. Descriptive information is written on the dividers and on the backs of some photographs. There is also a flat file drawer of matted photographs.

Maps and drawings

Mapping files have been created using CAD (computerized aided drafting), and more recently, GIS (geographic information systems) technologies. In addition, there are fourteen flat file drawers of maps and drawings.


There are approximately twenty VHS tapes the contents of which are unknown.

Current Management of Digital Holdings 

Digital content on floppy disks is inaccessible at the moment. Current staff are relying on institutional memory and lengthy searches to find files from former staff stored on a back-up drive. This is based on an understanding on what the person’s role might have been and when they worked there. At times, searching based on file extension can provide a hint at the content.

Most digital content is still stored and backed up locally, but staff are testing a new shared drive with directories allowing different levels of access for onsite staff and the rest of the department. Within the directory for onsite staff, subdirectories currently relate to specific archeological sites, but the exact organization has not yet been determined since content can be classified in more than one way. Implementing this shared network offers an opportunity to integrate disparate digital holdings and would facilitate creating a back-up copy in a different location.

Perception of the State of Digital Content

The perception from the archeology staff is that there is digital content that will add either known or potential value to their mission. This content is currently hard to find, on inaccessible media, or in unusable formats. Identifying and moving these files to one drive would: save staff time by making the files easier to find, save space currently taken up by heterogeneous storage media, eliminate duplicates, offer an opportunity to keep all information about specific sites or artifacts under one subdirectory, and prevent irreversible loss.


The Archeology Program Office will be able to benefit from the technical expertise of the Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation IT department, which provides and maintains the staff’s equipment. In addition to the equipment mentioned above and the shared network, the staff have two scanners that have been used to digitize slides, files and print photographs in the past.

The IT department also regulates information security, one of the key preservation activities that will be addressed in the coming preservation plan. This does, however,  limit the types of software staff can download themselves – the drivers for the external floppy drive mentioned above, for example. Additionally, they may serve as a resource in implementing another of the key activities – data integrity checks.

The program also benefits from a small but dedicated staff who are vested in maintaining the integrity of this digital content. The effort is being spearheaded by the Assistant Archaeology Program Manager. The level of effort will likely be limited to a couple of hours per week until a student intern or volunteer can be hired and trained to do the work.