"I simply cannot imagine what you do in there all day!", was the response of an acquaintance when I told her that I worked with digital preservation at the National Archives.
I think many others in our profession have similar experiences, so the Day of Digital Archives is really a good opportunity for us to share some of the many things we do all day to preserve digital information for posterity.
For me, the Day of Digital Archives has mostly been a day filled with managerial tasks since it is time to draft the work plan for 2013. As challenging as it is to make ends meet, it is nevertheless a chance to reflect on all the different tasks that must be taken care of in order to maintain a digital archive that can cope with the increasing amounts of digital records that government agencies produce and transfer to us.
What has the rest of our section for Digital Archiving been up to? Well, our test staff has been busy making QA on the Submission Information Packages that we receive. All agencies must generate a SIP according to our regulations before transfer, and we test every SIP thoroughly to make sure that all requirements in terms of formats, structure and documentation are met. Our regulations for transfer can be found in an English translation here:
Our systems developers are mainly working on two projects at the moment. One team is working on improvements and further development of our test tool called ADA. It it the tool that members of our test staff use to determine whether a SIP is technically correct or not. The tool is also available for download on our webpages in a public Beta-version, so agencies and their software vendors can make an initial check of their submissions before the transfer.
Another team is working on the National Archives’ part of the National Bit Repository – a repository for distributed digital preservation to be shared between the Royal Library, the State and University Library and the National Archives. The software will be open source, and parts of it as well as documentation about the project can be found here:
Two members of staff have begun the annual check of our optical media. We use both magnetic and optical media, and both online and offline storage. The integrity of data is ensured using checksums and random checks of the physical quality of the media. This year, the test is supported by a newly developed piece of software that automates much of the process.
Our preservation specialists are working hard to finish a Preservation Planning project. The project has evaluated the large Format- and Structure Conversion project in which we migrated all older digital records received before 2000 to current standards. Based on that evaluation the project team is now developing a strategy for future migrations and other useful policies for the ongoing preservation planning. You can find the evaluation report as well as other reports here:
So – even if it can be hard for people to imagine what we do all day, there are always lots of things to attend to as we strive to "give the future a past". Happy Day of Digital Archives!