Assessing and managing digital preservation risk for Accreditation & beyond – 30th October 2018

Jenny Bunn Sunday, 04 November 2018 10:16

The event started with short presentations from Melinda Haunton (The National Archives) and Catherine Taylor (Waddesdon Manor). Melinda set the scene for how the NDSA Levels are used as a part of Archive Service Accreditation, and Catherine reflected on the experience of undertaking a self-assessment using them.

Following these presentations, there followed small group discussion around a number of questions. Firstly we tried to gain a sense of where everyone felt they currently stood with regards to their current overall level of digital preservation procedures. The vast majority felt that they were just starting out, but a few were slightly more advanced along the road. Next, the common challenges faced when trying to move to higher levels were discussed, e.g.

  • Staffing and skills 
  • Change management 
  • Stakeholder buy-in 
  • Time and money 
  • Relationship with IT 

Obviously the next step was to discuss possible solutions and a number of ideas started to emerge. Firstly, it was stressed that doing nothing was not an option and that everyone could take steps to at least scope out the scale of the problem, e.g. by undertaking an audit of born-digital material already held. DROID was mentioned as a very useful tool in this regard, and also for surveying ‘the hellscape of shared drives’. Linking with records management and appealing to the ‘big stick’ of GDPR were suggested as possible strategies for achieving management buy-in and, in this regard, Archives Accreditation itself was also felt to be a useful tool in leveraging additional resources. The importance of documenting emerging procedures was also mentioned, particularly in the context of not allowing ‘digital’ to become the sole preserve of a single staff member, who might then leave.

Finally the group also reflected on the NDSA Levels themselves. The absence of an access component was highlighted and the placement of virus checking at level four was also questioned. It was suggested that some explanatory notes alongside the one page Levels document might be useful, but nevertheless, there was general agreement that the Levels were a very useful benchmarking tool.

Thanks are due to all those who attended and to Mary and all at GSK who hosted the event and made us so welcome. The main aim of the event was to provide a stimulus and some thinking time for those who wished to make a start on a self-assessment against the Levels and it did seem that this was recognised as a useful outcome by the attendees.