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Fundamentals of AV Preservation

Chapter 4: Managing Digital Audiovisual Collections

Amy Rudersdorf, Senior Consultant, AVPreserve


The fundamental requirements of digital preservation are threefold: (1) maintain the bits, or building blocks, of the digital files; (2) maintain the content of the file (the movie in the video file, the song in the audio file) so that it is accessible and understandable; and (3) preserve both the bits and content for as long as necessary. This last requirement demands more than a technological solution. Even more than physical audiovisual collections, digital collections require holistic management to ensure their long-term preservation and access—and organizational factors are critical. Incorporating the organization’s goals and objectives is essential to ensuring support for a sustainable digital preservation program. Without high-level organizational buy-in, ongoing resources (staffing, funding) together with technology (hardware, software, storage) — essential aspects of a sustainable digital preservation program — are not guaranteed. Digital audiovisual collections management involves planning in order to establish policies and standards-based practice, so that staff understand their roles and so that technology can be best utilized for an institution’s digital collections.

The world in which digital collections live is one of constant change. For audiovisual files, carriers(storage media) and wrappers and codecs (together, the file format) must each be addressed separately when thinking about best practices for long-term management. Change can occur at any level. For example, a digital storage system may need to be replaced even if the file format within it is stable. Likewise, a file format may need to be migrated to a newer version, while storage remains unchanged. In the digital world, where every bit and byte matters, keeping in mind the relationships between file, carrier, and storage will help you best manage your collections. 

This chapter will include an overview of the approaches, standards, and considerations for an institution beginning to manage their digital collections. The beginning of the chapter focuses on the organizational infrastructure that supports sustainability of digital collections. Organizations must consider factors that make long-term preservation possible, such as risk management, preservation management, standards and guidelines, policies and planning, organizational infrastructure, and planning and phasing. The second half of the chapter describes the activities and technology required for digital preservation. These include storage (redundancy, media, and geographic diversity), monitoring (fixity), information security, metadata, refreshing and migration.

When establishing a digital preservation program, keep in mind that not all of the activities in this chapter need to be put in place at once. For some institutions, implementation of a complete set of digital preservation policies, for example, may not occur right away. Building momentum within the institution might be the first step, which will ultimately lead to the adoption of policies, committed financial support, and deployment of technologies. The recommendations herein should be considered the fundamental components of a sustainable preservation program. With continued evolution and improvement, the adoption of these plans, policies, and services will support the goal of long-term preservation and access to your digital audiovisual collections.


Section 1: Digital Preservation Concepts ›