Skip to Main Content

Digital Preservation: DP Overview

Saving vs Preserving

"Saving" a file is keeping it locally for an undetermined time as it was last saved.

"Preserving" a file is converting a file into an ideal preservation format, verifying its integrity, and storing it in multiple locations with low-access and high-security measures in place to ensure continued access.

Advantages of Digital Preservation

  • Access to digitized and born-digital objects is technology-dependent
  • Technologies can fail or become obsolete
  • Less accessibility helps increase the odds of maintaining integrity
  • Preservation is the solution to increasing the ability to access material in the future

OAIS Reference Model

See Brian Lavoie's DPC Technology Watch Report on the OAIS reference model for detailed information.

What is Digital Preservation?

"Digital preservation is the series of managed activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital materials for as long as necessary. Digital preservation is defined very broadly [...] and refers to all of the actions required to maintain access to digital materials beyond the limits of media failure or technological and organizational change."

--Digital Preservation Handbook, 2nd Edition,, Digital Preservation Coalition © 2015.

Digital Preservation Basics

Over time, preservation maintains:

  • Authenticity: establishing a record's identity and integrity to ensure that it's "free from tampering or corruption."¹
  • Identity: "the distinguishing character of the record"¹
  • Integrity: a record's "wholeness and soundness" that maintains that the record is "complete and uncorrupted in all its essential respects"¹

Maintenance occurs through preventative measures, including:

  • Assigning unique identifiers
  • Normalizing content
  • Regular fixity checks and virus checks
  • Regular hardware inspections, fixes, and migrations

Ideal format properties:

  • Non-proprietary file formats: formats that are free and open-source
  • Large/stable user community: provides documentation and support
  • Lossless compression: "A mechanism for reducing file sizes that retains all original data"²

¹InterPARES Authenticity Task Force Report. (2001).

²Digital Preservation Handbook, 2nd Edition, Digital Preservation Coalition © 2015.

Digital Preservation Coordinator

Profile Photo
Alex Kinnaman
Newman Library, Room 4062

Director of Digital Libraries & Preservation

Profile Photo
Bill Ingram
2320A Torgersen Hall
560 Drillfield Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Example Preservation Policies