Approaching Appraisal: Guidelines and Criteria to Select for Digital Preservation

Digital preservation practitioners are often asked to make collection and preservation decisions about content they steward; more often than not this is simply because a collection contains or is solely composed of digital content. However, traditional preservation practitioners typically do not make these same decisions in a vacuum for analog collections; they are informed and prioritized by selectors, liaisons, or curators who make decisions based on con- tent and collection priorities in concert with information provided by the preservation practitioners.

In this paper, we argue that this model should not change sim- ply because the nature of the materials has changed. While digital preservation may be new to an institution, basic preservation decisions are best prioritized by the people building collections and selecting content, which is complemented by the knowledge and expertise from digital preservation practitioners.

Selectors and curators are collaborative preservation partners whose roles and expertise render them best able to judge the value of the content they collect. Digital preservation practitioners have an obligation to work with selectors and curators to help them understand the ways in which technical characteristics, descriptive records, and financial impact, along with value, affect selection choices for digital content and how these choices affect a digital preservation program. Digital preservation practitioners need to provide selectors and curators with guidelines and criteria to help them make informed selection decisions for digital content.

In this paper, we will address this issue in five parts. First, we review existing literature and workflows on the issue of selection for general collections. Second, we review existing literature on the topic of appraisal in special collections. Third, we provide an analysis of how these practices compare and contrast. Fourth, we discuss differences between preserving analog and digital content. Finally, we recommend specific guidelines and criteria geared to- ward selectors and curators to aid with content selection for digital preservation in both general and special collections.

Tallman, N.& Work, L. (September 26, 2018). “Approaching Appraisal: Guidelines and Criteria to Select for Digital Preservation,” iPRES 2018, International Conference on Digital Preservation, Boston, Massachusetts. DOI: 10.17605/OSF.IO/8Y6DC

Nathan Tallman
Nathan Tallman
Executive Director

Executive Director, Academic Preservation Trust