(Landesamt für Archäologie, Dresden, Germany)

Outline: The lecture shall give a brief overview of digital preservation methods and suggest first practical steps, especially considering the situation of small institutions with rather low budget.

The aim of digital archiving is to preserve digital content or digital functionality permanently and to keep it usable.
However, there are some problems. While we can read most analog documents directly, we need a complex system of hardware, software, storage medium and file format to extract information from digital data. Furthermore we have the phenomena of aging. While aging processes affect analog documents in a slow and continuous way that may be foreseen, they act spontaneously and very fast in the digital world.
Because these problems are not really new, we find quite a lot of materials and discussions. Many of them are, however, not very helpful in practice. Either they offer details without regarding the context, as many of the format discussions do, or they describe million dollar projects, that require much staff. But what to do, if you are a small institution with rather low budget? How to begin, which steps to take first?
This paper tries to give a brief theoretical overview of preservation methods, as short as it is necessary to get the direction of first practical steps. Important preservation methods are for instance conservation, emulation and migration.
Based on this, the paper describes some stepping stones, that may be helpful preserving digital data in practice. Important topics for these stepping stones are

  • organization (resources and responsibility),
  • concept (including preservation method and format restrictions),
  • technology (archival storage and security),
  • data transfer (verification, access, integrity) and
  • content management.

Doing it step by step is a reasonable way to preserve digital data for long terms.

Keywords: digital preservation, digital archiv, stepping stones