Dorset History Centre is committed to preserving and providing access to records which reflect the history of the people and places of Dorset. In the digital age this requires an approach rather different from traditional archiving.
This is because digital records are complex and more vulnerable to loss, corruption or obsolescence than paper. Digital archiving is about preserving information regardless of the object (floppy disk/CD etc) on which that information is stored.
Dorset History Centre is currently undertaking a project using a digital repository system, Preservica, to store digital archives with the same security and preservation assurances as we provide for our paper and parchment archives. The system actively manages the digital archives - making copies, monitoring for corruption, migrating old formats to new, and repairing damaged files. This is part of a long term aim to develop a robust, sustainable way of collecting, preserving and accessing important legal and cultural information into the future - in a digital environment.
Access to digital records
Digital records are listed in our online catalogue along with records in other formats. Access may be provided either on-site at Dorset History Centre or online. Access to some collections may be restricted due to Data Protection legislation or by agreement with the depositor.
Many types of records that make up our collections are likely now to be 'born digital', i.e. they only exist electronically, on a hard-drive or CD. For example, where we previously collected account ledgers and letters we may now be acquiring spreadsheets and emails. It is important that all digital files are well organised and given meaningful titles to help identify them:
- locate your information: is it all in one place or spread across multiple computers, CDs, email software etc?
- organise your files: use folders and make sure all files have descriptive titles; information such as the date and author may be recorded automatically by the computer, or you may need to add it yourself
- make copies: at least two copies of all files you feel have long-term value is ideal; store the copies in different physical locations if possible
- manage your copies: check your files at least once a year to make sure you can read them; create new media copies every five years or when necessary to avoid data loss
Get in touch
Talk to us! If you think that you have any digital records that would be of interest to us, or would like further advice, please contact our Digital Archivist and see our guidance on depositing archives at Dorset History Centre.
Please contact us before sending digital archives by post or e-mail to ensure we are able to process them:
Archives First: Digital Preservation Project
Archives First is a group of 11 local authority archive services in the South of England. The group works together to share best practice and seek collaborative solutions to shared challenges.
In 2016 Archives First received funding from The National Archives to explore the life-cycle of digital records in the local government context.
The project sought to identify issues around the creation, management and transfer of digital records from local government organisations to archive services for preservation. The group was interested in how records traditionally collected in paper were now being managed, and whether they were reaching archive services to be preserved and made available to the public.
The project, led by personnel from Dorset History Centre and Gloucestershire Archives, discovered that the archival dimension was missing from the lifecycle of digital records in every case. Reasons included organisational cultures in which long-term preservation was not understood or valued; and the prevalence of third party software designed without preservation in mind. The project report explores these issues and what archive services can do to ensure important records are preserved for future generations.
Archives First will seek to take forward this work, building upon its findings with the aspiration to deliver digital preservation for each of the collaborating authorities.