Digital Preservation Policy for the Surrey History Centre

1. Introduction and Background

Surrey History Centre cares for and makes publicly accessible the historic archive and local studies collections relating to the County of Surrey. The Centre was established in 1998 by Surrey County Council to hold and develop the collections formerly housed in Surrey Record Office, Kingston, Guildford Muniment Room and Surrey Local Studies Library. In 2006 it became part of Surrey Heritage.

The Centre is recognised as a place of deposit for public records relating to the County of Surrey and is appointed the diocesan record office for the diocese of Guildford and much of the diocese of Southwark.

Millions of documents dating from the 12th to the 21st centuries are stored in our strongrooms. They are appraised, sorted, catalogued and indexed to facilitate access, given conservation treatment where necessary and stored in the optimum environment for their long term preservation.

The archival holdings are unique and irreplaceable, generally being the original and only record in existence and their value lies in their being retained in their original form as far as possible. They are primary source material and maintaining their integrity is vital to their legal evidential and historical value.

2. Scope of this policy

An increasing quantity of records is now being received in digital format. This digital material is at risk of loss due to changes over time in hardware, software, storage media and file formats. This policy aims to provide a framework for managing digital records within the currently available technological infrastructure and resources of Surrey Heritage.

3. Pre-deposit

If circumstances permit, we aim to work with the creators and depositors of digital archives to ensure that best practice is followed to maximise the chances of long term preservation of digital material. Where possible potential depositors should be referred to the published guidelines

4. Appraisal, accessioning and cataloguing

Digital archives may be accepted on a variety of media, including CD or DVDs, memory sticks, hard drives or via email. The archive may just contain digital material or may be part of a larger archive containing other physical formats. Appraisal of digital records for permanent preservation will be carried out in accordance with appraisal guidelines.

Any issues relating to access, copyright or other intellectual property rights should be established at time of deposit, in accordance with general accessioning procedures.

Depositors should be encouraged to supply technical metadata and Surrey Heritage will aim to adhere to current international standards for metadata and cataloguing.

5. Digital preservation processes

Once accessioned and catalogued records will be processed by the Digital Archivist using procedures set out in the digital preservation process document, including the use of software to create checksums to allow the periodic monitoring of data integrity and DROID for file format analysis, especially for 'at risk' formats. Changes in digital preservation technology will be monitored on a continuous basis, and adjustments made to policy and practices as necessary.

Initially data will be kept in the file format in which it was originally created, but we reserve the right, with the permission of the depositor, to migrate the data to new file formats should the need arise.

6. Storage

Digital archives are stored on servers at the Surrey County Council data centre and as such are covered by corporate backup, data security and disaster recovery procedures.

7. Access

Public access to digital archives can be provided by making copies of material on demand onto archival quality CDs or DVDs that can be played back using public access computers in the searchroom. Access copies of a small amount of jpeg and tiff format images from the archive have been made available linked to individual records in our online catalogue.7.

8. Future developments

It seems likely in the future that collaboration with other services in the development or buy-in of digital preservation solutions will be the way forward. This option offers a number of potential benefits including skills sharing and economies of scale.

Collaboration with the project under the Archives First banner with a consortium of services in the south and south east of England continued until 2019, and the consortium produced papers on the 100 year use case and authentic preservation techniques.

Advocacy for the necessity of a corporate approach to digital preservation and digital records management has been facilitated by the appointment of a corporate records manager, with whom discussions have been initiated. It is hoped that this may be the means of securing corporate funding to join the Archives First consortium's contract with Preservica.

9. Date of Publication and Review

This policy was first published in March 2017. It was reviewed in September 2020. Next review: 2023

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