Digital Preservation has long been a priority for both Somerset and Devon Archives & Local Studies Services.  To make sure we look after our digital collections as carefully as our paper collections, we have invested significantly in establishing and running a digital preservation solution.

Using our new cataloguing system, a specially-designed digital preservation solution and our online catalogue, we are now able to list, preserve and provide access to our vast and important digital collections.

Digital preservation system

Work in Somerset has focused on the backlog of digital material currently stored on our servers.  We have undertaken a survey of most of our digital holdings so that we know what we have, where it is and what it consists of.  We now also have a good idea of the scale of the task to come!

Through a traineeship run with the British Museum it was possible to do a great deal of work towards getting Somerset’s backlog of digital records added to the preservation system – a process called ‘ingesting’.  During the 12-month traineeship over 900 ingests were completed, and 936 GB of data were preserved for the long term.  We have also been working hard to preserve some of our image collections, including the Stanley Kenyon collection and images collected by Somerset Rural Life Museum.

Long-term digital storage

In Devon, the challenge has been slightly different.  Unlike in Somerset, most of Devon’s digital records are still on their original media – CDs, floppy disks, hard drives and so on.  It has taken a long time to identify everything that needs to be added to the system and to work out the best order for tackling it.  We’ve considered things like the content of the material, the format of its storage material, and the amount of information (or metadata) we have about it.  Over recent months, knowledge of digital holdings in Devon has grown greatly, and increasing amounts of material have been moved into long-term digital storage.

In both counties, material which has been ingested can now be accessed by members of the public in the searchrooms at the Somerset Heritage Centre and the Devon Heritage Centre.

Sharing knowledge

Our team have also been taking part in networking and knowledge-sharing opportunities. Archivists have been involved in a day course looking at transforming archive systems, and have spoken at events for other archivists and local history groups.  We also respond to frequent enquiries from professional and amateur bodies seeking guidance and advice.

Digital preservation will continue to be a priority in both counties, forming part of our constantly-evolving programme of work.  It’s a very fast-moving field within archives. We want to be at the forefront of developments and to ensure that our digital collections are preserved and accessible for generations to come.