Saturday, January 23, 2010

New DPC Technology Watch Report: File Formats for Preservation

An announcement from December 2009 from DPC.

The DPC is pleased to announce the addition of a new report to the DPC Technology Watch Report Series: File Formats for Preservation, written by Malcolm Todd of The National Archives: [URL corrected, 1/24/2010]

The selection and manipulation of file formats has long been seen as an important element within digital preservation strategies, especially data migration. However there are different and to some extent competing grounds for selection of file formats. The proliferation of formats, the need to provide long term access to data embedded within files and the role of the file as a container for encoded information create subtle tensions for preservation managers.

This new report provides an extensive account of the challenges that format management creates for long term access and it provides concrete recommendations which can inform preservation strategies. Rather than making generalisations about the merits of common formats, it presents repository managers with the tools they will need to develop nuanced advice specific to their own requirements. It goes on to contribute the implications on file format selection of archival science viewpoint arising from recent research in the UK and North America into a wider digital preservation discourse.

Author, Malcolm Todd explained 'There have been many pronouncements on file formats either from research projects or preservation services. There is broad consensus on criteria such as the transparency of a format or extent of its use, but not on how such criteria can be compared. In my view, these criteria can only be assessed by considering the drivers for preservation. So, asking 'which format is most effective for preservation?' leads us back to asking 'what is it that we want to achieve through preservation?', in terms of informational characteristics, user needs and expected useful life'

'The question of file formats is central to preservation planning and relevant to everyone who is interested in the long term management of data.' Commented William Kilbride, Executive Director of the DPC. 'Experience shows that poor choices can lead to expensive complications for access and effective or actual data loss'.

'Malcolm has presented us with a thoughtful analysis of the field, leading to concise and practical conclusions. I'm grateful to him for producing this report and I expect that it will be influential.'

Technorati tag:


Varese2002 said...

The link for the document gives an error - not found

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

Thanks. Looks like the URL has changed since the original announcement. I've corrected it.