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Digital Preservation Policy


The Library aims to ensure secure long-term preservation and access to digital content, including digitised and born-digital content, to support the research, learning and teaching needs of the University and preserve information for future generations. Digital preservation is fundamental to the Library’s stewardship of digital content. It is the means of ensuring that digital content of continuing value remains accessible, searchable, and usable. It is more than taking a backup of data; digital preservation is about protecting data in a secure environment so that it can be accessed and reused in the long-term.

The Policy is set within the context of the University’s Strategy 2030 with its aim to maximise the organisational benefits of embracing leading-edge technology and enhance our digital infrastructure to ensure an outstanding student and staff experience and international connectivity.

1. Purpose

This policy outlines the activities and processes needed to achieve long term preservation, and accessibility of digital content. There is a significant risk attached to losing access to collections which have been digitised or created in digital form if they become obsolete, lost, corrupt or unreadable. The risk is countered by implementing an effective digital preservation policy documenting the processes aimed at ensuring the continued accessibility of digital materials in the future.

Given the ease with which digital files can be modified and spread online, the policy provides a framework for safeguarding the authenticity, integrity, and security of our collections in a preservation system, ensuring a central source of truth for the high-quality digital collections underpinning education and research activities at Queen's University Belfast.

2. Scope

The scope of the Library Services Digital Preservation Policy covers digital records which are typically either those which were “Born Digital” or “Digital Surrogates”. Born digital is where the record was created using software and hardware and saved in digital format; digital surrogates refers to records which were created in a physical, tangible format and subsequently transformed, using scanning or photographic techniques, into a digital object.

2.1 In scope:

  • Digitised collections, such as digitised special collections and archives
  • Born digital material held in Special Collections and Archives in a range of formats
  • Electronic theses
  • All associated record metadata

2.2 Out of scope:

  • Research data and related research data management records
  • Research outputs (excluding e-theses) stored in the research portal, e.g., journal articles and book chapters
  • University records, e.g., records produced as part of the University's core business

3. Policy Principles

The Library will: 

  • Prioritise preservation activity on those digital records and collections which meet the research, teaching and learning needs of the University
  • Ensure digital content of continuing value remains accessible, searchable, and usable
  • Comply with relevant legal and regulatory requirements in relation to digital preservation
  • Use relevant recognised standards in digital preservation to ensure that digital content is accessible, searchable and usable
  • Capture and maintain detailed metadata to ensure digital records are discoverable
  • Collaborate and engage with the digital preservation community to support a culture of openness and the sharing of knowledge, challenges and successes
  • Act as digital preservation champions for the University and will integrate joined up digital preservation and curation activities when possible
  • Ensure Library staff will receive ongoing training in the digital preservation workflow, where relevant
  • Document procedures to ensure digital preservation is transparent and auditable

4. Governance, Roles and Responsilities

4.1 Implementation of this policy

This policy will be implemented by a Digital Preservation Team, consisting of staff within Special Collections and Archives, including the Digital Preservation Officer; Open Research team; University Archivist; and Computing Services.

4.2 Oversight of the policy

The Digital Preservation Team is responsible for: 

  • Governance of this policy
  • Communicating progress relating to implementation of this policy
  • Ensuring appropriate infrastructure and technical support
  • Overseeing the policy implementation 
  • Embedding digital preservation in the culture of Library Services, supporting relevant Library staff with digital preservation needs, and overseeing ingest and care of digital files and metadata

Library Systems and the Digital Transformation team provide technical support and expertise for procuring, configuring, and maintaining tools and systems to support preservation activities for digital collections. 

Special Collections and Archives and the Open Research team oversee development, storage and right management of digital collections.

4.3 Review of the policy

The policy will be reviewed annually by the Digital Preservation Subgroup of the Open Research Group  and will be modified to reflect changing priorities, research or investment as required 

5. Standards and Models

The Library recognises that digital preservation is an active and continuous process. So that we can continue to improve, we will regularly review our progress using industry recommended assessment models and follow a lifecycle management approach to digital preservation, intended to cater for our collections across multiple stages. Informed by the DCC Curation Lifecycle Model, our digital preservation activities will involve the following key activities:  

  • Create / receive - accession digital content (including metadata) in line with existing collections development and digitisation policies (see related documents).  
  • Appraise & select – decide upon digital content for preservation according to relevance, viability, and risk assessment.  
  • Validation and ingest – confirm integrity of data and metadata and transfer to digital repository. 
  • Preservation – actively monitor digital content and undertake preservation activities to ensure long-term authenticity, reliability, useability and integrity.  
  • Store our digital content in line with relevant standards.  
  • Access, use and reuse - ensure that digital content is accessible to staff, students and researchers, as appropriate and in line with rights documentation and GDPR guidelines.  
  • Transform – promote the viability of digital preservation and facilitate access and reuse, for example, by converting digital content into more sustainable file formats or creating new access representations from digital-archival originals.  

6. Sustainability

  • Digital preservation ensures the sustainability and accessibility of our collections and records for the long term, supporting Queen’s University’s Sustainable Development Goals to support quality education and reduce inequalities.   
  • To ensure the costs and storage requirements for Digital Preservation can continue to be met, the Library will adopt a reasonable scope for digital preservation and assist preservation activities via subscription to a preservation system.  
  • Where possible, the Library will prioritise data sustainability, operational sustainability, knowledge sustainability, financial sustainability and environmental sustainability in decision-making around digital preservation activities and systems. 

7. Risk management

The Library holds digital materials with a large variety of formats, cataloguing systems and legal / copyright requirements. We have created a Digital Asset Register to help record and manage risks around rights management, file degradation, or file format obsolescence by identifying priority collections and directing preservation activities and resource / cost management. 

File normalisation and migration will ensure files remain readable with current software, and regular technology watch and engagement with the digital preservation community will enable us to stay abreast of emerging risks.  

Our digital preservation workflows include practices to enable transfer of records to a new preservation system, if necessary.  

8. Related Documents


Access ~ ongoing readability, usability, or retrievability of a digital resource, in a form that retains its authenticity and functionality. 

Accession ~ the formal acceptance of digital objects into the care and control of Queen’s University Belfast. This is recorded in a Digital Asset Register.  

Appraisal ~ the process of determining whether digital records and other materials have long term value to the education and research activities at Queen’s University Belfast, balanced with the risk and viability of preserving this content. 

Authenticity ~ establishing the trustworthiness of digital materials to ensure they are free from alteration or corruption.  

Born Digital ~ materials that were digitally created and stored.  

Digital surrogacy ~ reformatting physical records as digital copies through the process of Digitisation, to facilitate preservation and/or access. 

Digital preservation ~ the continually improving process of curating, maintaining, and ensuring access to digital materials for the long term. 

Checksum ~ a sequence of numbers and letters acting as a ‘digital fingerprint’, which can be run through an algorithm to confirm the integrity of a digital file.  

File format ~ the structure of a file that determines how the computer displays, processes and saves the information. For earlier or endangered file formats, it may be necessary to migrate a file into a more widely used format or preserve read software to ensure the content can be accessed.   

Ingest ~ defined in the OAIS model as: the process of receiving, checking, extracting, and transferring data into a digital archive.  

Integrity checking ~ reviewing the internal bit structure of a digital file, usually by generating a checksum, to ensure the content will display and behave as expected. 

Lifecycle management ~ pro-active preservation and maintenance of digital records throughout the various stages of their lifecycle.  

Metadata ~ data providing context, provenance, and technical information that aids in the preservation, discovery, and use of electronic resources.  

Migration ~ transferring at-risk file formats into updated versions or generating new representations to enable easier collections management and access for designated communities.       

Validation ~ checking digital records to establish whether they are correctly formed according to the standards for their type of file format.  


OAISOpen Archival Information System  

DCCDigital Curation Centre  



General enquiries or feedback about this policy can be directed to: