From Theory to Action: “Good Enough” Digital Preservation Solutions for Under-Resourced Cultural Heritage Institutions

Jaime Schumacher, Northern Illinois University
Lynne Thomas, Northern Illinois University
Drew VandeCreek, Northern Illinois University
Stacey Erdman, Northern Illinois University
Jeff Hancks, Western Illinois University
Aaisha Haykal, Chicago State University
Meg Miner, Illinois Wesleyan University
Patrice-Andre Prud’homme, Illinois State University
Danielle Spalenka, Northern Illinois University


**Winner of the 2015 SAA Preservation Publication Award and the 2015 NDSA Innovation Award, Organization category***; see and Libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage organizations collect, create, and steward a rapidly increasing volume of digital content. Both research conclusions and professionals’ real-life experiences expose the inherent fragility of this content. The cultural heritage and information science communities have developed guidelines, best practices, policies, procedures, and processes that can enable an organization to achieve high levels of digital preservation. However, these protocols are often complex, leaving many practitioners attempting to address the challenge of preserving digital materials feeling overwhelmed. This is particularly true for professionals serving smaller institutions that are often operating with restricted resources like small staff sizes, a lack of specialized expertise, dated technical infrastructures, and/or limited budgets. This white paper is the result of a three year investigation, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, of affordable, scalable digital preservation solutions that can be successfully implemented at under-resourced organizations. It reports the results of large-scale testing of several digital preservation tools and services, suggests pragmatic digital preservation options, including an incremental approach to digital preservation practices, and asserts that communities of practice are key to success.