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2022 DPCMM: Archival Repositories

By Michelle Gallinger posted 10-29-2021 11:16 AM

by Veronica Martzahl and Lori Ashley

Archival Repositories Come in Many Shapes and Sizes

 Archives manage different types of collections in a variety of repositories. The word “repository” is defined in the  SAA Dictionary of Archives Terminology, as “an institution focused on the care and storage of items of continuing value, particularly records.” Traditional archival repositories were physical places where the care and storage of items appraised to have long-term or permanent value were curated and protected. Sometimes the space is highly specialized, such as a book repository,  while in other instances a wide variety of physical objects from different eras and materials are housed together in environmentally access-controlled facilities. The curation, management, and storage of electronic objects of archival value occurs in a virtual place, in other words, in a digital repository.

Returning to the SAA Dictionary, a digital repository is “the technical infrastructure, services, and resources for the storage and management of information.” While the term “digital repository” is sometimes used to refer to a specific software application, it is important to note that digital preservation capability extends beyond technology to the organization and resources supporting the use of technology. This concept of repository leans into Anne R. Kenney and Nancy Y. McGovern’s foundational approach to digital preservation as a three-legged stool that places the technology-enabling digital repository within the broader context of an entire digital preservation program.

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The survey questions in the Digital Preservation Self-Assessment that CoSA will administer in January 2022 make frequent reference to an “ISO 14721 conforming archival repository.” ISO 14721:2012 is the reference model for Open Archival Information Systems (OAIS) that has been widely accepted by the global preservation community to describe technical capabilities needed to preserve information for future users. 

The reference model addresses a full range of archival information preservation functions including ingest, archival storage, data management, access, and dissemination. For a digital repository to conform to the concepts and framework found in ISO 14721, the organization accepting responsibility for preservation must address planning, administration, and management duties in addition to sustaining technological capabilities associated with mitigating media and format obsolescence. 

A future blog post will expand on these functions as well as the capabilities described in its companion standard, ISO 16363, audit and certification of trustworthy digital repositories.  This exploration is intended to help broaden and deepen understanding of how ‘digital’ fits within the range of archival repositories.