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2022 DPCMM: International Standards

By Michelle Gallinger posted 11-05-2021 12:38 PM


by Veronica Martzahl and Lori Ashley

BACKER Blog: International Digital Preservation Standards

ISO 14721:2012 

The Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS) was originally developed by the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS) to formalize standards for the long-term storage of digital data generated from space missions. From this lofty start, OAIS has reached even greater heights, becoming the underlying foundation of digital preservation practice across the global community. 

The OAIS reference model has influenced the development of system designs and metadata requirements while providing a framework for conceptualizing digital objects in a preservation repository. First codified as ISO 14721 in 2003, and re-issued in 2021, this diagram of the OAIS functional entities has become a nearly ubiquitous visualization of the reference model.


Image credit: 


Working from left to right, the major OAIS functions are:

  • The content producer submits digital objects to the designated OAIS organization or unit. 
  • Digital objects and their associated structural, technical, administrative, and descriptive metadata form a Submission Information Package (SIP) which is ingested into the digital preservation repository environment. 
  • The OAIS system consists of archival storage, data management, and administration functions which keep the system secure and mitigate impacts of technology obsolescence and changing producer and consumer requirements.  Identification, characterization, and monitoring of the assets is continuous with periodic migration of file formats.
  • In the repository, the digital objects and their associated metadata constitute Archival Information Packages (AIPs).  Preservation metadata is added to the AIPs over time as actions are taken to ensure the integrity and readability of the objects.
  • Access to digital objects is provided to consumers in the form of a Dissemination Information Package (DIP). 

The OAIS reference model provides a useful framework for the technical functions and capabilities of a trustworthy preservation environment. It undergoes periodic review and refresh to keep pace with evolving practices and requirements. The standard is under current review and can be viewed at: 


A draft 3rd version can be viewed on the CCSDS website  (attach link to{61C755A7-2C54-4D0D-A8F0-7B6A4228D74C}&file=OAIS%20final%20v3%20draft%20with%20changes%20wrt%20OAISv2%2020190924-rl.docx&action=default))

In addition to technologies that support the functions of a trustworthy digital repository, an institution or unit that has responsibility for long-term and permanent digital assets must dedicate human resources and efficient, systematic workflows and processes. A companion standard to OAIS, ISO 16363, was developed to provide a full range of organizational, data management and security criteria to help ensure sustainability over time.

ISO 16363:2015

Armed with an international standard for establishing and maintaining digital repository infrastructure, archives needed a way to gauge organizational readiness and capabilities.  A useful resource, the Trustworthy Repositories Audit and Certification: Criteria and Checklist (TRAC), grew out of a task force and established metrics for rating capabilities to systematically and sustainably ingest, store, preserve, and make digital collections accessible. 

The International Standard ISO 16363:2015, Audit and certification of trustworthy digital repositories, was a direct outgrowth of TRAC. A group of international subject matter experts who authored ISO 14721 and ISO 1636 formed PTAB, the Primary Trustworthy Digital Repository Authorisation Body Ltd, which is the only organization currently accredited to audit repositories against the criteria and to award certifications.  A self-assessment spreadsheet is available on the PTAB site to help practitioners learn about the criteria.  In an upcoming blog the first and only U.S. repository certified to ISO 16363 will provide perspectives on the benefits and process.

CoSA’s Digital Preservation Self-Assessment survey is based on the requirements in ISO 14721 and ISO 16363.  The January 2022 survey is intended to help state and territorial archives assess their current capabilities to preserve and provide access to permanent electronic government records.  Using the archive’s capability score in combination with its mission and mandate, plans and strategies can then be developed to make improvements in the people, processes and technologies needed to sustain digital collections.