The Archives ensures that significant Commonwealth records – including digital records – are preserved and remain accessible in the future.
Read the Digital Preservation Policy.
Digital records present many preservation challenges. They are at risk of being lost due to the rapid pace of development in computer hardware, operating systems and application software, coupled with the short effective life of most physical storage media.
The Archives has developed a digital preservation methodology, supported by software, to ensure that important digital records are preserved as national archives.
To preserve digital records, the Archives uses its digital preservation software to convert proprietary file formats to openly specified preservation file formats.
There are four steps in this process:
The Archives' digital preservation software:
Dissecting the Digital Preservation Software Platform (pdf, 600kB or doc, 2.05MB) details the methods employed by the Archives to ensure the effective preservation of digital records. It covers our approach to preserving digital records, how we develop our software, what the software does to preserve digital records and how we maintain the integrity of the records in our digital archive.
The basis of the National Archives' digital preservation strategy is the conversion of non-open file formats to open file formats.
The Archives uses preservation file formats based on open standards, which:
Digital records based on open standards thus have a greater potential lifespan.
The digital preservation file formats the Archives has selected are listed in this table (PDF, 464kb).
Open source development allows the Archives to build on the efforts of other open source projects, so we can achieve our goals more quickly and with fewer resources. Australian Government agencies and other stakeholders benefit too as the software developed by the Archives is freely available to download and use.
Our suite of software is referred to as the Digital Preservation Software Platform. This is made up of the following applications:
Xena (Xml Electronic Normalising for Archives) converts proprietary file formats to preservation file formats. It can also be used to view and export digital records.
Xena preserves digital records in a three-step process:
Xena handles a range of formats, including office documents, email, images and audio files.
Manifest Maker supports the transfer of digital records from agencies to the Archives by producing a manifest file. The manifest lists all the digital records that are being sent to the Archives.
The manifest is used to verify the integrity of digital records and track them when they are being processed by Digital Preservation Recorder.
Digital Preservation Recorder manages the processing of records into the digital archive. Its main features are:
The Checksum Checker software monitors the contents of the Archives' digital archive for data loss or corruption. It continually calculates the checksums of records in the digital archive and compares them to values stored in the Digital Preservation Recorder database. If the checksums do not match, staff are alerted to fix the issue.
The Archives' development priorities are driven by changes in technology, standards and our own business processes. We are continually improving our software so it can handle the exponential growth in file sizes, and convert an increasing variety of file formats to preservation formats, and the volume of digital records.