Modern Information Carriers and Digital Preservation

This workshop discusses the preservation of physical carriers and best practices for preserving digital information. Topics covered include the structure, composition and format of various types of modern information recording media. Deterioration, longevity and appropriate storage and handling recommendations are discussed. Also covered are tools for taking stock of existing digital assets and for developing digital preservation policies, plans and procedures. Software and hardware solutions for digital preservation in small to medium-sized heritage institutions are also recommended.

Learning objectives

Upon completion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • identify and explain the differences in structure, composition and format of various types of recording media;
  • identify the main deterioration problems and understand their effects on media;
  • understand factors affecting longevity and choose media for maximum lifespan;
  • implement proper handling and storage procedures for various media;
  • systematically approach the task of preserving modern information carriers;
  • identify digital assets in their institution and assess risk and impacts of losing access to these;
  • develop a digital preservation policy, plan and procedures; and
  • install and use hardware and software for the purpose of preserving digital assets in smaller heritage institutions.


Structure, composition and formats

Structure and composition of modern information carriers including optical discs (CD, DVD and Blu-ray), magnetic disks (hard and floppy) and magnetic tapes (computer or data, analog and video).


Why and how modern information carriers deteriorate. The most common chemical and physical deterioration problems and examples to help recognize them. Where possible, remedial actions will be presented on how to recover damaged or deteriorated media so that the stored information can be retrieved.


Predicted lifespan of optical discs, magnetic tapes and magnetic disks. Steps to maximize media longevity by focusing on the quality and stability of the media itself, technology obsolescence and error rates in digital media.

Storage and handling

A look at existing technical standards and recommendations by experts in the field. Proper storage conditions including temperature, relative humidity and type of storage container. Handling procedures to minimize physical abuse and damage including labelling of materials and physical handling of items.

Decision tree for preservation of media

A systematic look at the key decisions that need to be made and key procedures to follow in order to properly preserve modern information carriers. Several information resources are provided to assist in the decision-making process.

Taking stock of existing digital resources

The use of an inventory template to identify digital assets in an institution and to assess risk and potential impacts of losing access to these assets.

Digital preservation policy development

Discussion of how to use a template to produce a concise and meaningful digital preservation policy. The importance of policy will also be discussed, including using its development as a means of obtaining buy-in from institution management and using the resulting document as a guide to produce a digital preservation plan.

Digital preservation plan development

Using a template to ensure all facets of plan development are taken into account. Learning how to identify constraints, and using these constraints to produce and compare various digital preservation solutions. Selecting and justifying the selection of a digital preservation action plan.

Examples of digital preservation hardware and software for small heritage institutions

Hands-on testing of back-up and checksum software using external hard drives. Example procedures will be covered to produce weekly and monthly back-ups, as well as long-term preservation copies of digital assets. Recovery procedures will also be discussed to address the possible loss of access to working copies.

Target audience

Curators, collections managers, conservators, archivists and other personnel responsible for the preservation of modern information carriers and digital assets.


English (written materials available in both official languages)

Enrollment limits

Minimum 10, maximum 20


Two days

Special requirements

  • Meeting room
  • Internet access
  • Projector
  • Screen
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