Medalta Museum Digital Preservation Policy

The following document is a copy of Medalta Museum’s Digital Preservation Policy, a working document which was current at the time of publication, February 2016. This policy was produced adapting Anne Kenney and Nancy McGovern’s Digital Preservation Policy Framework and has been modified for web accessibility. It is published as part of CHIN’s case study of digital preservation work at Medalta Museum and is one of many digital preservation resources available in CHIN’s Digital Preservation Toolkit.

Introduction

Medalta Museum is located on 150 acres in the Medicine Hat Historic Clay District. The museum and the assets it has acquired that comprise the district are housed in seven acres of buildings, including the tangible remnants of the Medicine Hat Brick & Tile Company, Hycroft China and Medalta Potteries.

In addition to the Medalta Museum, which is located on the original site of the Medalta Potteries Company, the organization hosts an artists-in-residence program out of the adjacent Shaw International Centre for Contemporary Ceramics. Residents in this program work with a variety of techniques, including 3D ceramics printing, to produce unique and innovative works of art.

The museum has over 30,000 accessioned artefacts, but there is significantly more that remains. There are an estimated 75,000 un-accessioned items in the Hycroft building alone.

In addition to prioritizing and accessioning remaining artefacts, many objects are to be digitized in the immediate future, primarily through photography but also by 3D scanning. Further to this, the museum also holds hard and soft copies of corporate documents (including 100 boxes of historical documents), as well as other digital assets such as newsletters, publications, the museums own working documents and the like.

In addition to a digitization plan (which is out of scope of this document), the Medalta Museum requires a digital preservation policy, plan and procedures which will reflect its current goals and resources. The following digital preservation policy has been developed with this in mind.

Acknowledgement of Existing Archival Standards

The preservation policy for this museum recognizes existing digital preservation standards in the archival community. Medalta Museum has worked with the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) and the Alberta Museums Association to give consideration to these standards, where possible, recognizing the museum’s resources.

Administrative Responsibility

Given the mandate stated below, members of the Medalta Museum staff are committed to a digital preservation policy having the following purpose and objectives:

Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to support Medalta Museum’s operations by preserving and ensuring long-term access to digital artefacts and digital representations of the museum holdings and the holdings of the Medicine Hat Clay Industries National Historic District, and by preserving and ensuring access to any digital asset necessary for these operations.

Mandate

All decisions regarding regular museum operations, including the development and implementation of this digital preservation policy and its associated plan are arrived at through the approval of Medalta Museum’s executive staff.

Objectives

Medalta Museum intends, by virtue of this policy, to preserve and provide long-term access to its digital holdings; specifically digital copies of the museum’s images, digitized audio and video, born-digital recordings of interviews and similar digital artefacts.

A further objective is to provide access, for as long as required, to any digital asset necessary for the regular operation of the museum. Access to all of these digital assets should be available, on demand, to a limited number of museum staff, who may in turn decide to whom copies of the asset should be distributed.

Organizational Viability

The following section summarizes what will and will not be preserved and for how long (based on the museum’s Digital Asset Retention and Disposition Schedule), operating principles for preservation activity, intended access and use of the preserved content and any known challenges or risks.

Scope

All digital assets held by Medalta Museum have been identified in the museum’s Digital Inventory TemplateFootnote 1 and have been categorized into 10 groups. As per the museum’s Digital Asset Retention and Disposition ScheduleFootnote 2, all these groups (with the exception of administrative documents) are to be preserved indefinitely.

Administrative documents are (in general) to be kept for seven years. While these are normally not addressed as part of a museum’s digital preservation policy or plan for the preservation of its digital assets, they are mentioned here, as it is sufficiently simple to include them given the Medalta Museum Digital Preservation plan.

Operating Principles

The scale of digital preservation to be carried out renders a full OAIS solution untenable. However, the following generally accepted digital archiving practices will be observed:

  1. Digital content will be created with preservation in mind (populating metadata for the content, where possible).
  2. Preservation copies of material will be made on a regular basis.
  3. An automated process will be used to create basic preservation metadata as preservation copies are made.
  4. Preservation copies will be kept on multiple forms of physical media, in multiple locations.
  5. Preservation copies will be periodically verified for data integrity.
  6. Preservation copies will be refreshed to new media on a regular basis.
  7. Preservation copies will be migrated to new formats as required.
  8. Access to preservation copies will be limited to specific museum staff.

Selection and Acquisition

Note that this section addresses selection and acquisition of the museum’s digital assets into its archived digital content, and it is not to be confused with the selection and acquisition of the museum’s physical holdings.

If a digital asset falls into groups 1 through 10 (as per the museum’s Digital Inventory Template), then it is to be preserved as per the museums Digital Asset Retention and Disposition Schedule. If a digital asset is not identified on the Digital Inventory Template, the decision trees found in CHIN’s Digital Preservation Toolkit may be used to determine if it should be preservedFootnote 3.

Access and Use

Digital preservation of the museum’s content is ultimately for the benefit of those showing an interest in the history and holdings of Medalta Museum and the Medicine Hat Historic Clay District. It is anticipated that members of this community will have indirect access to preserved content so that they might benefit from it or contribute to the museum’s knowledge base. To ensure integrity of the preserved data, only a limited number of museum staff will have direct access to preservation records.

While some of these digital assets may be made available online to the public, it is anticipated that queries by museum stakeholders regarding digital images, scans, interviews or similar content will be addressed by staff, who will require a searchable copy of the preserved data onsite. While limited staff availability may result in a response to such queries taking days, the actual time to perform a query should be minimized by ensuring that working copies of the content are not compressed, encrypted or otherwise encumbered in a manner that hinders searchability.

Challenges and Risks

  1. Limited time and resources: These constraints prevent the museum from adopting a standard OAIS model, thus a hybridized solution is required. As such, no formal archival software will be used. By ensuring the process is simple and affordable, it is expected that the process will remain sustainable.
  2. Existing physical media: Some recordings over 10 years old are on analog magnetic tape. Others are on CD of an unknown type. Digitization from older analog magnetic media should be addressed immediately, as should refreshing of content from CDs of unknown quality.
  3. Training: In spite of the simplified process, training will be required. The Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) is offering to assist with this step.
  4. Unknown risks: Because the process does not follow the traditional OAIS model, there is a risk that an important feature of this model may be overlooked.

Financial Sustainability

By ensuring that the plan can be carried out by existing staff with minimal investment in additional technologies or storage media, it is expected that long-term sustainability will not present a problem.

Beyond this, Medalta Museum is committed to the long-term preservation of its digital assets as part of its commitment to recording and celebrating the Historic Clay District. No long-term partnerships (beyond the initial support of CHIN and the AMA) are anticipated being necessary for this process.

Technological and Procedural Suitability

This section to be defined once a digital preservation action plan has been selected.

Procedural Accountability

The museum is accountable to its board of directors. However, an external audit may occur if grant funds are requested. The museum is committed to periodic spot checks of archived digital content and will use checksum software to further verify the integrity of preserved content.

Return to Medalta Museum Digital Preservation Case Study.

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