Strategic Framework for Digital Preservation

Strategic Framework for Digital Preservation

The purpose of the Strategic Framework for Digital Preservation is to outline the preservation strategy used by the McMaster University Library (MUL) to ensure continued access to its digital collections. 

Objectives: The primary focus of the University Library’s digital preservation activities is on preserving the intellectual content and the artifactual value of the materials acquired and ingested into the Library’s digital repositories (Digital Archive, and Closed Archive). The look and feel of the object is considered significant for most content and will be preserved to the extent possible.

The following properties are those which will be prioritized in all preservation activities: 

  • The intellectual content of the object in the repository. This will be defined on a collection-level, type-by-type basis and includes all supplemental materials and the relationship between these objects, as can be determined from metadata or other context at the time of ingest.
  • The artifactual value of the object in the repository. This will be defined on a collection-level and  type-by-type basis.
  • Metadata included with the object at the time of ingest, especially that which relates it to other objects within the repository, to the context of its creation or creator, or to the universe of its collection type overall.
  • The intellectual rights to the object and any access restrictions imposed either by law (e.g., copyright or FIPPA) or conditions of a gift agreement. While these properties are used to control access to the content, they are also preserved themselves. 

Secondary considerations in preservation include the following items. These properties are necessary to ensure its preservation and as such must be tracked as well. 

  • The object’s chain of custody and provenance, starting as early as possible but at the very least from the time it entered the repository. This information is necessary in order to understand the history of the object and to denote any transformations or changes that have occurred to the content.
  • Information on the object’s representation. For every digital object, some level of interpretation is necessary in order to transform the object from binary data into a human interpretable item.
  • Fixity information. The repository will keep sufficient metadata on the object to ensure at any point in the future that the object remains in a complete, unaltered, authentic, and uncorrupted state.   

The preservation of the above properties will be carried out using a format migration approach. That is, the formats (both at the file level and the metadata level) used in the repository will be constantly monitored (per the Environmental Monitoring of Preservation Formats policy) in order to ensure their suitability to long term preservation.

In instances where a format is deemed to present an unacceptable level of risk to the long-term viability of the content, an appropriate successor format will be chosen, with input from knowledgeable members of the Library staff and the unit within the Library with which the content originated (e.g.  Research Collections or Maps, Data & GIS). All materials in the existing format in question will be migrated upon identification of a successor format. Such format migrations will not be made in such a way as to endanger the long-term preservation of the material, and in situations where this would occur the original format will be retained. 

Scope: The University Library commits to preserving the materials for which it has accepted responsibility to the greatest degree possible. However, there are a number of criteria necessary to the Library ability to carry out this mission. In order to provide some level of preservation on materials for which not every criteria is met, MUL has defined multiple preservation levels, which indicate a level of preservation behaviours that MUL will use upon the content in question. For additional information on preservation levels, see the Preservation Implementation Plan

The criteria to be assessed when determining preservation level include: 

  • Rights: The University Library should have appropriate rights to preserve the material in a matter consistent with its customary digital preservation activities. In many cases, the original digital object will have been created by the University Library or have been received by the Library as a gift to the University, in which case the right to preserve will be included. Other digital objects may require a specific granting of preservation rights to the University Library.
  • Appropriate Metadata: Content to be ingested into the repository should be accompanied by metadata sufficient to provide a meaningful context to the content such as:
    • provenance information - origins, custody, and ownership of an item or collection
    • descriptive metadata – information regarding the intellectual content of material enabling discovery and identification of such materials (e.g. title, author, subjects, keywords, publisher)
    • information contributing to the object’s usability (e.g., dataset codebooks).
  • Validity: The content object must be a well-formed and valid.


Compliance with all of these criteria is necessary for an object to be subject to the full extent of preservation activities, as defined in the Preservation Implementation Plan. Failure or partial compliance does not necessarily mean that an object cannot be ingested into the repository, but an inability to meet these criteria will result in the use of a less robust preservation plan.

Review & Revision: The University Library commits to the review and revision of its preservation practices and the corresponding documentation, on a regular basis but not less frequently than once in each five year period.