Skip to Main Content

Digital Records in Special Collections

Documentation of digital preservation efforts in UB Libraries Special Collections.
Last Updated: Feb 13, 2024 4:23 PM

Working with Donors

  • Share the Donor Guide and walk through the checklist carefully
  • Clarify expectations regarding digital preservation and access
  • Ask the donor the following questions to gain a broad understanding of the digital records
    • Location of computer workstations (on campus or at home)
    • Removable storage media (hard drives, USB flash drives, CDs, etc.)
    • Approximate date range of files
    • File types
    • Approximate quantity
  • Conduct an initial survey of born-digital materials:
  • Determine the appropriate survey method by consulting with the donor
  • Conduct onsite surveys (in person) when possible
  • Before acquisition, ask if the collection includes legally protected files, such as educational, medical, financial, criminal, attorney-client, and personnel records
  • Inform the donor that the presence of sensitive information about individuals other than the donor or creator may limit access to their own files
  • Make clear who will screen email messages for sensitive information and what the process will be. *Refer to Section VIII. Working with Email for further instruction*
  • Ask the donor to complete the Privacy checklist in the Donor Guide
  • Ask the donor if there is other people’s intellectual property in the donor’s files
  • Discuss any rights held by individuals other than the donor or creator that would limit Special Collections ability to provide access and delivery of the files to researchers
  • Discuss the methods by which Special Collections will provide researchers with access to the digital files
  • Identify which born-digital materials are to be offered to Special Collections.
  • Ask the donor to document the ways in which digital media and files have been stored, accessed, and transported prior to their arrival or collection by Special Collections.
  • Complete the table below with the donor. Indicate which file types are included in the donation:
  • Audio
  • Raster images
  • Databases
  • Raw Camera images
  • Email* (see additional information below)
  • Spreadsheets
  • Open Office
  • Vector images
  • Plain Text
  • Video
  • Portable Document Format
  • Word Processing files
  • Presentation files (i.e. PowerPoint)
  • Other: __________________________

The deed of gift acknowledges transfer of ownership to Special Collections.

  • Review the Deed of Gift
    • Transfer of copyright
    • Permission to make preservation and access copies
    • Permission to display online
    • Disposition of duplicate or unneeded materials
    • Disposition of computer hardware, removable media and files not retained
  • The donor and Special Collections staff representative sign the Deed of Gift
  • Provide a copy of the signed deed to the donor

Supporting Documentation

Storage Media Inventory

Donors may choose to transfer digital records via removable storage media. If so, before Special Collections staff copy the digital records from the physical media, it is important to collect as much information as possible about the storage media itself.

  • Record the following information in a media inventory spreadsheet. Name this file [accession number]-media-inventory.xlsx. Save this spreadsheet in the accession file. 
    • Accession number - the accession number assigned to the collection 
    • Unique ID – a unique ID assigned to each piece of storage media (ex. accession#–sequential number, 2017-001-01; 2017-001-002) 
    • Label information – a transcription of any pre-existing labels on the media
    • Date(s) -  The creation date or date range of the files stored on the media
    • Storage media type - The type of media
    • Storage capacity – maximum storage capacity of the media, expressed in gigabytes
    • Physical dimensions – dimensions of the media expressed height x width 
    • Manufacturer – manufacturer of the media 
    • Model/Series - if known, the model and series of the media 
    • External parts – list of any other parts that came with the media (cables, chargers, etc.)


Special Collections uses Preservica, a suite of OAIS (Open Archival Information System) compliant workflows, to manage our digital records. This system assists with the accessioning, processing, and preservation of our digital materials.

Special Collections’ primary strategy for preservation is to normalize files for preservation and presentation. The Digital Preservation Coalition defines digital preservation as “the series of managed activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital materials for as long as necessary…and refers to all of the actions required to maintain access to digital materials beyond the limits of media failure or technological and organisational change.”[1] The DPC defines migration as “a means of overcoming technological obsolescence by transferring digital resources from one hardware/software generation to the next. The purpose of migration is to preserve the intellectual content of digital objects and to retain the ability for clients to retrieve, display, and otherwise use them in the face of constantly changing technology. Migration differs from the refreshing of storage media in that it is not always possible to make an exact digital copy or replicate original features and appearance and still maintain the compatibility of the resource with the new generation of technology.”[2]

The workflow for ingesting and preserving digital records in Preservica varies depending on a number of factors: types of files in the accession, size and arrangement of the accession, and the means of physical transfer. For example, donors transferring their files remotely by web application will utilize a different application than Special Collections staff who has received a donation of digital records via removable storage (i.e. a thumb drive). Donations of large quantities of digital records are uploaded to Preservica in batches to mitigate the time it takes to run normalization workflows on the entirety of the donated materials. Run workflows for normalization during ingest into Preservica or after ingest in Preservica depending on the type of file.



Review the file formats identified by DROID and make note of at-risk file types. Identify the target preservation formats, access formats, and pathways if running normalization workflows on ingest into Preservica.

Content Categories
Formats Preferred
Formats Acceptable
Document PDF/A; TXT; Open Office PDF; Office Open XML; RTF
Presentation PDF/A; Open Office PDF; Office Open XML
Datasets CSV; TXT Open Office
Video MKV; FFV1; AVI MP4
Audio WAVE; Broadcast WAVE; AIFF MP3; M4A
Web Archives WARC; WARCZ  
Email EML; MBox PST; PDF