In 2015, the Smithsonian engaged AVP to assess their DAMS digital preservation procedures and infrastructure against standards and guidelines, including ISO 14721, ISO 16363, and the National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s Levels of Preservation. These references provide metrics for the functional, fiscal, policy, documentation, procedural, and operational aspects of a digital preservation environment.

The resulting deliverables summarized the current state of preservation operations, identified and analyzed risks and gaps, and provided corresponding recommendations and guidelines.

In 2016, the Smithsonian brought AVP back to look at operationalizing digital preservation across 19 museums, nine research centers, and a zoo. Focusing on digitized and born-digital collections as well as research data generated at the Institution, the goals of the assessment were to articulate risks to digital content, identify stewardship gaps, and provide recommendations to help the Institution reach its goal of ensuring the preservation of all digital resources of value.

Over the course of the six-month engagement, we conducted interviews with 18 stakeholder groups (including researchers, collection managers, and repository managers), distributed an online survey to Smithsonian researchers about their data management practices (with 100 responses), and took a comprehensive look at existing policies, strategic plans, and other documentation.

Our final report presented a wealth of information gained through this research: top challenges consistently described by interviewees, suggestions from interviewees for improvement, analysis from the survey results (including that researchers on average have generated approximately 6.7 TB of data each, or 6.7 PB altogether!), and identification of policy improvements to support digital preservation.

Our recommendations consist of eight overarching phases intended to bring together stakeholders who will work toward the goal of ensuring that valuable digital content persists into the future. The Smithsonian is taking steps to put these recommendations into practice so that the next generation will be enriched by these resources, able to use them in their own discoveries and help generate new knowledge.

See our 2016 report here.

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