Smithsonian Digital Preservation Readiness Assessment

In July 2009, Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough spoke of the digital future of museums, libraries, and archives. “We have the capacity to tell the story of America and all its hopes, struggles, triumphs, creativity, contradictions, and courage.” “Ultimately, we want to put all of our … objects … online so you can access them wherever you live. We want to offer the Smithsonian experience to everyone,” said Clough to a group gathered at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

To ensure the longevity of these born-digital and digitized collections, research, and resources, in 2014 Secretary Clough chartered a Digital Preservation Working Group to assess current preservation practices and develop lifecycle management recommendations for the future. The working group’s key tasks are:

  • Analyze the Smithsonian’s digital preservation needs;
  • Identify preservation best practices for a variety of digital content;
  • Identify organizational roles and responsibilities to ensure long-term preservation and access;
  • Estimate resource needs;
  • Determine required standards and policies.

The working group undertook an assessment of the Institution’s overall capacity for digital preservation.  In the course of the assessment conducted by an outside consulting firm, AVPreserve, it was determined that Smithsonian had insufficient information on the extent of digital research data that was currently held or generated by Smithsonian researchers.  A brief survey to gather more in-depth information about how data was created, how much, and the types of data being produced at the Smithsonian was completed by 100 researchers.  The results of that survey are included in the final report of the Digital Preservation Working Group.  In addition to the report, there is an executive summary and assessment highlights.