The Need for a Preservation Spectrum

Digital newspapers span a diversity of forms. There are newspapers that consist of page images in digital microfilm format, newspapers that have been digitally scanned from analog microfilm and from print (at various image resolutions), encoded text derived from these scanned images (optical character recognition or OCR), and of course born-digital newspapers—often e-prints and web-related text, image, and multimedia files.

Because digital newspaper files are created under such a wide range of circumstances, from grant-funded projects to ad-hoc scanning initiatives, they also tend to be stored on a variety of media. In a given library or archive, digital newspaper files might be found on CDs, portable hard-drives, tape back-up systems, and various flavors of disk arrays.

Finally, a range of institutional types curate digital newspaper collections. These run the gamut from public libraries to historical societies, museums to academic libraries, and state libraries to vendor groups. Each of these memory stewards has slightly different contexts within which it acquires, creates, and manages digital newspaper content, and depending on its wherewithal and good fortune (or the lack thereof), each has more or fewer resources to put behind preserving its assets.

All of this underscores the drivers for producing the Guidelines: namely that all institutions can do something to prepare their collections for long-term use, and that there can be no one-size-fits-all approach to preserving digital newspapers. Institutions need to be able to tackle the challenges involved in preserving digital newspapers in modular increments. Though they need to be able to understand the entire series of “managed activities” as inter-related stepping stones, they also need to be empowered to produce staged implementations based on their current and future capacities.

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