Digital Preservation Principles

Version 1.1 - date last updated: 2 March 2016


To identify and adopt a set of principles that are grounded in digital preservation standards and good practice as a frame for developing a sustainable digital preservation program.


These recommended principles, recommended steps, and related background provide a guide for a digital preservation program. Adopting a set of standards-based principles is a positive (and hopefully easy) place for a digital preservation team or program to start. For organizations that are committed to becoming a Trusted Digital Repositories (TDR), this is a formative step.  


Going through the process of identifying, adapting, and adopting a set of digital preservation principles is more important than which set of principles you select. Benefits of going through the review and approval process include:

  • Providing a high-level frame as a guide for developing the program
  • Opening a high-level discussion about the current status at your organization
  • Beginning to agree upon local use of terms and concepts

An example of community-based digital preservation principles that was informed by:

  • DPOE: principles developed for the Digital Preservation Outreach and Education (DPOE) program at the Library of Congress as a frame for the DPOE training modules
  • Ten Principles: convened by Robin Dale, co-chair of the Task Force that produced the initial TRAC document, in January 2007 with Seamus Ross representing DRAMBORA and Susanne Dobratz representing nestor 
  • Data Seal of Approval: principles that originated in the social data domain then extended to address any content
  • NISO Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections: version 3 (2007) of principles that address Collections, Objects, Metadata, and Initiatives aspects of managing digital collections

Sharing your principles once your organization adopts them provides a focal point for your next steps in developing your program and contributes to examples that are valuable to other organizations within the community that are working on similar efforts. The Ten Principles or the Data Seal of Approval are also a great way to summarize the results of your self-assessment.

Five Stages Context for Digital Preservation Principles

  1. Acknowledge: be aware that a guiding set of principles is invaluable for developing a digital preservation program
  2. Act: establish a project to review, select, adapt, and adopt a set of principles that is suited to your organization
  3. Consolidate: share the principles you develop internally to raise awareness 
  4. Institutionalize: incorporate the principles into design and development discussions and practice
  5. Externalize: share your principles externally to contribute to the community and encourage feedback to improve your principles


About the principles example provided here:
  • These principles were initially developed by Nancy McGovern for the Digital Preservation Outreach and Education (DPOE). THe principles are grounded in digital preservation standards and informed by examples identified for the DPM workshop to assist organizations in getting started on developing their digital preservation programs. The example was then adapted and adopted at MIT Libraries in 2013 - lead: Nancy McGovern.