Podcast available as a video podcast from the NEWS! section at http://www.liv.ac.uk/lucas/

Duranti points out that digital preservation places some new obligations upon archivists in addition to the ones recognised under paper preservation theory, mainly to do with authenticity. The archivist has to become a “designated trusted custodian,” with input into record decisions at the very beginning of the record lifecycle. Relevant tradtional archivist responsibilities include:

  • the archivist should be a neutral third party, with no stake or interest in the content of the records
  • the archivist should have the knowledge and the skills to carry out the job, thereby minimising the risk of (eg) accidental destruction of record content or context
  • the archivist should establish a trusted preservation system.

The new functions include:

  • the archivist should be positioned at the beginning of the record lifecycle
  • the archivist has to assess the authenticity of the records at ingest, and continue to monitor this throughout the records’ existence; this is different from paper preservation, where the researcher traditionally assesses authenticity
  • the archivist needs to monitor the transformation of records though time
  • the archivist needs to determine the feasibility of preservation within the repository’s technological competence and capacity
  • the archivist determines a preservation strategy which is independent of technological trends. (There is a big temptation to buy an off-the-shelf record preservation system for masses of dosh, but we should define our specs first)
  • the archivist controls the accuracy of records after each migration. Don’t trust the creator to migrate properly: the archivist should do it
  • the archivist defines IPR procedures. Duranti comments early on that IPR is the biggest issue, but she does not really talk about this in detail at any point.
  • the archivist provides the archival description metadata.

Archival description

This is the most important new function. Archival description is the primary authentication function. Metadata tags and Google-style searching can help find documents, but only full archival description can demonstrate authenticity.  AD is a “collective attestation of the authenticity of records in an archive group and all their inter-relationships made explicit.”


This is important because Duranti defines “bad records” as those which lack identifiable contexts or relationships between themselves and ones outside the immediate system. “Good records,” on the other hand, fulfill a variety of specific criteria (all of which were defined as part of the InterPARES project) but in essence good records are trustworthy, which in turn is a concept composed of three entities:

  • reliability: a statement of fact based on the competence of the author and the controls on the record’s creation
  • accuracy: the correctness and precision of the record, including its recording and transmission
  • authenticity: evidence that the record has not been tampered with or corrupted.