Preservation Metadata for Digital Materials

The PREMIS working group, jointly sponsored by OCLC and RLG, was composed of international experts from institutions that had developed or were currently developing digital preservation capacity.

PREMIS membership included representatives from a variety of domains interested in digital preservation, including libraries, museums, archives, government, and the private sector.

The objectives of PREMIS were to:

  • Develop a core preservation metadata set, supported by a data dictionary, with broad applicability across the digital preservation community.
  • Identify and evaluate alternative strategies for encoding, storing, and managing preservation metadata in digital preservation systems.

The PREMIS working group follows on the activities of the Preservation Metadata Framework Working Group, also sponsored by OCLC and RLG.

PREMIS activities included the publication of two major reports:

PREMIS completed its activities in May 2005.

Follow-on activities related to the PREMIS working group can be found at:


What is preservation metadata?

Preservation metadata:

  • is information that supports and documents the digital preservation process.
  • addresses provenance (who has had custody/ownership of the digital object?); authenticity (is the digital object what it purports to be?); preservation activity (what has been done to preserve the digital object?); technical environments (what is needed to render and use the digital object?); rights management (what intellectual property rights must be observed?).
  • is an essential component of most digital preservation strategies.

Why is preservation metadata important?

  • Digital objects are technology dependent, so the means to access and use digital objects must be documented over time.
  • Digital objects are mutable, so any changes impacting look, feel, and functionality must be documented and validated.
  • Digital objects are bound by intellectual property rights, so care must be taken to document permissions and restrictions that could potentially impact preservation activities and access policies.
  • Archiving practice has long recognized the importance of maintaining careful records of the preservation process.
  • In the case of digital materials, the need for metadata to support preservation is not only indicated, but amplified.

What's been done?

Updated: 20 May 2005