Digital Archiving—Early Priorities

This activity is now closed. The information on this page is provided for historical purposes only.

In March 1997 we charged an RLG Preservation Working Group on Digital Archiving to recommend areas of action for RLG to pursue, either alone or in partnership. Their selection was to be based on the work done in Preserving Digital Information (the 1996 final report of RLG- and CPA-appointed Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information) plus their assessment of work plans established by similar groups in the United Kingdom and Australia. With community advice, these experts from our preservation and archives communities made their recommendations for initial action in January 1998:

  • Identify and analyze the digital archiving needs of RLG member institutions.
  • Examine and evaluate existing models for managing digital archiving facilities to determine models that can be adopted by member institutions and implemented by RLG to meet the needs of members.
  • Develop guidelines for appraisal, selection, and priority setting for preserving information in digital form.

This group provided notes useful both immediately and in future—as a benchmark for progress made and a record of the historical landscape.


In 1994-96 RLG and the Commission on Preservation and Access jointly supported a task force to produce a set of recommendations for ensuring the long-term preservation of digital information. That task force distributed a draft report widely in 1995, and groups in the United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere met to review and assess its relevance outside of North America. The task force received comments from a variety of sources, including direct responses from key staff in RLG's preservation community. These were taken in to account in the 1996 final report, Preserving Digital Information.

This report heavily influenced the RLG PRESERV strategic plan. Organizations in the UK and Australia also conducted formal reviews of the task force's recommendations and established programs of work to move the digital archiving agenda forward as part of their national preservation effort.

Working group

We appointed the RLG Preservation Working Group on Digital Archiving to help determine, in light of these programs, which aspects of the RLG-CPA-sponsored work should be our first priority:

Sherry Byrne, Chair
University of Chicago
Robin Dale
Nancy Elkington
Margaret Hedstrom
University of Michigan
Peter Hirtle
Cornell University
Jan Lyall
National Library of Australia
Vanessa Marshall
National Preservation Office (UK-Ireland)
Barclay Ogden
University of California, Berkeley
Anne Van Camp


  • Read and analyze the RLG-CPA report Preserving Digital Information with specific attention to the recommendations for further action.
  • Review the work plans of preservation studies ("Preservation of Digital Materials: Policy and Strategy Issues for the UK" and "Long-Term Preservation of Electronic Materials: a Programme of Studies funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher Education Funding Councils") of the National Preservation Office (UK-Ireland) and the Joint Information Systems Committee.
  • Review the National Library of Australia work on its digital archiving assertions and intentions.
  • Identify and review the work of other relevant bodies worldwide that had issued formal programmatic responses to the RLG-CPA report.
  • Summarize findings and recommend follow-on activities for RLG to pursue, including (but not limited to) consortial projects and initiatives as well as joint efforts with other organizations.


Sherry Byrne presented a progress report at the May 1997 RLG annual members' meeting. The progress report identified six potential areas where an RLG role would be useful to move forward the international digital archiving agenda. Notes under each area suggested possible ways work might be undertaken. It was distributed throughout the membership for input and guidance. The working group incorporated many of the comments into their final report, which recommended that RLG give priority and immediate attention to three critical areas and proposed specific actions to be taken.