The use of metadata and preservation methods for continuous access to digital data

Publication Date12 April 2011
Date12 April 2011
AuthorRia Groenewald,Amelia Breytenbach
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
The use of metadata and
preservation methods for
continuous access to digital data
Ria Groenewald
Department of Library Services, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort,
South Africa, and
Amelia Breytenbach
Jotello F. Soga Library, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria,
Onderstepoort, South Africa
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the awareness about digital preservation and
what must be done towards preserving valuable original digital material. The paper also aims to
discuss the use of metadata principles and the implementation of tools for the preservation of
documents stored on personal computers.
Design/methodology/approach – Data loss prevention starts with the creation of a digital object.
However, methods to minimize the loss of digital data are often ignored, the use of metadata structures
embedded in digital objects from the outset thereof are recommended as a starting point towards good
preservation principles. The need to create awareness on the issue of digital preservation was
promoted by the authors at various occasions during 2008, as the number of incidents of data loss and
costs involved continue to be of concern to all involved. Whether the loss occurs by a malicious
attempt, or an inadvertent mistake, it can be diminishing either personally or to the institute/company
where it occurs. Data were collected through a digital questionnaire and literature studies were done
on several strategies, policies and best practices. Personal visits to libraries actively working on digital
preservation and curation formed a basis for conducting the study. The implementation of tools that
can be used to preserve and retrieve digital content by individuals was also investigated.
Findings – Digital objects should be archived with metadata about the object and the creation
thereof. Metadata need not necessarily be structured and controlled when used by individuals or small
groups for preservation of self owned data. The metadata content, however, should describe the object,
the method of creation and technologies used in the creation. All changes to the document should be
captured in the preservation metadata. Future access to digital content does not only depend on one
preservation method but on a sequence of strategies and methods applied to the digital content.
Originality/value – The paper provides a broad overview of certain aspects that must be considered
when implementing digital preservation strategies. The value of metadata needs to be widely accepted
and implemented and the use thereof promoted to creators of personal digital objects.
Keywords Metadata, Digitaltechnology, Libraries
Paper type Case study
Libraries, museums and archives traditionally are the custodians of valuable artefacts
and information. These valuables were acquired from ind ividuals and other
institutions and stored with well-managed conservation practices to ensure the
long-term access thereof. Institutions are now facing new access and preservation
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 18 November 2010
Accepted 26 November 2010
The Electronic Library
Vol. 29 No. 2, 2011
pp. 236-248
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/02640471111125195

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