Assignment One
Practitioner Interview

For your first assignment, you will write a 6-8 page paper based on an interview you will conduct with an archivist, digital asset manager, preservationist or other practitioner in the field of digital preservation. Applying topics learned in class, you will ask a series of questions of the practitioner to investigate the inner-workings of digital repositories and archives, and to gain a better understanding of preservation practices. Topics will include but are not limited to the OAIS model, computing environments, file format identification, digital asset management tools and strategies, data storage and architecture, data integrity and fixity checks.

Ask your subject if it is okay to contact them with  follow up with questions after the interview.


Deliverables & Due Dates

  1. Conduct practitioner interview  – Monday, October 1st through Monday, October 8th

  2. In-class presentation – Tuesday, October 23rd

  3. Final 6-8 page paper – Friday, October 26th, 6pm


  1. General questions: What digital information do you collect? What are the contents of your collections? Tell me more about the history of your collections and your archive. If you are a vendor, what types of collections to your clients send to you? What services do you perform?

  2. How do you document and describe your collections? Do you use a catalog, finding aid, DAMS or a combination of system?

  3. What digital formats are represented in the collection? How are they identified? Are different file types treated differently within the archive, and if so, how? Can you give an example or two? Does the archive contain any obsolete or at-risk formats, and if so, what? Do you treat at-risk formats differently than other formats, and if so, how? Does the archive contain digital physical formats such as DV tapes or DVDs? Do you document digital format information to manage risk?

  4. Which computing environments do you use in your office (Mac, Windows, Linux)? Why do you use the operating system(s) that you use? Do you have a sense of what computing environments were used to create the digital objects in your collection, and if so, do you document this information?

  5. How are collections stored? Are collections stored on a  server, and if so, what kind of storage media does the server use (flash or hard drive)? How do users and administrators connect to the server (over ethernet or fiber, and how fast are speeds)? Does the repository rely on LTO tape (LTFS or proprietary?), cloud storage (which service?), external hard drives, or other forms of storage? How do these systems work (hardware, software specifications, etc.)? Does the repository use geographical separation? Have any of these systems ever failed or experienced outages? Do you have redundant backups of your data, and if so, do store data in duplicate, triplicate… even quadruplicate?

  6. What method or program do you use to transfer data within your repository?
  7. How do you maintain data integrity in your collection? Do you use fixity checks? If so, what kind? What do you do when you find bit rot or irregularities in your fixity checks? If you have audiovisual media in your collection, do you use special tools for fixity checks or to verify data integrity?
  8. Do you make an effort to ensure security of the data contained in your archive? Does your company or organization address security and privacy concerns inherent in managing large sets of data and collections?
  9. How does this collection fit into the OAIS model? How doesn’t it fit?
  10. Which of the NDSA Levels of Preservation (including access) do these collections fit? Describe and compare the archive's progress in each level.