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UNESCO and DPC release Executive Guide on Digital Preservation

17 May 2019

UNESCO and the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) have collaborated to produce the UNESCO/DPC Executive Guide on Digital Preservation, an online resource for raising awareness of the importance of digital preservation, leading to action to preserve digital assets, including digital documentary heritage, in an institution, organization or government.

The Executive Guide was released on May 1 and announced at the International Council on Archives (ICA) Forum of National Archivists meeting, hosted by the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Abu Dhabi.

The development of the Guide was supported by the UNESCO Memory of the World (MoW) Programme and the MoW PERSIST project and its Policy Working Group, with its focus on the sustainability of the knowledge society.

Digital records are vital assets of any organization, and their preservation is the responsibility of managers and decision makers at all levels. The Guide is intended to assist in convincing senior managers, government officials, and policy- and decision-makers of the importance of preserving their digital assets. 

Using the Guide, practitioners can tailor and customize the message about digital preservation to their specific situation in a language that senior executives and decision-makers can understand and in a way that they can act upon. For example, the Guide describes the key motivators for digital preservation and the related risks and opportunities.

Member States can use the Guide in implementing the digital part of the Recommendation concerning the preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage including in digital form. The Recommendation encourages the use of national legislation, development policies and investments in support of documentary heritage as an asset. The collaboration that produced the Guide has combined the resources of the DPC, the expertise of the Memory of the World PERSIST project and the needs of UNESCO and its Members States.

The Executive Guide is community developed, open to all and free to use. Users are encouraged to both use it and contribute to it, as the Guide is intended to be an evolving document. While the Guide is currently in English, UNESCO is planning to make it available in other languages. The MoW Programme is in the process of sensitizing its field offices around the world to the importance of the Guide in support of their advocacy for pro-active digital preservation among memory institutions.

At its meeting in April, the International Advisory Committee (IAC) of the MoW Programme resolved to incorporate the PERSIST project within the work of its Preservation Sub-Committee, underlining its strategic refocusing to more effectively address issues of digital and other forms of preservation.

Set up in 1992, the MoW Programme works to identify world-significant documentary heritage, promotes its preservation, including in digital form, and enhances universal access to it.

For its part, the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) exists to secure our digital legacy; enabling members to deliver resilient long-term access to digital content and services and helping them to derive enduring value from digital assets and raising awareness of the strategic, cultural and technological challenges they face. The DPC offers support through advocacy, community engagement, workforce development, capacity-building, good practice and good governance.