NDSA:Digital Preservation in a Box

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Welcome to Digital Preservation in a Box!

Digital Preservation in a Box is a product of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance's Outreach Working Group and is designed as a toolkit to support outreach activities that introduce the basic concepts of preserving digital information. The DPB provides the best available resources and tools to help you communicate digital preservation and stewardship concepts and issues.

The materials are geared towards a general audience who routinely create or manage digital information, but who may need a working knowledge of this area for digital preservation on the job or for training others on how to preserve digital resources.

The materials can be appropriately used to communicate to professional audiences or to students of all ages.

Explore the menu below and get started learning about and teaching digital preservation!

Digital Preservation 101


The "Digital Preservation 101" section provides a gentle introduction to the concepts of preserving your digital information. The guidance is basic and is meant to be a place to get started.

Digital preservation can be defined as the series of managed activities necessary to ensure meaningful continued access, for as long as it is required, to digital objects and materials.

Digital preservation is the set of processes and activities that ensures long-term, sustained storage of, access to and interpretation of digital information. Curation is an applied form of preservation that focuses on interpretation and is often (though not exclusively) used in relation to working with scientific datasets. The ultimate objective of all digital preservation activity is to keep valuable and useful digital material (increasingly online) available for future generations of scholars, researchers and other user groups.

Introductory Resources


The Box has not compiled its own glossary but has linked to a number of reputable ones.

Preservation by Format

It is useful to have separate sections of guidance for specific content types such as photographs, audio, video, electronic mail, personal documents and web archives because people are often focused on preserving specific types of content of personal interest. Each content type is represented by a selection of resources, including videos, handouts, urls, photographs of archaic devices, slides, etc.

Digital preservation can be defined as the series of managed activities necessary to ensure meaningful continued access, for as long as it is required, to digital objects and materials.

UK National Archives Digital Preservation Guidance Note 1: Selecting File Formats for Long-Term Preservation


  • Keeping Personal Digital Photographs (PDF) (A single page printable handout that discusses Personal Archiving for Digital Photographs)
  • dpBestFlow.org (An NDIIPP-sponsored guide to best practices and workflow in digital photography.)
  • Archiving Digital Photos (Phil Michel, Digital Conversion Coordinator at the Library of Congress’s Prints & Photographs division, offers practical advice on archiving digital photos from the May 10, 2010 Library of Congress Personal Archiving Day.)


  • Keeping Personal Digital Audio (PDF) (A single page printable handout that discusses Personal Archiving for Digital Audio.)
  • Archiving Digital Audio (Peter Alyea, digital conservation specialist, Preservation Reformatting in the Library of Congress’s Music, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound division, offers practical advice on archiving digital audio from the May 10, 2010 Library of Congress Personal Archiving Day.)


Electronic Mail

Personal Documents

Web Archives

Digital Preservation Tools

Digital preservation tools can mean different things to different people. For the purpose of the Box, the tools we’ve listed can be lumped in two large buckets:

  • Consumer-friendly tools that can help people preserve their own information;
  • Relatively “non-technical” tools used by information professionals to do “digital preservation”

There is much grey area between these two buckets so keep that in mind as you explore. This is a non-exhaustive list of tools. A listing here does not constitute an endorsement of the product.

Because there are so many tools out there, we’ve also linked to other authoritative lists of digital preservation tools.

Consumer Tools

Information Professional Tools

Other Digital Preservation Tool Lists

Digital Storage, Cloud Computing and Personal Backup Options

This section provides information on digital storage options, largely geared towards personal archiving or the basic knowledge needed to understand preservation storage technology.

Resources for Educators

This section provides curriculum guidance, lesson plans and teaching materials that offer specific guidance on how to utilize the Box resources in the classroom or in presentations.

Lesson Plans/Syllabi

Course Information

Further Resources

Marketing and Outreach

This section provides links to marketing materials that can be adapted to support specific events that utilize the Box materials. The “News Articles” section collects popular press articles about digital preservation that might be useful as handouts or marketing materials but which are not suitable as instructional materials.


News Articles

Event Guidance

What you Need to Know

In order to hold a successful Digital Preservation Day event, there are a few things you need to know. You need to have a venue for your event (which could be virtual); you'll need to have the equipment available to share the materials in the box; you'll need to market and promote your event. We provide details on each of these areas, including some Digital Preservation Day event scenarios.

NDIIPP has developed Guidance and resources for information professionals on how to organize and host your own Personal Digital Archiving Day, including information on planning, organizing, publicizing and running an event.

ALA/ALCTS also has information on the annual Preservation Week and resources to help you plan your event.

Arranging a Venue

Ideally you'll be doing the event in a public space. You might be inviting strangers. If so, think twice about having it at your home.

Your venue should be relatively easy to find with parking or public transportation available, if possible, unless everyone can be expected to walk.

Some public places like libraries, archives, schools, churches, VFW Halls, college student centers have rooms you can use for free. Bars will sometimes let you put on events, but this may be less than ideal for several reasons; not everyone is comfortable in bars, they may not be kid-friendly, and they may not be the most conducive to keeping equipment and materials safe and dry.

Use your connections. If you have friends at a movie theater, bowling alley or country club, hit them up for venue help. The ideal situation is to secure a venue where the most likely interested people would already congregate, and this generally means a library or student center on campus.

If you don’t have to pay for a venue, your costs will be low.

Venue Needs

No way around it, you need electrical outlets if you're going to showcase digital technology.

Chairs and tables are also preferred. Some folks can sit on the floor, but having seating available will help make your event accessible to more people.

A restroom is highly desirable.

You may need:

  • Chairs for you and the public to sit on
  • Tables for displaying items
  • A box of old digital artifacts (i.e., hard drives, ZIP drives, floppy drives, old computers, etc.)
  • Flat screen TV to project video
  • A sign-in sheet (if you want to gather contact information for future events)
  • Easy-to-understand signs to direct people where to go
  • Pens and pencils
  • Tape
  • Business cards
  • A video camera or still camera to document your event!

What Will the Attendees Want to Know?

There may be no need for announcements during the event, but make sure that all the volunteers are briefed on the way things are going to work. It's useful to prepare a set of "talking points" in advance that will keep everyone on topic.

A common question is “where can I get my materials transferred to another format?” Many times, people bring in materials they haven’t viewed in a while because they don’t have the technology to get at the materials.

Do some research into transfer facilities in your area or have a list prepared in advance. If you're not comfortable giving out specific names then prepare some guidance on how they might find these types of entities on the internet ("Do a search in your favorite web browser for "digital conversion specialists" in your city.") If you do make a list you may want to note that your organization offers the list merely as suggestions, none of the places are officially sanctioned.

Be prepared to talk about receiving donations of "archival" items. Folks will suggest that they have valuable materials that they no longer want to take care of and will conscientiously look for suggestions on organizations that might find them useful. Have a list prepared in advance, though you can't anticipate every question.

The Center for Home Movies in Baltimore, MD will take all kinds of home movies in the absence of a suitable local outlet.

Publicizing Your Event

Turnout often depends on exposure (along with the weather and competing events). Basically, the more people who know about your event, the more people you can expect to show up.

  • The Media & the Press Release

We can’t always get on TV or the radio, but we can always try. Press releases should be sent to local news & cultural program departments of local stations. DPD is a good local newsworthy event: history, film, photography, music, preservation.

Your local paper is an easier sell. Use your press release to appeal to the arts editor for a story. At the very least, you should work to get into the Events listing section.

Craigslist, available in most areas, has an events listing section. Any other virtual community bulletin boards are helpful.

  • Flyers and Posters

Some people still live in the 20th century and actually read pieces of paper (also known as broadsides). Make your flyer eye-catching (an arty friend may come in handy here): a simple graphic with a minimal amount of informative text (don’t forget the website!).

For instance:

  • Digital Preservation Day
  • Date, time, and location
  • For more info [your website here]

You may have to flyer areas more than once, as flyers tend to disappear. Make use of bulletin boards at the usual places – cafes, grocery stores, Laundromats, schools, etc. Don’t forget to flyer your venue!

  • DPD postcards or stickers

You’ll want to get a bunch of these and include your local info on them. You can make sticker labels using a computer or copy machine. Mail out the postcards and leave stacks in appropriate places. Also have some available at the event as souvenirs.

Consider sending invitations to local historical organizations, the press, friends, neighbors, family members, local celebrities, filmmakers, museums, cinemas.

  • The Publicity Machine

Your venue might have its own publicity machine. Libraries, rock clubs, movie theaters all have calendars. Get listed! Some places have mailing lists you might be able to infiltrate.

Work with another local historical or library institution. Maybe they’ll help you publicize. If you’re going to suggest people donate to a certain collection, for instance, it will be in that institution’s interest to help you out.

Be aware that if your event is in a public venue, you may not be able to control or anticipate who attends. Have a plan in place for de-escalating any disruptive individuals or situations. See the DLF Code of Conduct for an example.

Setting Up

Set up your room before people arrive. Eat – it’s going to be a long day. Set up a literature table. Make sure you have pens for the mailing list.

There are some points that should be brought up during the show, regardless of the formality of your presentation:

  • Archival donations
  • Storage at home

Many archives are interested in collecting materials. These may be regional collections (Rhode Island Historical Society, for instance) or for film, places like the center for Home Movies. If there is a regional collection in your area, point people toward it.

Home storage conditions are important for the survival of the material. The basic mantra is cool and dry – no basements or attics, stay away from radiators and sinks.

What Will my DPD Event Be Like?

We can’t predict what will happen at your DPD. We do know someone will show up (even if it’s only your friends & relations) and DPD will draw to a close.

The attendees will do what you tell them. Figuring out how you want to run things should help you get an idea of what it will be like.

When it’s over, what are you left with besides an empty feeling of relief? Hopefully, you will have some addresses to send info to next year, you’ll have passed out some great information about what your organization does with digital preservation, you’ll have made some connections, and most importantly you’ll have inspired some people. You’ll definitely have some experience under your belt.


Take your volunteers out for some kind of treat they can all enjoy. Talk to them about their opinions of the show. You should all figure out what went well, what needs to change for the next event. Keep these notes somewhere you’ll find them for your next DPD. Write up your DPD report and share it with the rest of the NDSA and digital preservation community.

Brief Introduction to Digitization

People outside of the "digital preservation profession" often get digitization and digital preservation confused. It’s useful to make the distinction between the two and to provide some select guidance to those looking to begin the process of preserving analogue documents through digitization.


Box Outreach Tools

Jane Zhang, Dever Powell, Butch Lazorchak and Sue Manus created a "Box" poster for JCDL2012. Below are a PDF of the poster and the paper that accompanied it for the JCDL proceedings.

JCDL2012 Box Poster

JCDL2012 Box Paper

Ideally we'll post the original graphic files for the poster here at some point in the near future so that other folks can create their own "Box" posters.

Renaming Conversation

The group that created this resource discussed whether "Digital Preservation in a Box" was the most descriptive of the content and purpose, and invites suggestions for alternate names!