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Oral History: Archiving

Preservation The recordings of the interviews should be stored, processed, refreshed and accessed according to established archival standards designated for the media format used. Whenever possible, all efforts should be made to preserve electronic files in formats that are cross platform and non-proprietary. Finally, the obsolescence of all media formats should be assumed and planned for.

Archiving and Preservation

Planning

Oral historians should understand that planning for appropriate care and storage of original recordings begins with project conception. Whenever possible and/or practical, oral history recordings –should be deposited in an institutional repository such as a library or archive that has the capacity to ensure long-term and professionally managed preservation and access.

a. the recordings of the interviews should be stored, processed, refreshed, and accessed according to established archival standards designated for the media format used;

b. whenever possible, all efforts should be made to preserve electronic files in formats that are cross platform and non-proprietary.

c. the obsolescence of all media formats should be assumed and planned for.

In the interim before deposit, oral historians should

a. transfer the original recording from whatever device was used, make an appropriate number of redundant digital copies,and store those in different physical locations, as soon as possible after any interview is completed;

b. document their preparation and methods, including the project’s context and goals, for their own, the project’s, and the repository’s files;

c. organize and preserve related material for each interview—photographs, documents, or other records such as technical or descriptive metadata—in corresponding interview files.

Data Integrity

Files can become corrupted during copying or use. It's a waste of time conscientiously backing up your files if this happens, as the corruption will simply be replicated with every new copy. While this can happen to any type of digital file, audio and video files may be particularly susceptible to such problems (and harder to recover) because they are large and technically complex. Often you won't know something has gone wrong until you try to open a file.

A recommended solution to this problem is to use software to create checksums - a measurement of data 'fixity' - from a very early stage in the creation of data files (ideally, beginning with the original interview file on your recording device and with every new copy of the data). Then, whenever you make a new copy, you can test that the checksum remains unchanged.

Migration

The vendor you work with might go out of business, or your choice of open-source software might need to be changed. It is always advisable, when either buying or installing software to find out first if your data can be exported in a format that could be used in another system.

Digital Management for Preservation

Archiving Oral History: Manual of Best Practices (OHA)