Philadelphia Stewardship Program Track 5: Digitization and Digital Preservation Policies

Every collecting institution struggles with pressure to be visible on the web, to make its collections accessible to wider audiences, and to effectively maintain intellectual control over collections through catalogs and other collections management tools. Reformatting collections through digitization also aids in their long-term preservation, reducing handling by staff and users.  Institutions large and small face a myriad of complex questions that must eventually be answered when they undertake digitization projects. By investing in advance planning, institutions can work to streamline the process of digitization, potentially avoiding costly errors.

Through Track V of the Philadelphia Stewardship Program, the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) will assist museums, libraries, archives, and other collecting institutions with the task of digital preservation planning. CCAHA will work with participating organizations to develop a written digital preservation policy and assist with program development.  The digital preservation policy provides a basic framework to guide all decision making regarding the digitization of the collections and subsequent use, management, and preservation of the resulting files. The policy identifies the scope of content to be preserved, outlines roles and responsibilities, and defines standards. The development and adoption of a digital preservation policy is important for setting priorities, managing expectations, and addressing potential challenges and issues.

The process of developing a written digital preservation policy ensures that the institution’s staff receive time to grapple with fundamental questions regarding digitization, and that concepts of preservation are incorporated into the entirety of the process. The policy explicitly states the organization’s commitment to digital preservation and establishes objectives for a broad digitization program. It identifies the scope of content to be preserved and outlines roles and responsibilities of staff members. The digital preservation policy sets standards for digitization and the creation of metadata, identifies strategies of making the digitized material available to user communities, and identifies strategies by which the resulting files themselves will be preserved.

When a final draft of the digital preservation policy is completed, the organization will present it to their Board of Directors or an appropriate committee for review and approval.  

Once the larger questions are addressed in the digital preservation policy, the institution is better prepared for the long-term process of developing and implementing a digital preservation plan. Advance strategic planning for digitization ensures that the work can move forward in a timely manner, with staff responsibilities assigned and achievable benchmarks identified. Some institutions choose to purchase their own equipment and digitize on-site, while others outsource the job. Fragile materials demand special consideration. When all these issues are thoughtfully considered by the primary stakeholders, it tremendously increases the likelihood of long-term success in digitization and digital preservation. After the policy has been approved, CCAHA will be available for consultation regarding the development of a digitization plan with benchmarks and goals. The scope of this collaborative involvement will be mutually determined by CCAHA and the organization.

Participants in Track 5 of CCAHA’s Philadelphia Stewardship Program are eligible to receive a free 1-2 hour consultation with CCAHA’s Director of Development specifically about development, resource allocation, and fundraising to implement preservation strategies.

Criteria for Participation

To be considered for participation in Track 5 of CCAHA's Philadelphia Stewardship Program, an organization must be located within the counties of Bucks, Camden, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, or Philadelphia, and have a historic collection available to the public.  

The program requires a commitment throughout the rest of 2022.  A staff member must be identified who will work with the CCAHA consultant.  Preference will be given to organizations that: 
•    have collections that are unique or of significant historical or artifactual value; and 
•    demonstrate a willingness to develop and maintain a preservation program.

Track 5 of the Philadelphia Stewardship Program is intended for organizations that have completed a preservation needs assessment survey within the last 10 years. Organizations that do not have a preservation needs assessment survey that reflects current conditions should contact CCAHA to discuss participation in Track 1 of the program.

Application Process

Applications for the Philadelphia Stewardship Program are currently closed.

Established in 1977, the mission of the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) is to provide expertise and leadership in the preservation of the world’s cultural heritage.  CCAHA is a non-profit conservation laboratory serving other non-profit cultural, educational, and research institutions, as well as private individuals and organizations. CCAHA specializes in the treatment of works of art and historic artifacts on paper. It also offers on-site consultation services; educational programs and seminars; internships, fellowships, and apprenticeships; and emergency conservation assistance.

The Philadelphia Stewardship Program is funded by the William Penn Foundation which strives to improve the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that foster rich cultural expression, strengthen children’s futures, and deepen connections to nature and community.  In partnership with others, the William Penn Foundations works to advance a vital, just, and caring community.