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Personal Digital Archiving : Glossary

Digital objects deteriorate and require consistent care. Learn how to take care of your born-digital materials through these resources.

Digital Preservation Glossary

Archive: To transfer records from the individual or office of creation to a repository authorized to appraise, preserve, and provide access to those records.

Digital preservation: The maintenance and management of digital objects, including both those that are born digital and were converted to digital format from analog, so that they can be accessed and used by future users.

Backup: A copy of data, stored in a secondary location, which is used to restore data in the primary storage location that is corrupted or lost. Restoring involves copying data from the backup to the primary storage to replace the corrupted or lost files. Backing up is a storage strategy that allows you to recover from data loss.

Born-digital: Information created in electronic format.  A digital object that has never had an analog form. They differ from documents, movies and photographs that may have been scanned or converted to a digital format.

Digitization: The process of transforming analog material into binary electronic (digital) form, especially for storage and use in a computer. Primarily for access and not preservation.

Metadata: Latin term meaning “information about information.” In the digital realm, metadata is data that describes key information about the digital objects (image files, text files, digital audio/video) and, when appropriate, the original objects they represent. There are different kinds of ‘metadata’ including bibliographic or descriptive metadata, technical metadata, administrative metadata and structural metadata.

Migration: 1. The process of copying data from one type of storage material to another to ensure continued access to the information as the data structure becomes obsolete; media migration. - 2. The process of converting a data from an obsolete structure to a new structure to counter software obsolescence.

Copyright: A legal protection intended to give the creator of original work exclusive rights to their work for a designated length of time. It gives the creator the exclusive right to copy, use, adapt, show, and distribute their own work, and the right to determine who else can copy, use, adapt, show, and distribute the work.

Provenance: The origin or source of something.

Format/Technology Obsolescence: Occurs when a piece of software or hardware is no longer in wide use or available at all. This causes it to be difficult or impossible to use any files that depend on this software or hardware.

Media degradation: The breakdown of an analog object that holds digital objects potentially causing the objects on the media to no longer be retrievable.

Digital repository: The organization or department responsible for the intake and maintenance of digital objects.

Dark archive: An archive that does not grant public access and only preserves the information it contains. This can refer to a digital archive or repository as well as brick & mortar archive.

Refreshment Copying a digital object from one media format, such as a CD, to another, such as a hard drive.

The cloud: Cloud computing is a type of computing that relies on sharing computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications.

In cloud computing, the word cloud (also phrased as "the cloud") is used as a metaphor for "the Internet," so the phrase cloud computing means "a type of Internet-based computing," where different services — such as servers, storage and applications —are delivered to an organization's computers and devices through the Internet.

Render: To make a Digital Object perceptible to a user. This is done through use of a software program and is often used when talking about the emulation of a digital object.

XML: A standard to promote sharing information over the Internet by specifying ways to describe the information's semantic structure and to validate that the structure is well formed.

MBOX: A generic term for a family of related file formats used for storing collections of electronic mail messages

CSV: A simple format for representing a rectangular array (matrix) of numeric and textual values

WARC:  (Web ARChive) format specifies a method for combining multiple digital resources into an aggregate archival file together with related information. 

Subject Guide

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Allison Mills
Special Collections, Canaday Library, Bryn Mawr College