Skip to main content

Digital Preservation at Yale University Library: Home

a guide to Digital Preservation resources at Yale University Library and beyond

Introduction

Welcome! This guide contains information about the Digital Preservation unit at Yale University Library.


Digital Preservation is part of the work of the the Preservation Department, which is responsible for supporting the Library's mission by ensuring continued access to collections through proactive stewardship, specialized expertise, and collaboration with partners at Yale and other institutions.

What is Digital Preservation?

 

Digital Preservation work includes all of the processes and activities required to maintain access to digital information for as long as it is needed.

The Complexity of Digital Information
Digital information relies on the combination of data, software and hardware to produce a complete information object in a form that a user can access. This combination means that digital information is very fragile because in many cases this information relies on specific and interdependent layers of hardware, operating systems, and software applications.

The interrelated layers of information created and stored digitally also contribute to a high degree of variability in how digital content might be manifested. For example, a particular digital object may be accessible within a range of computing environments, but different software combined with the same data can produce a different final result in how this information is experienced by the user.

Over time, storage media, software and hardware become unusable due to a range of factors, including physical degradation, mechanical failures, and technological obsolescence, posing significant risk to the data stored in these systems long-term. As a result, long-term preservation of digital information demands continual intervention and active management to protect and provide access to the specificity of digital content across the necessarily rapid replacement cycles of hardware and software.

Long-term Preservation and Access
Ensuring access to digital information long-term may involve a range of interrelated or independent strategies. What all of these strategies have in common is that ongoing management activities at many different levels, from bit-level to community-level, are integral to the complete preservation of content for accurate rendering in the future.

Critical activities within the management of digital content include:

  • maintaining redundant copies of digital content across a range of sound storage media types to guard against catastrophic loss
  • collecting preservation data about a wide range of formats, for supporting the specific characteristics associated with particular software and formats
  • monitoring technological change to identify and preempt risk whenever possible
  • migrating content from obsolete formats to modern formats that are better-supported by contemporary software and standards
  • maintaining existing software for emulating old computing systems, and producing new emulation software
  • preserving original hardware and software, for research and practical purposes including direct access to original content, and verification of emulated content
  • ongoing research and advocacy in areas of privacy, copyright, licensing agreements, and intellectual property rights questions across many domains within digital culture
  • building strong communities to share resources and knowledge between institutions, and across different cultural sectors and areas of research, to foster cooperative development for the benefit of all

The Digital Preservation Unit of Yale University Library

Contact Us:
digitalpreservation@yale.edu



Digital Preservation Manager
Euan Cochrane

Digital Preservation Librarian
David Cirella

Digital Preservation Librarian
Grete Graf

Digital Conservator/CLIR Software Curation Fellow
Katherine Thornton

Access Methods for Vintage Data

 

PCI to USB 3.0 adapter

 

PCI Adapter

Peripheral Component Interconnect slots are an example of the rapid development in computing capabilities over the past 20 years.  One approach to interacting with data in older computer systems that have legacy connections such as the PCIs that were ubiquitous in early desktop computers involves using devices such as this USB 3.0 Adapter Card, which allows for converting PCI slots to high-speed USB 3.0 ports.

Related Links within Yale University Library

Check out these Guides for Related Library services within Yale University Library.

The Born Digital @ Yale Guide, created and maintained by the Yale Born Digital Archives Working Group, contains news and resources pertaining to born-digital archival collections in Yale’s libraries and museums.

Within the Born Digital @ Yale guide, pages pertaining to the Digital Accessioning Service provide information about the capture of born-digital archival content from special collections across Yale libraries and museums.

The Digital Accessioning Service began in the spring of 2016, and works on transferring content from physical media to stable long-term storage, such as within the digital preservation system.  

The di Bonaventura Family Digital Archaeology and Preservation Lab supports the technological needs of digital material from general and special collections across Yale University Libraries and Museums.

Lab equipment includes machines for accessioning digital content, and vintage machines to support work pertaining to a range of approaches to accessing outdated digital content: including migration, emulation, and last-resort retrieval.