THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Collection Care blog

5 posts from September 2013

30 September 2013

Here’s looking at you kid: Under the microscope with leather

We recently posted about parchment and how our conservators treat parchment collection items, but what is the difference between leather and parchment?

Parchment and leather are both made from animal pelts, but parchment does not undergo tanning as leather does. The process of tanning traditionally used tannin which is an acidic chemical compound making material less prone to decomposition - including molting and holding odours. Good leather is waterproof and more durable than parchment. These properties have led to leather being used for clothing, footwear, upholstery, armour, and as a writing material. Book bindings are sometimes covered with leather and display a grain pattern where follicles are observed. Follicles are mammalian skin organs that produce hair, and variations in their distribution and frequency can help researchers determine the species of animal used. Variations in texture, colour, and thickness of leather also offer clues.

Due to the variety of material in our collections, we have samples of different animal leathers in our conservation studios. The most commonly used varieties of covering material for bindings in the British Isles were calfskin, sheepskin and goatskin. Here we go under the microscope to take a look at the follicle distribution of goat, kid, calf and sheep leather.

Calf

The most frequently used tanned skin for binding was calfskin. It is often found plain but sometimes a pattern effect is achieved by staining with paint or acid. Cow hair is fairly evenly distributed and serves to insulate the animal’s body.

Calf leather at 100x

CC by Figure 1: Calf leather at 100x magnification

Goat

Microscopy of goat leather shows two rows of follicles of different sizes indicative of a two-coated fleece. The larger follicle is known as the primary follicle and produces the goat’s guard hair which is present all year round. The smaller follicles are called secondary follicles and produce an undercoat which grows more during the colder winter months. The undercoat is made up of soft, downy hair and is the hair used for fine materials such as cashmere when taken from Cashmere goats.

Goat leather at 100x

CC by Figure 2: Goat leather at 100x magnification. Two rows of follicles are observed; the smaller secondary follicles produce down while the larger primary follicles produce guard hair

Kid

Young goats show a similar skin structure to the adult goat, but follicles are not as apparent in kid hides. Goat and kid leather was used for the best quality work being known for its well-grained, shiny and hard-wearing surface.

Kid leather at 100x

CC by Figure 3: Kid leather at 100x magnification

Sheep

Sheepskin has narrow follicles which produce crimped wool fibres. Crimped fibres distinguish wool from the straighter fibres found in hair or fur. It is this crimped profile which makes sheep’s wool a great insulator by trapping air and becoming bulky. Wool is also elastic and grows in clumps known as “staples” as observed below. Fine wool such as Merino has more crimps per inch than other wools.

Sheep leather at 100x

CC by Figure 4: Sheep leather at 100x magnification. Clusters of follicles called staples are observed

Comparison of animal leather

CC by Figure 5: A comparison of parchment follicle patterns from kid, goat, sheep and calf at 200x magnification

Bookbinding leather

Tanned leather is difficult to shape into a flat and smooth surface free from wrinkles. It therefore quickly fell out of favour as a writing surface, but grew in popularity as a covering material for bookbinding. Leather is sometimes decorated with a worked design such as that seen on the St Cuthbert Gospel, which has a late 7th century binding. The leather cover was stained in crimson on the outer surface and moulded over a designed board while still damp. Tooling and the addition of other pigments enhanced the decoration.

Leather binding               Leather binding

CC by Figure 6: Left: Leather as a covering material on the front of the St Cuthbert Gospel. Right: 50x magnification microscopy image of the leather on the back of the St Cuthbert Gospel; can you guess which animal this leather comes from?

Red rot

Some animal breeders use the density of hair follicles in their promotional material as a means of promoting leather quality, but follicle density is related to surface area and is not necessarily indicative of an animal’s health. It is not surprising that the health of the animal is reflected in the quality of the leather produced. Agricultural improvements in the late 18th century led to larger animals with poorer quality skins. This combined with mechanised production methods and the use of condensed vegetable tannins contributed to leather which later suffered from red rot.

In the red rot process hydrogen peroxide is formed from the conversion of sulphur dioxide to sulphuric acid. Acid deterioration causes fine cracking and the formation of a red/brown powdery surface. The structural integrity is compromised and loss occurs. The powder can also transfer to reader’s hands and adjacent volumes.

Red rot Red rot
Red rot

CC by Figure 7: Examples of red rot on leather bindings. Red rot can cause boards to completely delaminate

Leather binding, although tougher than parchment, still has many of the same preservation needs and should be kept free from fluctuations in relative humidity, light exposure, temperature fluctuations, dust build up and pest attack.

Christina Duffy (@DuffyChristina)

Imaging Scientist

23 September 2013

A Guide to British Library Book Stamps

Did you know that ownership stamps are applied to items accepted into our collections?

Ownership marking is the application of the official British Library ownership stamp. The ownership stamp is used for security purposes and in tracing the provenance of the collections. Examination of the book itself is quite often the best place to start when trying to establish the history of an antiquarian book, and library stamps (acquisition stamps and book stamps) might indicate how and when it was acquired. Ownership of an item was routinely shown by the British Museum, and subsequently the British Library, by using inked stamps. These stamps give a fairly precise date of receipt for the volume leading to entries in acquisitions registers or invoices. A series of stamps was compiled by René Payne in 2007 from which many of the examples in this post have been taken.

Our Library stamps are generally divided into four types according to when they were in use ranging from 1753 up to the present day. 

TYPE 1: 1753–1836

From 1753 to around 1836 stamps containing the words MVSEVM BRITANNICVM or MUSEUM BRITANNICUM were in use. The shape and arrangement of the stamp varied over the years and sometimes contained the initials of the previous owner.

Type 1  Type 1 on IB 49437

 CC by Figure 1: Left: A library stamp specially cut to include the initials of the previous owner, Revd C.M. Cacherode. Right: Stamps were often placed near areas of interest such as this inscription on IB 49437

TYPE 2: 1837–1929

Type 2 stamps covered the period 1837-1929 and were oval in shape. They contained the royal arms flanked by a lion and unicorn beside the words BRITISH MUSEUM. Between 1837 and 1849 stamps were annotated with a pencil to indicate the exact date of entry in the acquisitions records. They occur in the shape of a diamond giving the date of acquisition and a reference line in the Acquisitions Register. In the example shown below from the Help for Researchers webpage, moving clockwise from the left the numbers represent  the month of acquisition (10 = October), the year of acquisition (44 = 1844), the day of acquisition (18 = 18th), and the entry line in the Acquisitions Register for that day (line 144).

Type 2 annotated stampType 2 oval stamp      

CC by Figure 2: Left: Annotated library stamp in volume at shelfmark 1462.h.4 [Vitterhets Arbeten by G.F. Creutz and G.F. Gyllenborg (1812)]. Right: Oval stamp issued on 1 September 1905

Type 2 Patent Office stamp  Type 2 British Museum stamp

CC by Figure 3:  Left: As seen in the journal The Lancet on 20 February 1915. Right: British Museum stamp dating 25 October 1920 showing a variation of the crown in an oval

Type 2 oval stamp  Type 2 oval stamp

CC by Figure 4: Oval stamps containing the royal arms flanked by a lion and unicorn with the words BRITISH MUSEUM; used 1837-1929. An abbreviated date of acquisition may be added, either with another inked stamp or in pencil. Note the variation in design. After 1929, the stamp was changed to Figure 5 (left)

TYPE 3: 1929–1973

Type 3 stamps were used from 1929 to 1973. They consist of round stamps containing the royal arms but no lion or unicorn, and the words BRITISH MUSEUM. Earlier stamps included an abbreviated date of acquisition e.g. in Figure 5 (left) the date is 15 February 1944.

Type 3 round stamp  Type 3 round stamp 

CC by Figure 5: Left: Round British Museum stamp with abbreviated date of 15 February 1944. Right: British Museum hand stamp used in small books and delicate or rare items

Type 3 British Museum stamp on Add MS 36928  Type 3 British Museum stamp on Cotton Tiberius B8
CC by Figure 6: Left: British Museum stamp below an illumination on f.46v of Add MS 36928. Right: British Museum stamp below writing on Cotton Tiberius B8

TYPE 4: 1973–present day

Type 4 stamps reflect the time when items were stamped with the words BRITISH LIBRARY rather than BRITISH MUSEUM - a key turning point in the History of the British Library. The British Library Act was passed by Parliament in 1972 which brought the Library into operation from 1 July 1973.

Type 4 India Office stamp   Type 4 Document Supply Centre stamp

CC by Figure 7: Left: India Office stamp dated 3 August 1955. Right: Document Supply Centre's official publication stamp dated 18 June 1980. It has been suggested that it differs from the round stamp because of where the item was received i.e. received in Yorkshire rather than London

Type 4 stamp

 CC by Figure 8: The words BRITISH MUSEUM were replaced with BRITISH LIBRARY, but retained a similar style to earlier stamps

These round stamps have been applied to early printed books acquired since 1973.

Type 4 stamps
CC by Figure 9: Left: Hand stamp for a delicate or rare item. Centre: Crown hand stamp for Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections material. Right: Hand stamp for antiquarian material

 

Type 4 stamps

CC by Figure 10: Left: hand stamp for a delicate or rare item. Centre: Hand stamp for manuscripts. Right: India Office hand stamp for small 'claim material' items. Treated as BL collection

The stamp in Figure 11 shows the initials OIOC (Oriental and India Office Collections) which now reside within the Library's Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections.

Type 4 stamps
CC by Figure 11: Left: Oval hand stamp for manuscripts with the words BRITISH LIBRARY. Centre: India Office hand stamp for non-small 'claim material' items. These items were treated as part of the British Library collection. Right: Library stamp from previous Oriental and India Office Collections. Use of this stamp ceased on 1 September 2005

Significance of the ink colour

Different colour ink was used for library stamps depending on the purpose. All inks have been tested to ensure they comply with conservation standards.

  • Blue ink represents legal copyright deposit material of British, Irish or colonial origin including material from the Old Royal Library 
  • Red ink typically indicates a purchased item, but a square red stamp may indicate that a book was donated as part of the Edwards Bequest 
  • Black ink was used on a wide range of early acquisitions, including books from the library of Sir Hans Sloane; on purchases made in 1781–1798 and 1804-1813; and on copyright deposit materials received 1813–1816. It was re-introduced for much of the 20th century to indicate materials acquired through international exchange. Black ink was discontinued on 1 September 2005
  • Green ink represents a donation made since 1944, or an exchange item
  • Yellow/orange ink represents donations made between 1768–1944 
  • Brown ink represents a donation made before 1768

While library stamps are a useful aid in determining the history of a collection item, it has been noted that many items were stamped much later than their acquisition date and mistakes are known to have occurred. Library stamps should provide just one piece of a greater body of evidence for determining both the circumstance and date of acquisition. Clues may also be found on bindings, bookplates or inscriptions. 

Ownership marking is carried out at St Pancras and Boston Spa in secure areas with restricted access. Our colleagues in the Operations Division are responsible for stamping any new material that comes into the library. A new system is being introduced very soon which we will cover in a future post. Thanks to Graeme Bentley, Goods Inward/Finishing Team Manager, for input on this topic.

Christina Duffy (@DuffyChristina)

Imaging Scientist

10 September 2013

Is not parchment made of sheepskins? Ay, my lord, and of calfskins too...

Hamlet (Act V, Scene I), William Shakespeare

Parchment and vellum

Parchment is an animal pelt, most often sheep, calf, or goatskin, which has been unhaired by liming or enzymatic action and then stretched on a frame while wet. This stretching and drying under tension causes the collagen fibres in the dermal layer to be realigned resulting in a thin, opaque membrane. Most commonly used as a writing substrate, parchment is also used as a covering for bookbindings and to make drumheads, among other things.

Parchment_maker

Public_DomainParchment maker at work.
Woodblock print by Jost Amman, from Das Ständebuch (1568).

Named for the ancient city of Pergamum, where the manufacturing technique is believed to have been developed around the 2nd century BCE, parchment was the principal substrate for writing in Europe throughout the Middle Ages until it was gradually superseded by paper, which could be manufactured more cheaply and in greater quantity. Parchment has persisted, however, remaining popular for official documents and presentation copies. Indeed, you might be surprised to learn that UK Acts of Parliament are still printed on parchment today and it was even used for the marriage certificate of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!

What of vellum?

Though the terms parchment and vellum are often used interchangeably, strictly speaking vellum is parchment made from calfskin (from the Old French vélin, meaning calf). Vellum can also be used to describe parchment of superior fineness or quality.

Lindisfarne   Magnacarta

CC_bySome of the most important Treasures of the British Library, including the Lindisfarne Gospels (left) and the Magna Carta (right) are written on parchment and vellum.

The Lyte Pedigree

The Lyte Pedigree, (BL Additional MS 48343) c.1605, is a manuscript copy of the royal genealogy in iron gall ink on parchment. It is the work of the genealogist Thomas Lyte, who also wrote Britianes Monarchie, a manuscript tracing the ancestry of King James I (BL Add. MS 59741). The Pedigree is one of two copies of the royal genealogy prepared by Lyte for James I. The other, an illuminated copy on paper presented to the King in 1610, is no longer extant.

Top_recto

CC_by Add. MS 48343. Detail depicting James I enthroned beneath a canopy, with orb and sceptre, and wearing crown and garter, followed by a long dedication.

Originally a rectangle comprising nine parchment skins, the genealogy is now a cruciform shape comprising five skins, with the four corner skins having been lost. The genealogy is over two metres wide and almost two meters high.

Conservation treatment

The Lyte Pedigree first came to the Centre for Conservation in spring 2012 in order to be prepared for loan to the British Museum for the exhibition, Shakespeare: Staging the World, which opened in July 2012.

For storage the two side panels had been folded in and the document had been rolled. This, combined with heavy parchment repairs over the joints on the verso, had resulted in extensive creasing and cockling and meant that the genealogy would not lie flat, as it was intended to be displayed in the exhibition.

Before_2   Before_1

CC_by The genealogy when it first arrived in the Centre for Conservation. Notice the extensive cockling, sharp creases and how it will not lie flat without being weighted.

The genealogy was opened in the studio and the heavy joining strips on the verso were removed, as were some old silk gauze repairs on the recto. A number of temporary repairs were carried out using Japanese paper and wheatstarch paste and the genealogy was left open to relax under light weight for several weeks. It was recommended that a more appropriate storage solution be found once the genealogy returned from the exhibition.

During_1   During_2

CC_by One of the heavy parchment strips over the joints on the verso, already beginning to detach (left) and the genealogy following their removal (right).

Since the genealogy is comprised of five individual animal skins, each has unique tensions and stresses. The use of newer parchment for repairs had exacerbated the tension resulting in extensive cockling and creasing. This, combined with the rolled storage, meant that the genealogy was difficult to handle and vulnerable to damage during consultation.

Following consultation with the curators, it was agreed that upon return from the exhibition, the five skins would be separated and individually mounted. Not only would this be more conducive to the long term preservation of the genealogy, it would also allow for easier handling and facilitate consultation. It was proposed that the skins be flush-mounted, which would enable the genealogy to be exhibited as a whole by placing each skin adjacent to the next in its original position.

Parchment is a very hygroscopic material as it can easily absorb moisture from the air and is very vulnerable to rapid changes in humidity. Aged parchment is particularly vulnerable due to the breakdown of the collagen fibres over time. Too much moisture can result in gelatinisation and complete loss of structural integrity. As a result any conservation treatment on parchment must minimise the use of water. Humidification is carried out rarely and always in a minimal, slow, and controlled manner.

Once the five skins had been separated from each other they were first allowed to acclimatise to the atmosphere in the studio under a light weight for a number of weeks.

After careful deliberation, it was decided that in this case, due to the severity of the cockling and creasing, gentle humidification would be necessary. A combination of techniques was used. First, two of the most cockled skins were humidified in a cedarwood chamber, raising the humidity to 70% RH for several hours. The cedarwood chamber was lined with damp capillary matting, followed by a layer of Gore-Tex, which allows water vapour (but not liquid water) to pass through it. The document was then placed in the chamber on a sheet of Bondina, a humidity meter is placed inside, and a Perspex sheet placed on top, sealing the chamber. Second, local humidification using a cold ultrasonic mist was applied to sharp creases in the two side panels where they had been folded in for rolling. After humidification the parchment was dried under tension using magnets.

Cedarwood_box_2   Cedarwood_box_1

CC_by Humidification of parchment using a cedarwood chamber.

During_3   After_2

CC_by Creased areas before (left) and after treatment (right) with ultrasonic mist humidification and drying using magnets.

As the parchment gradually relaxed and the cockling reduced, some of the remaining old parchment repairs began to lift and cause greater tension. It was decided that they should be removed and new repairs were made using remoistenable Japanese paper. Losses were built up using layers of paper, toned to blend with the parchment. Remoistenable tissue has been pre-coated with a thin layer of adhesive (in this case Isinglass) which can then be reactivated using a minimal amount of moisture. It is used for repairs when it is necessary to keep moisture to a minimum, such as in parchment conservation and when repairing documents with iron gall ink or fugitive media.

During_4   After_1

CC_by Lifting old parchment repairs (left, showing verso) were replaced with new repairs using remoistenable Japanese paper (right, showing recto).

Following conservation, the individual parchment skins were mounted on corrugated board using tabs of Japanese paper. Narrow tabs (10mm) were spaced at 30mm intervals to ensure even tension across the skin. The weight of the paper was carefully chosen to be weaker than the parchment so that in the event the parchment were to move, the paper tabs (and not the parchment) would tear.

During_5   During_6

CC_by Tabs of Japanese paper were adhered to the verso, overlapping the edge by 2-3mm, using dry wheatstarch paste (left). These were wrapped around archival corrugated board (cut to the size of the parchment) and pasted on the verso of the board (right).

Finally, each mounted skin was placed in a Plastazote recess to compensate for the natural undulations in the parchment and prevent abrasion of the surface, then housed in a phase box. Plastazote is a chemically inert polyethylene foam commonly used for conservation enclosures.

  After_top  
After_left After_centre After_right
  After_bottom  

CC_by The Lyte Pedigree after conservation treatment and rehousing, shown in its original cruciform arrangement.

Further reading:

Clarkson, C. (1992) Rediscovering Parchment: The Nature of the Beast. In: The Paper Conservator, Vol. 16 (1), pp. 5-26.

Reed, R. (1972) Ancient Skins, Parchments and Leathers. London: Seminar Press.

Mariluz Beltran de Guevara
Conservation Team Leader / Specialist in the conservation of vellum and parchment.

09 September 2013

A-a-a-chooo! Collection Care’s Dust Busters

Dust is one of the most ubiquitous substances in the workplace, and nearly impossible to eradicate entirely. It can cause a range of problems to objects and collections, depending on its nature. The Preventive Conservation team in Collection Care work across all areas of the library putting measures in place to protect the collections from harm, to inhibit the progress of existing damage/deterioration, and to prevent new damage from occurring. The team are continually working to monitor and establish the causes of high and low dust levels to protect our collections.

Dust build-up

CC by Figure 1: High shelf surfaces can experience severe dust build-up if not regularly cleaned

What is dust?

Dust is a fine dry powder made up of tiny particles of earth or waste matter. It comes from a variety of sources including textile fibres, flakes of shed human skin and hair, pollution particulates, dead insect body parts, insect excrement, building materials (such as fragments of plaster, concrete and paint), soil carried on shoes, and pollen. If a collection item is sufficiently deteriorated then it can generate its own dust as it crumbles away. Lighter particles are capable of being airborne while heavier particles tend to remain in low-lying areas where they are first deposited. Airborne dust is more likely to be a problem in collections as it has a greater likelihood of being deposited on objects and shelves above floor level. It may also be readily spread by air conditioning systems.

Dust is a product of low use and lack of regular housekeepin

CC by Figure 2: Dust can gather on top of books and between bindings if neglected. Problems relating to dust go beyond aesthetics

Dust build up is affected by cleaning and housekeeping practises, room layouts and shelving location, human traffic patterns, air circulation, types of shelving and the type and condition of the books. Areas with a lot of human activity such as busy working areas or queues for reading rooms or photocopiers have been found to contain the most dust.

Problems caused by dust

The Preventive Conservation team closely monitors the type of dust as this may affect damage. Dust particles can act as an abrasive causing surface damage when objects are moved or subjected to mechanical cleaning. Building work may produce corrosive dust that needs to be cleaned quickly. Some types of dust particles may be alkaline or acidic promoting hydrolytic damage, especially if the surface is already damaged by abrasion. Dust which contains small amounts of plant pollen can worsen hay fever for anyone working or visiting at the library. Mould spores and pests which can attack collection items feed on dust particles. The house dust mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus) who feeds on organic detritus material is ubiquitous in places that humans occupy.

House dust mite

CC zero Figure 3: The house dust mite, Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, feeds on particles already partially decomposed by fungi

Dust mites are arachnids, not insects, and they cannot control their body temperature. This means that the length of their life cycle varies with the temperature of their habitat. A female adult with a life cycle of about 4-6 weeks can produce 40-80 eggs. They produce about 2,000 fecal particles and even more partially digested enzyme-covered dust particles; yikes! Dust can also act as a respiratory irritant. Many people suffering with asthma have dust mite allergies which make dust control a health and safety issue.

Dust monitoring

Dust monitoring is part of the work carried out by the Preventative Conservation team. Dust can be monitored by visual inspection, long-term study, dust analysis (microscopy, spectroscopy), and instrumental methods such as laser light scattering. For most situations, the more sophisticated analytical methods are unnecessary – a simple visual inspection is generally adequate.

Cleaning helps alleviate the potential for dust to cause damage to collections. Methods of cleaning must be chosen to be appropriate both to the object and the type of dust.

Dust layer on books   Dust layer on shelf
CC by Figure 4: If you can write your name on surfaces, it’s probably time for a clean!

The effects of dust can be reduced by moving items in high risk areas, changing shelving types, or boxing items. Static shelving (especially close to working areas) is much dustier than mobile shelving which may encourage some fall-out of dust from canopies preventing build-up. It is difficult to protect collections entirely from dust, especially as high value items are in busy areas due to high reader demand. Boxing of material is only practical for single items or small collection items with special needs.

Balancing benefits and risks

Any changes to minimise dust should not increase risks to the collections from other factors. Care must be taken that the additional handling of the books whilst cleaning, and the danger of dust particles acting as an abrasive during mechanical removal, does not cause more damage than it prevents. For example rearranging books or shelving should not result in collections becoming more vulnerable to theft, or making retrieval more difficult or inconvenient. Similarly, altering air flow patterns should not raise relative humidity and/or temperatures which may encourage mould and pests.

Contact the Preservation Advisory Centre for advice on dust monitoring and dust surveys. Make sure you read our free to download booklet on cleaning books and documents for the best way to approach a cleaning plan.

More reading: Dust mites by Matthew J Colloff, CSIRO Entomology publishing. Informazione Medica Pazienti: Advice for patients allergic to dust mites.

Christina Duffy (@DuffyChristina)

03 September 2013

The Twelve Principles of Digital Preservation (and a cartridge in a repository…)

Did you know that our digital library store already holds over 11,500,000 items? That’s over 280 terabytes of collection content, and more is added every day!

Our blog has so far focussed on how Collection Care colleagues work to preserve the Library’s physical collections, but the Library also works to preserve our digital content making collections accessible for future users. Digital content ranges from digital audio/video recordings, to personal digital archives, eJournals and archived websites. The preservation of digital content is spearheaded by the Digital Preservation Unit in Collection Care. Head of Digital Preservation Maureen Pennock introduces the role of the team and outlines the Twelve Principles of Digital Preservation:

The Digital Preservation Unit in Collection Care provides guidance, advice and support for operational colleagues across the Library to ensure our digital collections are preserved efficiently and effectively. We are a small team with a big mission – our digital collections are growing day by day, and preservation actions must be implemented right throughout the lifecycle, from creation onwards, if we are to preserve authentic and understandable content.

Digital storage

CC by Figure 1: The diversity of digital material and frequent changes in computer technology present ongoing challenges for long term preservation and access

Following on from the launch of the Library’s Digital Preservation Strategy earlier in the year, which defined our four strategic priorities for 2013 – 2016, we are pleased to release our Twelve Principles of Digital Preservation. These principles define at a very high level how we as a Library will approach the preservation of our digital collections:

1. We integrate curatorial assessments of our digital collection content into preservation decisions, so that technical activities support curatorial requirements for the collections

2. We preserve metadata about our digital collections, so that we may understand and preserve the collections over time

3. We preserve the provenance of our digital collection content, so that we understand and can demonstrate its authenticity over time

4. We record any modifications to digital collection content (e.g. preservation action, normalisation) during the lifecycle, so that we can understand and demonstrate its integrity over time

5. We consistently apply and document our application of metadata standards, so that future generations can understand our collections

6. We maintain file-level integrity of our digital collections, so that we can protect against loss and damage

7. We preserve original files in our long term repository, alongside any other required representations of the content, so that we maintain the original artefacts acquired or deposited into our care as a ground truth representation of the content for future, currently unknown, preservation and access scenarios

8. We maintain Preservation Master copies of collection content in our long term repository, so that the format-based risks of preservation over time are minimised

9. We maintain and implement preservation plans for our digital collections, so that preservation actions are reliable and based on a holistic understanding of the collections and their context

10. We implement comprehensive end-to-end workflows, so that we may consistently manage and preserve our digital collections across the entire lifecycle

11. We regularly monitor our digital collection content for emergent preservation risks, so that we may mitigate against them

12. We integrate quality assurance checks into the lifecycle where appropriate, so that the authenticity and integrity of the content is maintained

These Principles are the first output of a workstream dedicated to defining the Library’s digital preservation standards. More work is already underway to define the policies that will be associated with each principle and, in turn, the resulting requirements for meeting that policy. This workstream is part of a larger programme of work being undertaken in digital preservation to ensure our strategic priorities are met. Other activities include:

• a collection profiling exercise to provide top level descriptions and preservation direction for different types of digital collections (eg e-theses, web archives, ebooks, AV material etc)

• a risk and preservation condition assessment exercise for content temporarily stored outside of our long term digital repository

• a file format assessment exercise to define preferred preservation formats for different types of content

• a tool assessment exercise to evaluate the performance of different tools on library content so that evidence-based recommendations can be made on which tools to use in which context

• a training programme to ensure colleagues across the library are aware of digital preservation responsibilities, requirements, and recommendations relevant whilst content is in their care

The Zeutschel Scanner

CC by Figure 2: Digitisation projects are increasing in frequency each year highlighting the need for preservation measures.

The Principles are designed to help ensure that preservation is considered in appropriate projects and initiatives regardless of whether or not the digital preservation unit is actively involved. Compliance checks will be initiated as part of a Collection care monitoring service. In coming months we will be working closely with other colleagues across the Library in defining appropriate and realistic policies, followed by requirements.

We’ll post our progress to the blog in due course. Watch this space..!

Maureen Pennock