About the Digital Preservation Program

NARA is committed to preserving and maintaining access to the content of all of the born-digital records and digital surrogates in its holdings. The digital preservation program’s goal is to enable the continued, ongoing usability of these records, retaining the qualities of authenticity, accuracy, and functionality deemed to be essential and feasible for the purposes the digital materials were created.


Guiding Assumptions for Digital Preservation at NARA:

  • Electronic record files should conform to the NARA Transfer and Metadata Guidance whenever possible.
  • All files must have recorded fixities to support auditing.
  • Actions taken on files must be recorded and tracked.
  • Separate public use copies of files are created.
  • At this time, ongoing preservation format transformations are not performed but are planned. Format transformations DO happen when we receive formats that we cannot process/preserve.
  • Regular audits must be performed.


Overview of Digital Preservation Activities at NARA:

  • File Format Transfer Guidance for agencies ensure that records are transferred to NARA as sustainable formats.
  • NARA archivists process and ingest files from agency media (drives, optical media) and network transfers of files directly from agencies, which includes:
    • Assuring, if possible, that the formats align with our Transfer Guidance;
    • Capturing descriptive, structural, and preservation metadata;
    • Transforming file formats where appropriate and/or possible;
    • Checking for fixities and assigning fixities if none came with the records;
    • Running file format validation checks; and
    • Creating manifests and logs of all ingest actions.
  • Archivists perform audits of media in the collection, including:
    • Performing an annual sample of media; and
    • Undertaking a 10-year migration of media.
  • Staff undertake ongoing monitoring of the systems and infrastructure, including:
    • Monitoring of system and storage status; and
    • Monitoring the holdings files preserved using those systems.
  • Initiatives are in place for ongoing improvement of the digital preservation ingest and processing infrastructure with the ERA 2.0 system.
  • IT Operations performs regular emergency system backup restoration tests.
  • A digital preservation training initiative for NARA staff launched in 2022.
  • The Digital Preservation Unit manages a Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Library that includes SOPs from across the agency related to digital preservation and file management.



Leslie Johnston, Director of Digital Preservation