The National Archives of the Netherlands have been looking at approaches to preservation of databases for some time, going back at least as far as the Digital Preservation Testbed project (2000-2003).
More recently – in May 2010 – we prepared a case study on database preservation as part of the PLANETS project. Prompted by recent discussions of the topic and participation in the recent Preservation of Complex Objects Symposium in London, we decided to carry out a review of that case study to update it with our most recent thinking and to consider how best to make further progress.
Our updated version of the review is attached to this post – it’s a copy of the PLANETS case study with a commentary inserted and a couple of new sections.
Our conclusion is that while we have a reasonable range of tools and techniques available, we still don’t have a good enough understanding of how the use of databases in government relates to archival records. (It’s those archival records that will be transferred to the archive for long term preservation).
And if we don’t have a clear picture of how the databases relate to the business processes and records management in the ministries, then we can’t decide which preservation approach is the best one. Neither can we decide whether we need to look after database contents, or the reports created by databases, or also the applications used to access the databases.
So our next step in this work is to go and talk to our contacts in the ministries of the Dutch government and between us come up with some answers.
We’d be interested to hear of other experiences in this area – post a comment here or send us a mail.