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Critique of Architectures for Long-Term Digital Preservation

By Dr. Henry M. Gladney


Evolving technology and fading human memory threaten the long-term intelligibility of many kinds of documents. Furthermore, some records are susceptible to improper alterations that make them untrustworthy. Trusted Digital Repositories (TDRs) and Trustworthy Digital Objects (TDOs) seem to be the only broadly applicable digital preservation methodologies proposed. We argue that the TDR approach has shortfalls as a method for long-term digital preservation of sensitive information. Comparison of TDR and TDO methodologies suggests differentiating near-term preservation measures from what is needed for the long term. TDO methodology addresses these needs, providing for making digital documents durably intelligible. It uses EDP standards for a few file formats and XML structures for text documents. For other information formats, intelligibility is assured by using a virtual computer. To protect sensitive information—content whose inappropriate alteration might mislead its readers, the integrity and authenticity of each TDO is made testable by embedded public-key cryptographic message digests and signatures. Key authenticity is protected recursively in a social hierarchy. The proper focus for long-term preservation technology is signed packages that each combine a record collection with its metadata and that also bind context—Trustworthy Digital Objects.

Topics: BH Technological obsolescence, BC Authenticity and Integrity, BG Storage
Year: 2009
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