Preserving digital information has received steadily increasing attention since 1995. However there has been little substantial progress towards resolving the key technical challenges: first, ensuring the future ability to use producer’s information with computers whose design cannot today be known; and second, creating durable evidence so that each future user can prudently decide whether to trust saved information. We outline a solution to these challenges—a solution that we call the Trustworthy Digital Object (TDO) method. TDOs provide reliable packaging for any type of digital object, no matter how distant its eventual recipients are in time, space, and organizational affiliation from the information sources. Each preserved object carries its own provenance audit trail. Information producers can prepare documents for archiving without help or permission from anyone. Archivists can add metadata without communicating with producers. Consumers can test the authenticity of preserved documents without human assistance. Deep analyses and searching peer critiques are important as preludes to implementation and deployment of any proposed digital preservation solution. Early twentieth-century philosophy and pictorial models help clarify dilemmas expressed in Archivaria articles and elsewhere. Our analysis leads us to suggest that the TDO method achieves technical quality against which any method of digital preservation should be judged.
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