The challenges of digital preservation

Assorted digital media, including hard drive, CD-ROM and floppy disks

Digital collection content is at risk from the moment it's created.

Preserving digital material is not simply a technical challenge. It demands an ongoing series of actions and interventions throughout the lifecycle. This ensures continued and reliable access to authentic digital objects for as long as they are of value.

Digital collection content is at risk from the moment it's created. Our proactive strategy responds to these risks to deliver effective and efficient solutions.

Technological obsolescence

As technology changes, it is more difficult to reliably access content made on or for older computing platforms. Technological obsolescence is often regarded as the greatest threat to digital material, but this is just the long term view.

In the shorter term we need to think of everything from media integrity and bit rot to digital rights management and metadata. Other notable differences between analogue and digital content further add to the challenge.

Proactive lifecycle management

Ongoing technological advances and the fragility of digital content require preservation actions to be taken much earlier in the lifecycle than for traditional collections, and at a much greater frequency. A lifecycle management approach is needed to ensure appropriate actions are taken in good time.

Integrity and validation

It's easier to make unnoticed changes to digital content than to traditional objects. These changes may affect the authenticity and integrity of the content. Malicious change must be prevented and appropriate change managed.

Fragility of storage media

The integrity of storage media for digital materials diminishes at a more rapid pace than analogue archival storage. Resulting bit rot can prevent files from rendering correctly if at all. This can happen with no notice and within just a few years or less of the media being produced. The rapid rate at which technology is evolving and the relative transience of digital content make this a real challenge.

New formats

The preservation of new forms of digital publication needs to be considered (such as interactive narratives and mobile eBook apps). This is a developing field and necessitates consideration of the requirements needed to ensure preservation and access.


The Library deals with a huge amount of content, there being over 1 petabyte of digital content including the UK Web Archive, the National Digital Sound Collection and our digitised newspaper legacy. The work of the team ensures all this content will be available for the long term regardless of its form or format.


Digital Preservation Capability Assessment

This project looked at our preservation capabilities as applied to digital legal deposit material


We will preserve and give you access to content on thousands of CD-ROMs in our collections.

Integrated Preservation Suite

We're tackling the threat of technical obsolescence facing our digital collections

Emerging Formats

This project builds our ability to collect publications designed for mobile devices that respond to reader interaction or are structured as databases.

All projects