Managing Treatment Documentation

During a recent digital preservation meeting, our conservator, Melissa, brought up the need to safeguard our treatment documentation now that the written and photographic parts are electronic.  Currently, all documentation is managed through an Access database and stored on a networked drive.  According to the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), proper storage, backup and active management of these records is essential for long-term preservation.  The AIC Guide to Digital Photography and Conservation Documentation even provides some basic background information on hardware, software, standard practices and terminology.  Let’s just make it easy and say we want to meet National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) Levels of Digital Preservation.

So the first question to you all is:  how have you gone about doing this?  Is this an activity that you have charged your IT department or Archives with managing?  Does this process at least meet NDSA Level 1?

The Access database is a fine management tool to organize all of our treatment reports and their accompanying images, but it is not that easy to guide the user or the curator to treatment reports.  Do you use local bibliographic records to indicate the existence of treatment reports, or perhaps a content management system that links directly to treatment reports from the item records?

snippet of a treatment report
snippet of a treatment report

Finally, even though the cost of storage space continues to decrease, the cost still exists and it is not simply the cost of the storage device.  Our campus IT charges us for space which does not include digital preservation services. Considering how large TIFF and RAW (or DNG) files are, how difficult RAW files are to use and the fact that they are proprietary, have you chosen to keep all RAW files?  DNG files?  What was your rationale in making this decision?  What does the cost benefit analysis and future use of these image files look like?TR350bt04

Sharing your experience with managing electronic treatment documentation and decision making would be greatly appreciated.




  1. If I can summarise my views in two points:

    1. I use open source software and formats (generally advisable for long-term digital preservation).

    2. I avoid free-text (and therefore data retrieval is improved).

    3. (sorry three points) I try to shoot in RAW and convert in JPEG2000.

    1. Thanks for sharing your approach, Athanasios. I have two questions for you: (1) Do you preserve the RAW files and use JPEG2000 as the access copy, or do you save only the JPEG2000? (2) Also, why do you prefer JPEG2000 over TIFF? I have heard that JPEG2000 is slightly more stable and uses less storage space, but we are currently still using TIFF; I guess I’m waiting for critical mass. 🙂

  2. If initial images are created properly (if digitized shoots doesn’t need editing), RAW files are easily used. The only con is that they need converting and that can take several hours depending the amount. But they have a lot better ratio compared to TIFF ones (that usually are like 2.5 times bigger).
    There are a Open RAW project but I am not in well informed about it. But I think that while we must fear that older RAW files may become unreadable by new conversion programs, if we use Canon/Nikon products we will be enough time to adapt us if something happends.

    I am actually more concern about the stability of the storage hardware. Quality of DVDs, “pendrives” and solid state HD are worst than ever, and is creating a lot of problems around the world. Investing in massive stable media storage services can be something out of range for a lot of institutions, but some public ministeries and organisms in a lot of countries are giving storage space for smaller institutions (for example, a ministery of foregin affairs gives SAT based storage to the national general archive and backups facilities).

    By now, using RAW files wasn’t a big problem for me, and I don’t think we will be able to detour the fact we need to use RAW data in the first place and that it cannot be edited.

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