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Introduction to Digital Preservation: Digital Curation Lifecycle

Subjects: Digital Library

Key Elements of the Digital Curation Lifecycle Model

The DCC Lifecycle Model further expands on the idea that digital preservation requires actions throughout the lifecycle to ensure sustained long-term access to digital assets. The model is often used in the digital curation and research data management sectors, but it reflects the same actions and workflow used throughout the digital preservation field. 

There are a number of key elements to the Lifecycle, starting from the data in the centre; this is what we are trying to preserve. The model then moves outwards to various dependencies and actions in order to preserve and provides access to that data. These actions include full lifecycle, sequential and occasional actions.

The first element in the centre of the Lifecycle is DATA, which is any information in binary form, including:

Digital Objects: these are defined as follows in the Lifecycle model. Simple digital objects (discrete digital items such as text files, image files or sound files, along with their related identifiers and metadata) or Complex digital objects (discrete digital objects made by combining a number of other digital objects, such as websites).

Databases: structured collections of records or data stored in a computer system.

Full Lifecycle Actions

Full lifecycle actions occur continuously throughout the life of the data being preserved. These actions include:

Description and Representation Information
Assign administrative, descriptive, technical, structural and preservation metadata, using appropriate standards, to ensure adequate description and control over the long-term. Collect and assign representation information required to understand and render both the digital material and the associated metadata.

Preservation Planning
Plan for preservation throughout the curation lifecycle of digital material. This would include plans for management and administration of all curation lifecycle actions.

Community Watch and Participation
Maintain a watch on appropriate community activities, and participate in the development of shared standards, tools and suitable software. 

Curate and Preserve
Be aware of, and undertake management and administrative actions planned to promote curation and preservation throughout the curation lifecycle.

Sequential Actions

These actions are in red on the Lifecycle model and as the title suggests, they occur in sequential order. And as the Lifecycle suggests, they are continual as the data is transformed or reappraised over time. In order, the sequential actions are:

Conceive and plan the creation of data, including capture method and storage options.

Create or Receive
Create data including administrative, descriptive, structural and technical metadata. Preservation metadata may also be added at the time of creation.

Receive data, in accordance with documented collecting policies, from data creators, other archives, repositories or data centres, and if required assign appropriate metadata.

Appraise and Select
Evaluate data and select for long-term curation and preservation. Adhere to documented guidance, policies or legal requirements.

Transfer data to an archive, repository, data centre or other custodian. Adhere to documented guidance, policies or legal requirements.

Preservation Action
Undertake actions to ensure long-term preservation and retention of the authoritative nature of data. Preservation actions should ensure that data remains authentic, reliable and usable while maintaining its integrity. Actions include data cleaning, validation, assigning preservation metadata, assigning representation information and ensuring acceptable data structures or file formats.

Store the data in a secure manner adhering to relevant standards.

Access, Use and Reuse
Ensure that data is accessible to both designated users and reusers, on a day-to-day basis. This may be in the form of publicly available published information. Robust access controls and authentication procedures may be applicable.

Create new data from the original, for example:

  • by migration into a different format, or
  • by creating a subset, by selection or query, to create newly derived results, perhaps for publication.

Occasional Actions

Dispose of data, which has not been selected for long-term curation and preservation in accordance with documented policies, guidance or legal requirements.

Typically data may be transferred to another archive, repository, data centre or other custodian. In some instances data is destroyed. The data's nature may, for legal reasons, necessitate secure destruction.

Return data which fails validation procedures for further appraisal and re-selection.

Migrate data to a different format. This may be done to accord with the storage environment or to ensure the data's immunity from hardware or software obsolescence.