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Introduction to Digital Preservation: Three-legged Stool

Subjects: Digital Library

The Three-legged Stool of Digital Preservation

Image of a round stool with three legs. On the round seat of the stool are the words digital preservation. Next to the left leg of the stool is the word technology. Underneath the middle leg of the stool is the word organizational. And next to the right leg of the stool is the word resources.

Created by Anne Kenney and Nancy McGovern for the Digital Preservation Management Workshops in 2003-2006, this stool represents the three aspects of a successful and sustainable digital preservation programme:

  1. Technology
  2. Organization
  3. Resources

What the model demonstrates, is that without considering and maintaining each of these components (or "legs"), a digital preservation programme will ultimately collapse. These three components need to be considered together in order to sustain digital preservation activity. 

It is important that a programme does not consider technology as the only solution and that a balance is struck between the technology, the people, the funding and the organizational policies.


The technology leg represents the necessary hardware, software and secure environments required to sustain a digital preservation programme. The technology leg also acknowledges changing technology and is prepared to respond accordingly. 

The areas the technology leg covers in digital preservation includes:

  • Storage and back-upOrange zero, one, zero 1 in a row together to symbolise binary code.
  • repository and preservation systems
  • tools
  • security measures


The organization leg of the stool looks at the elements required to address the organizational needs and practices of a digital preservation programme. This leg not only maps the parameters of a programme, but helps drive the organizational change required for a successful digital preservation programme.


The organizational components include:

  • policy and strategyA red infinity sign with the letters D and P in it, standing for Digital Preservation.
  • procedures and workflows
  • documentation
  • staffing
  • risk registers & benefits models



The resources leg looks at the time, money and people requirements of a digital preservation programme. These are the resources required create and maintain a sustainable programme.

The resources required include:

  • business planningfour large green Pound signs in a row
  • cost modelling
  • ongoing and sustainable funding
  • staff skills
  • an organizational commitment to sustainability

Further reading