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Preservation Activities

Preservation Policy

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7. Policy Requirements

7.1 Preservation Planning and Strategy

7.1.1 An overall preservation strategy will guide plans and actions that reflect the scope of the preservation mission, identify all key results areas for development and implementation, and plan resources accordingly. Equally, all other NA functions should acknowledge the impact on their plans and resources of an inherent preservation component.

7.1.2 All preservation planning will be determined by Preservation Branch in consultation with other functions of NA; conversely, Preservation Branch will participate in planning related to NA's other functions as appropriate.

7.2 Acquisition, Selection and Disposal

7.2.1 The physical nature and condition of the records, weighed against the capacity of the NA to preserve and ensure access to them in the present and the long term, will be considered as criteria in deciding whether or not to acquire or retain records, particularly technology dependent records.

7.2.2 Where internal resources are considered inadequate to preserve records and provide access in the long term, the NA may explore options with donors and sources of records either during the acquisition process or later, such as funding support, completion of preliminary work by records creators, or provision by the source of a duplicate for access purposes.

7.2.3 The NA may also endeavour to influence records creators to incorporate preservation measures within their workplaces, particularly for technology-dependent records; in some instances (for example, in some government departments), long-term preservation may be delegated to records creators, with NA providing advisory and monitoring functions.

7.2.4 Methodologies to assess and predict preservation requirements will be designed for both current holdings and projected acquisitions.

7.2.5 The physical nature of certain archival records may require disposal after conservation copying, subject to approval. The process to determine approval must first establish the permanently inaccessible condition of the archival record and demonstrate the attributes, longevity and archival value of the copy.

7.2.6 Records that have been approved for disposal, or other records, may be selected by the Preservation Branch for use in applied research or training on approval of the appropriate archival area.

7.3 Preservation Management of Collections

7.3.1 Preservation management of collections, including custody, proceeds in a progressive sequence, from the global to the particular and from preventive preservation (such as collection assessments, proper accommodation and handling) to increasingly intrusive measures (such as copying, treatment, restoration and migration of items). Advice and training are considered to be a use of resources at the global level.

7.3.2 A preservation strategy is recognized to be risk management of the holdings overall. It outlines plans and priorities which strike a balance between the needs of records (identified through surveys) and departmental priorities (identified through consultations with all areas which use or access archival records). The balance will be arrived at through decision-making criteria, including the ownership status of the records and the availability of resources. Priorities will be indicated in plans encompassing holdings maintenance, copying, migration and treatment and in an allowance of time for applied research.

7.3.3 The NA will apply international or widely accepted standards, where available, to ensure the preservation and accessibility of its holdings. It will use appropriate accommodation standards and tested materials and equipment to store records; it will ensure appropriate standards and guidelines are set for all records-related actions (e.g., handling, processing, transport, security, loans, exhibitions, etc.).

7.3.4 Preservation management of copies (i.e., storage, handling and use) will reflect the intended use of the copy. Archival masters, particularly for technology-dependent records, may receive the same priority as archival records, with a descending scale of rigour applied to other types of copies, with reference copies intended to be used freely and replaced as needed.

7.3.5 Information about preservation activities, such as data on preventive preservation and holdings maintenance, copying, treatments, surveys, loans, exhibitions, circulation and service requests, will be retained as appropriate and managed as an investment and an asset of value.

7.4 Accommodation, Security and Environment

7.4.1 Of all preservation measures, appropriate accommodation is the single most effective and cost-efficient for the totality of the NA's holdings. The NA will seek to ensure appropriate and secure accommodation for all its holdings, wherever they are stored, processed or used.

7.4.2 Like all preservation actions, accommodation is an active, not a passive, measure, requiring daily management to maximize effectiveness. Appropriate accommodation includes environmentally controlled and monitored space, containerization that conforms to archival standards, security, pest management, disaster-readiness and cleanliness protocols.

7.4.3 The NA recognizes that the split arrangement for accommodation of its holdings in the Gatineau Preservation Centre, Ottawa and Renfrew locations, results in lengthy and frequent transport that constitutes a risk to archival records which must be actively assessed. It also affects departmental work flow, resources and records access. The work plans and procedures of all operational areas must acknowledge the risk of this transport, and implement appropriate measures, including security measures, to reduce it and its effects wherever possible.

7.5 Disaster and Emergency Preparedness

7.5.1 The NA, in partnership with the National Library of Canada (NL) will update and maintain a Disaster Contingency Plan and Disaster Contingency Organization, consisting of procedures and trained staff, to protect their holdings by responding to emergencies (e.g., fire, flood, power failure, pest infestation, growth of mould, vandalism, accident) and by leading immediate recovery actions.

7.5.2 In a disaster or an emergency, the first priority will be the safety of people, followed by immediate action to rescue or prevent further damage to records. Depending on immediate threat, emergency response and recovery actions will take precedence over all other NA activities.

7.5.3 The assistance of the Preservation Branch will be sought immediately on discovery of a situation posing potential or actual threat to the records of the NA.

7.6 Copying

7.6.1 All copies that are kept by the NA (i.e. all except client copies) have preservation value because they reduce the movement and exposure of archival records; may be designated the archival record if an archival record is lost or damaged; may constitute proof of condition and legal ownership; and may assist in insurance purposes.

7.6.2 Copying serves many additional purposes for acquisition, conservation (including treatment) and access within the NA, as defined in Appendix B; those purposes may be concurrent. However, the need for an access copy does not justify the creation of a conservation copy at the same time; a conservation copy will only be produced where required for specific conservation purposes.

7.6.3 Copying may take different forms, both traditional analog and digital (see Appendix D), and will reproduce or translate a differing number and quality of the attributes of archival records and their interrelationships. Copying may also be considered a treatment itself when the copy version has the radical impact of replacing the archival record, (e.g. migration of physical or logical formats of electronic records).

7.6.4 Conservation copying must be in media tested for longevity and cost-effectiveness; i.e., for the foreseeable future, it must be in traditional analog media such as photographic media or, for technology-dependent records, appropriate technology-dependent copy media. Nevertheless, traditional analog media are limiting and reductive for the vast range of forms which human-readable records take (see Appendix D). In contrast, technology-dependent records are more accurately copied than human-readable records because the media used to copy them are also technology-dependent and mimic the attributes of the archival records more closely (although such copies have their own provenance and metadata).

7.6.5 Consequently, for human-readable records the first priority is to ensure preservation of the archival records themselves in preference to making conservation copies. However, for technology-dependent records, conservation copying may be the first priority in order to respond to technological change and obsolescence. For the latter, the conservation copying decision represents, in effect, a continuation of the acquisition/selection decision, since materials that are not copied may gradually become inaccessible and eventually require disposal. However, such conservation copies too, are technology-dependent, and will need to be regenerated. (One prime reason for retention of all archival records as acquired remains the varied longevity, cost and usefulness of any copies.)

7.6.6 Access copying must not endanger the archival record, while it should offer clients their desired copy formats to the extent possible, including copies in the digital medium due to the broad reach and capacity for rapid delivery of digital copies. However, except for electronic records, digital access copying results in a significant reduction in both the number and quality of the attributes of the archival records and their interrelationships. The impact of digital access copying must be communicated to users.

7.6.7 Access copying in digital form will also entail -- as for all electronic records preservation maintenance through repeated cycles of migration of the whole body of digitized records, together with metadata (pending new techniques for preservation of digital material).

7.6.8 For all copies kept by the NA, specific citations to the archival record must be maintained for research, access, preservation, and control purposes.

7.7 Conservation Treatment

7.7.1 The first priority of conservation treatment for most human-readable records in the NA is the current and long-term protection of the records during the provision of access for consultation, copying, loans and exhibitions and during disaster recovery. Otherwise, maintenance of these records as a whole will rely on preventive preservation (e.g., accommodation, containerization and careful handling) and on stabilization techniques for larger volumes of material.

7.7.2 The first priority of conservation treatment for certain deteriorating photographic and all audio-visual records is ensuring long-term accessibility through a planned, comprehensive conservation treatment/copying program for priority items and through specific storage techniques. The planned program will establish annual priorities that take into account predictions of needs for access, and will provide reference copies among other products.

7.7.3 Electronic records may undergo standard conservation treatments (e.g., rewinding, cleaning) and/or migration. Migration as a conservation treatment is intended to ensure the continued meaningful existence of electronic records by replacing the obsolete archival record with a new digital version. Migration also entails managing the risk of error in assessing technological change and in preserving contextual information or metadata that might be lost during data migration. Migration must also include continuous maintenance of the history of migrations as part of the metadata associated with the record, which will be made available to the user.

7.7.4 Conservation treatments will be approved only after consultation among staff, including archivists, to ensure that all available historical, scientific and technological information concerning the effects of various treatment options on the nature of the archival record has been considered.

7.7.5 All conservation examinations and treatments, including treatments to prepare records for copying, will be recorded (including through photo-documentation) and a formal system established for maintaining and communicating such information.

7.7.6 For all records, conservation treatments proceed in a progressive sequence from stabilization and structural consolidation to cleaning and repair, to more intrusive methods of remedial action. In many instances, conservation treatments or changes will be visible and apparent to the user, but in other instances, users must be informed of the effects of conservation actions on the records.

7.7.7 Treatments of human-readable records will rarely proceed to restorations where changes are rendered imperceptible and must be explained to users. Restorations of audio-visual records, which are largely performed through treatments which also create modified copies or archival masters, can be difficult to perceive and must be explained. Efforts to go further and reconstruct a record, such as a film, are archivally suspect; therefore, the NA will not alter an existing archival record in a reconstruction attempt and will give low priority to manufacturing any proposed new version.

7.7.8 Conservation treatment and/or copying of records from holdings other than those of the NA (except for those of the NL, as per 7.10.1) will be undertaken only with the approval of the Director General, Preservation Branch, or the National Archivist.

7.8 Access

7.8.1 Consultation, handling and use, transport, temporary storage, copying, exhibition, and loan of holdings will not subject the items to unacceptable levels of risk or deterioration, as determined by the NA and governed by relevant legislation (e.g. Access to Information Act), accepted standards and internal guidelines. Individual procedures (including scheduling for copying) will be put in place for items at high risk such as fragile, highly marketable or ephemeral material, material of high intrinsic value and technology-dependent records.

7.8.2 Access to audio-visual records will distinguish between processed and unprocessed material and will be governed by relevant legislation (e.g. Access to Information Act, National Archives Act). Copies of processed material will be provided on demand within agreed limits. Unprocessed material will be scheduled in a planned, comprehensive conservation treatment/copying program, one product of which will be reference (consultation) copies. However, some access requests may be served by special viewing of the original at the Gatineau Preservation Centre, if safe for the archival record.

7.8.3 In preference to the production of reference copies, the accessibility of electronic records in the holdings will be ensured through secure (e.g. watermarked and/or fingerprinted), controlled, automated means that use access protocols with the client for transfer of the data.

7.9 Preservation Research and Training

7.9.1 The NA will use tested and known methods and means. Experimental methods and materials will be limited to basic/applied and developmental research projects, until their effects and longevity are determined.

7.9.2 The NA will undertake basic/applied research projects to address preservation problems encountered or anticipated, when the research is not being undertaken elsewhere.

7.9.3 The NA will collaborate with other institutions whenever possible, and will communicate interim and final results of such research, to contribute to the body of knowledge concerning preservation.

7.9.4 The NA will undertake developmental research, singly or jointly, as resources permit and as the results of basic/applied research justify it.

7.9.5 The NA will not undertake pure research.

7.9.6 The NA will furnish training opportunities to preservation staff to maintain or enhance their expertise continuously, particularly in emerging areas of interest such as electronic records. Training opportunities include allowances for self-directed training; attendance at national and international conferences, seminars and courses; and study visits, internships and working exchanges with other institutions and professionals.

7.9.7 The NA will maintain internship and training programs on-site for external students to further archival preservation expertise in the archival community in Canada and worldwide.

7.9.8 The NA will provide in-house training in preservation issues and techniques for nonpreservation NA staff to enhance understanding and application of preservation principles throughout NA.

7.9.9 The NA will provide advice and information, particularly to government departments and agencies, on the preservation requirements of the records under their control.

7.9.10 The NA will endeavour to maintain obsolete equipment and the staff expertise to use and repair it, or to reconstitute equipment capable of performing obsolete functions, as long as obsolete formats are acquired or remain in the holdings; this policy includes equipment and expertise relating to human-readable records as well as technology-dependent records.

7.10 Stakeholders, Partnerships and Professional Connections

7.10.1 The Preservation Branch of the NA provides a range of preservation services to the NL according to plans updated annually. In addition, the NA and NL participate jointly in the Disaster Control Organization, as per 7.5.

7.10.2 The NA maintains a close consultative relationship with the Canadian Conservation Institute; collaborative research projects and training are part of that relationship. The NA also maintains professional relationships with the preservation community internationally.

7.10.3 The NA maintains an active participation in and communication with the archival community in Canada and internationally, including its preservation organizations and associations, such as the Preservation Committee of the Canadian Council of Archives and the AV Preservation

7.10.4 The NA is one of a group of cultural agencies in Ottawa, including the NL, museums, galleries, crown corporations and the Canadian Parks Service, which may offer opportunities for shared partnerships in the preservation and accessibility of collections, such as joint research, training, assistance in disasters or emergencies and the sharing of information and expertise.

7.10.5 The NA welcomes comment and external peer assessment on its preservation activities, and will seek such input.

7.10.6 The NA espouses the Code of Ethics and Guidance for Practice, which is published jointly by the Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property and the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators, notwithstanding the different definitions used in that code.

7.11 Preservation in the Federal Records Centres

7.11.1 Where the NA holds archival records permanently in a federal records centre (as, for example, in the Pacific, Prairies Northwest, Manitoba and Atlantic regions), these records will be stored, preserved and treated like all other archival records of the NA, insofar as possible. Procedures will be instituted to separate these records from the non-archival records within these centres on a case-by-case basis.

7.11.2 The NA will seek accommodation for all non-archival records in its federal records centres which incorporates appropriate non-archival records storage and handling standards.

Conservation treatment of these records will be limited in scope and will be applied without charge to records anticipated for acquisition by the NA. The cost of conservation treatment of non-archival records necessitated by health and safety concerns may be recouped from the client department.

7.12 Public Awareness of Preservation

7.12.1 The NA will actively communicate to records creators and holders, to all users of archives, as well as to supporters and the public, an understanding of the nature and value of the material it holds in trust and the importance of its preservation. This message will be conveyed in NA communications and public programs, in tours of the Gatineau Preservation Centre and other NA facilities, in the security and handling methods in current use, and in reference and consultation areas.

7.12.2 The NA will also explain the nature of archives in general, in aid of the archival community and the preservation of Canada's archival heritage.

7.12.3 The NA will also explain its own role as intermediary in affecting the meaning and perceived value of archival records through its actions to preserve records or make them accessible.

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