National Archives of the Netherlands (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science)

Digital records are different

Digital records have an additional characteristic: interactivity. When we click on an email address or on a link in a Word document, they are activated. If this interactivity is an essential part of a record, then it must be preserved.

Another difference from paper records is that the characteristics of digital records are neither physically tangible nor interlinked, but are instead strongly dependent on the manner in which the rendering software interprets the computer file. As a result, there is an increased likelihood that unwarranted changes can take place.

Preservation of the integrity of the characteristics, and of their underlying cohesion, therefore requires additional measures.

The specific characteristics of digital records mean that preservation strategies developed for paper documents are not practical for digital storage. Both technical and organisational solutions are needed to prevent the loss of digital information.

The technical solutions are explored elsewhere on this site. This next section looks first at bringing order to digital information management services.