Printer Friendly
The Free Library
22,741,889 articles and books

Practical preservation: the PREMIS experience.


In 9003 the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC OCLC - Online Computer Library Center ) and Research Libraries Group (RLG RLG Research Libraries Group, Inc. (Dublin, OH)
RLG Ring Laser Gyro
RLG RedLightGreen Project
RLG Royal Laotian Government
RLG Resident Love Goddess
RLG Right, Let's Go
) established an international working group to develop a common, implementable core set of metadata (1) (meta-data) Data that describes other data. The term may refer to detailed compilations such as data dictionaries and repositories that provide a substantial amount of information about each data element.  elements for digital preservation. Most published specifications for preservation-related metadata are either implementation specific or broadly theoretical. PREMIS PREMIS Pesticide Residue Elimination Management Information Service
PREMIS Professional Real Estate Management Information System
 (Preservation Metadata: Implementation Strategies) was charged to define a set of semantic See semantics. See also Symantec.  units that are implementation independent, practically oriented o·ri·ent  
1. Orient The countries of Asia, especially of eastern Asia.

a. The luster characteristic of a pearl of high quality.

b. A pearl having exceptional luster.

, and likely to be needed by most preservation repositories While acknowledging services such as [ROAR: [1]] and [OpenDOAR: [2]] it is perhaps necessary to provide a list of individual repositories described in more detail within wikipedia here. . The semantic units will be represented in a data dictionary A database about data and databases. It holds the name, type, range of values, source, and authorization for access for each data element in the organization's files and databases.  and in a METS-compatible XML schema The definition of an XML document, which includes the XML tags and their interrelationships. Residing within the document itself, an XML schema may be used to verify the integrity of the content. . In the course of this work, the group also developed a glossary A term used by Microsoft Word and adopted by other word processors for the list of shorthand, keyboard macros created by a particular user. See glossaries in this publication and The Computer Glossary.  of terms and concepts, a data model, and a typology typology /ty·pol·o·gy/ (ti-pol´ah-je) the study of types; the science of classifying, as bacteria according to type.


the study of types; the science of classifying, as bacteria according to type.
 of relationships. Existing preservation repositories were surveyed about their architectural models An architectural model is a tangible representation of a structure (typically a scale model) built to communicate design ideas to clients, owners, committees, customers, and the general public.  and metadata practices, and some attempt was made to identify best practices. This article outlines the history and methods of the PREMIS Working Group and describes its deliverables. It explains major assumptions and decisions made by the group and examines some of the more difficult issues encountered.


In 2003 the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) and Research Libraries Group (RLG) established an international working group to develop a common, implementable core set of metadata elements for digital preservation. Most published specifications for preservation-related metadata are either implementation specific or broadly theoretical. PREMIS (Preservation Metadata: Implementation Strategies) was charged to define a set of metadata elements that are implementation independent, practically oriented, applicable to all types of materials, and likely to be needed by most preservation repositories. In addition, it aimed at establishing best practices for the implementation of preservation metadata.

The stated PREMIS objectives were to

* define an implementable set of "core" preservation metadata elements, with broad applicability within the digital preservation community;

* draft a data dictionary to support the core preservation metadata element set;

* examine and evaluate alternative strategies for the encoding See encode. , storage, and management of preservation metadata within a digital preservation system, as well as for the exchange of preservation metadata among systems;

* conduct pilot programs for testing the group's recommendations and best practices in a variety of systems settings;

* explore opportunities for the cooperative creation and sharing of preservation metadata.

It was intended that PREMIS would build on the earlier work of another initiative sponsored by OCLC and RLG, the Preservation Metadata Framework Working Group (OCLC, 2003). That group was convened in 2001-2002 to develop a framework outlining the types of information that should be associated with an archived digital object. Their report, A Metadata Framework to Support the Preservation of Digital Objects (OCLC/RLG, 2002), expanded the conceptual structure for the Open Archival Information System An Open Archival Information System (or OAIS) is an archive, consisting of an organization of people and systems, that has accepted the responsibility to preserve information and make it available for a Designated Community.  (OAIS OAIS Open Archival Information System (library and information science)
OAIS Officer Assignment Information System
OAIS Opinion, Attitude, and Interest Survey
) information model (Consultative Committee, 2002) and mapped preservation metadata elements to that conceptual structure. Although the framework proposed a list of metadata elements, it did not contain sufficient detail for an implementer to actually use the metadata in a preservation system without considerable further specifications. The PREMIS working group was established to take the previous group's work a step further: to develop a data dictionary of core metadata elements to be applied to archived objects, give guidance on the implementation of that metadata element set in preservation systems, and suggest best practice for populating those elements.

OCLC and RLG established the working group in 2003, chaired by Priscilla Caplan of the Florida Center for Library Automation and Rebecca Guenther of the Library of Congress. Because the charge was practical rather than theoretical, members were sought from institutions known to be running or developing preservation repository (1) A database of information about applications software that includes author, data elements, inputs, processes, outputs and interrelationships. A repository is used in a CASE or application development system in order to identify objects and business rules for reuse.  systems within the cultural heritage or information industry sectors. Conveners paid particular attention to diversity of stakeholders Stakeholders

All parties that have an interest, financial or otherwise, in a firm-stockholders, creditors, bondholders, employees, customers, management, the community, and the government.
. The group consists of representatives from academic and national libraries, museums, and archives; governments; and commercial enterprises in six different countries. In addition, PREMIS includes an international advisory committee of experts periodically called upon to review progress and provide feedback.

In order to accomplish as much of the charge as possible in a reasonable timeframe, PREMIS divided into two subgroups with different deliverables and strategies. The Core Elements Subgroup sub·group  
1. A distinct group within a group; a subdivision of a group.

2. A subordinate group.

3. Mathematics A group that is a subset of a group.

 took responsibility for drafting the "core" preservation metadata elements and supporting data dictionary. The Implementation Strategies Subgroup was responsible for examining alternative strategies for the encoding, storage, and management of preservation metadata within digital preservation systems and for developing pilot programs to test the group's recommendations in a variety of system settings.

The work of both subgroups was conducted almost entirely by weekly conference calls, which was a challenge given that the group members were from time zones ranging from the western United States Noun 1. western United States - the region of the United States lying to the west of the Mississippi River

Santa Fe Trail - a trail that extends from Missouri to New Mexico; an important route for settlers moving west in the 19th century
 to eastern Australia. Fortunately, only one person had to get up in the middle of the night to attend! However, the sheer frequency of calls and the ambitious agenda created a sense of camaraderie ca·ma·ra·der·ie  
Goodwill and lighthearted rapport between or among friends; comradeship.

[French, from camarade, comrade, from Old French, roommate; see comrade.
 among participants. Members quickly learned each others' voices and mastered use of a wiki A Web site that can be quickly edited by its visitors with simple formatting rules. Developed by Ward Cunningham in the mid-1990s to provide collaborative discussions, there are several "wiki" tools on the market for creating such sites, including,, www.  (a Web site that allows any user to add and edit content) set up for their use by the University of Chicago. The Core Elements Subgroup also held two face-toface meetings to expedite ex·pe·dite  
tr.v. ex·pe·dit·ed, ex·pe·dit·ing, ex·pe·dites
1. To speed up the progress of; accelerate.

 their work. The two meetings, one in San Diego San Diego (săn dēā`gō), city (1990 pop. 1,110,549), seat of San Diego co., S Calif., on San Diego Bay; inc. 1850. San Diego includes the unincorporated communities of La Jolla and Spring Valley. Coronado is across the bay.  in January 2004 and the other in Cambridge, Massachusetts This article is about the city of Cambridge in Massachusetts. For the English university town, see Cambridge, England. For other places, see Cambridge (disambiguation).
Cambridge, Massachusetts is a city in the Greater Boston area of Massachusetts, United States.
, in August 2004, were highly productive and contributed to the sense of community among members.

One of the group's practices has been well received and might well be found useful by other initiatives. Every month a summary of each subgroup's activities is posted on the official Web site at http://www.oclc .org/research/projects/pmwg/. For example, the Core Elements update for September 2004 reads:
   The group spent time discussing the differences between files and
   bitstreams and how the semantic units applied to them. It was
   proposed that there was a need for a new level called
   "filestreams." This also related to previous discussions about
   embedded files. The group continued its discussion of environment
   elements and whether this information is dependent on file format
   information. It continued to define what information is needed
   about the environment in order to render objects for the long term.
   Two new participants joined the group, one from DSpace and another
   from the Walt Disney Company. A workplan was developed to finish
   the data dictionary by December in anticipation of a final PREMIS
   report by the end of 2004.

Because of these updates, anyone interested in the PREMIS activity could follow the group's progress, see what issues were under discussion, and simply be assured the work group was working.


The Implementation Strategies Subgroup was charged with examination and evaluation of alternative strategies for the encoding, storage, and management of preservation metadata within a digital preservation system. To find out how preservation repositories were actually implementing preservation metadata, the subgroup decided to survey repositories that were in operation or under development. Although their work was focused on metadata, the subgroup felt that the survey provided an opportunity to explore the state of the art in digital preservation generally, and questions were drafted to elicit e·lic·it  
tr.v. e·lic·it·ed, e·lic·it·ing, e·lic·its
a. To bring or draw out (something latent); educe.

b. To arrive at (a truth, for example) by logic.

 information about policies, governance Governance makes decisions that define expectations, grant power, or verify performance. It consists either of a separate process or of a specific part of management or leadership processes. Sometimes people set up a government to administer these processes and systems.  and funding, system architecture, and preservation strategies as well as metadata practices.

In November 2003 copies were sent by email to approximately seventy organizations thought to be active in or interested in digital preservation. The survey was also made available on the PREMIS Web site and announced on various discussion lists. By the end of March 2004, forty-eight survey responses were received from institutions developing or planning to develop a digital preservation repository. Sixteen of these respondents In the context of marketing research, a representative sample drawn from a larger population of people from whom information is collected and used to develop or confirm marketing strategy.  were contacted for more in-depth telephone interviews.

Although several institutions known to be developing digital preservation repository systems did not respond, the replies received appear to be reasonably representative of the state of the art in the winter of 2003-2004. Responses came from 13 countries and included 28 libraries, 7 archives, and 14 other types of organizations. Among the respondents were 10 national libraries and 6 national archives National Archives, official depository for records of the U.S. federal government, established in 1934 by an act of Congress. Although displeasure concerning the method of keeping national records was voiced in Congress as early as 1810, the United States continued , showing heavy involvement in digital preservation at the national level, particularly in Europe and Canada.

Key findings are summarized in the report Implementing Preservation Repositories for Digital Materials: Current Practices and Emerging Trends in the Cultural Heritage Community (OCLC/RLG PREMIS Working Group, 2004), so they will not be repeated here. However, a few points are worth noting.

First, there is very little experience with digital preservation. Twenty-two respondents claimed to have a preservation repository in some stage of production (as opposed to planning, development, or alpha/beta testing). However, only half of these appeared to have implemented an active preservation strategy such as normalization In relational database management, a process that breaks down data into record groups for efficient processing. There are six stages. By the third stage (third normal form), data are identified only by the key field in their record. , format migration, migration on demand, or emulation (architecture) emulation - When one system performs in exactly the same way as another, though perhaps not at the same speed. A typical example would be emulation of one computer by (a program running on) another. . This list included four national libraries/national archives and six institutions categorized cat·e·go·rize  
tr.v. cat·e·go·rized, cat·e·go·riz·ing, cat·e·go·riz·es
To put into a category or categories; classify.

 as "other." None was an academic library.

This finding must color all other results, including those pertaining per·tain  
intr.v. per·tained, per·tain·ing, per·tains
1. To have reference; relate: evidence that pertains to the accident.

 to metadata. Whatever practices were reported on the survey, apart from these eleven institutions the results reflect repositories not yet in production or not yet implementing active preservation strategies. We do not have enough experience to determine whether the metadata these systems record or plan to record is adequate for the purpose.

Second, those engaged in digital preservation still lack a common vocabulary and, to a large extent, a common conceptual framework For the concept in aesthetics and art criticism, see .

A conceptual framework is used in research to outline possible courses of action or to present a preferred approach to a system analysis project.
. Although most respondents claimed to have been informed by the OAIS reference model and to be at least partly compliant with it, there was substantial difference of opinion as to the meaning of OAIS compliance. Although OAIS has been praised for providing a standard vocabulary for basic repository concepts, it is clear that most of these terms have not been widely adopted in the community, at least not in informal communications such as survey responses.

In relation to metadata, most respondents were recording several different types of metadata, and more than half were recording metadata in all of these categories: rights, provenance prov·e·nance  
1. Place of origin; derivation.

2. Proof of authenticity or of past ownership. Used of art works and antiques.
, technical, administrative, descriptive, and structural. Repositories appear to draw metadata elements from various schemes to suit their purposes. The Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard (METS METS Metropolitans (New York baseball team)
METS Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard
MetS Metabolic Syndrome
METS Metabolic Equivalents (multiples of resting oxygen uptake) 
) (Library of Congress, 2005), NISO (National Information Standards Organization, Baltimore, MD, A non-profit organization founded in 1939 that deals with bibliographic and related information standards.  Z39.87 (Technical Metadata for Digital Still Images) (National Information Standards Organization The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) is a United States non-profit standards organization that develops, maintains and publishes technical standards related to bibliographic and library applications.  and AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management International, Silver Spring, MD, A membership organization founded in 1943 devoted to creating industry standards and disseminating information about the document management industry.  International, 2002), and the OCLC Digital Archive metadata set (OCLC, 2002) were the only named schemes used by more than 20 percent of respondents. Overall, thirty-three different metadata element sets or rule sets were mentioned by at least one repository. In general, the survey shows a picture of a community trying to take advantage of prior work but not at the point of developing or settling on dominant standards.



The Core Elements Subgroup began its work by attempting to define the word "core" for the purpose of developing a metadata element list and data dictionary. After much discussion the group settled on a practical definition of core: those elements that a working archive is likely to need to know in order to support the functions of ensuring viability, renderability, understandability, authenticity The correct attribution of origin such as the authorship of an e-mail message or the correct description of information such as a data field that is properly named. Authenticity is one of the six fundamental components of information security (see Parkerian Hexad). , and identity in a preservation context. Initially the group felt that all core elements should be considered mandatory by definition, but some flexibility crept crept  
Past tense and past participle of creep.


the past of creep

crept creep
 in with the acknowledgement that some elements are more core than others, and even necessary information cannot always be provided.

The Core Elements Subgroup then started analyzing the recommendations of the earlier Preservation Metadata Framework Working Group related to Preservation Description Information. This included "digital provenance," or the documentation of events associated with the digital objects. Those members of the subgroup from institutions actively running or developing preservation repositories mapped the elements from the framework to what was used in their own systems. It became clear that the elements detailed in the previous work (which themselves had been mapped to the OAIS information model) did not always correspond to elements implemented in practice and did not give adequate guidance on how to use them. However, the exercise was useful in providing a common denominator common denominator
1. Mathematics A quantity into which all the denominators of a set of fractions may be divided without a remainder.

2. A commonly shared theme or trait.
 for diverse implementations; the group discussed each element in conference calls to see where there was commonality com·mon·al·i·ty  
n. pl. com·mon·al·i·ties
a. The possession, along with another or others, of a certain attribute or set of attributes: a political movement's commonality of purpose.
 in usage. Elements that emerged as being widely used across implementations were considered the beginning of a core element list.

The group made the decision that the data dictionary it was developing would be wholly implementation independent. That is, the core elements would define information that a repository needed to know, regardless of how, or even whether, it was stored. For instance, for a given identifier to be usable USable is a special idea contest to transfer US American ideas into practice in Germany. USable is initiated by the German Körber-Stiftung (foundation Körber). It is doted with 150,000 Euro and awarded every two years. , it is necessary to know the identifier scheme and the namespace A collection of names for a particular purpose. Typically, each name is unique. For example, tables in a relational database must all have unique names. A Windows workgroup that uses the original NetBIOS naming system requires a different "made-up" name for each computer and printer in  in which it is unique. If a particular repository uses only one type of identifier scheme, say one that is internally defined and assigned as·sign  
tr.v. as·signed, as·sign·ing, as·signs
1. To set apart for a particular purpose; designate: assigned a day for the inspection.

, the scheme can be assumed, and the repository would have no need to record it at all. The repository would, however, need to know this information and be able to supply it when exchanging metadata with other repositories. Because of the emphasis on the need to know rather than the need to record or represent in any particular way, the group preferred to use the term "semantic unit" (meaning an atom of meaning) rather than "metadata element." The data dictionary therefore names and describes semantic units.

After drafting a preliminary data dictionary for digital provenance information, the group began to consider technical metadata, or detailed information about the physical characteristics of digital objects. The group realized that it did not have either the time or the expertise to tackle format-specific technical metadata for various types of digital files. By scoping the work to include only that metadata applicable to all (or at least most) digital formats, the group was able to limit the work to a reasonable set of semantic units and leave further development to format experts. The group compiled a list of potential semantic units based on specifications for the proposed Global Digital Format Registry The configuration database in all 32-bit versions of Windows that contains settings for the hardware and software in the PC it is installed in. The Registry is made up of the SYSTEM.DAT and USER.DAT files. Many settings previously stored in the WIN.INI and SYSTEM.  (GDFR GDFR Going Down For Reboot , n.d.) supplemented by data elements used in the repository systems of members' institutions. Each element on the list was then discussed at some length, and those found to be both useful and broadly applicable were added to the data dictionary.

Data Model

One of the hardest issues to tackle was the development of an acceptable abstract data model. A valid criticism of the earlier framework was that the document recommended metadata elements pertaining to many different types of things while giving no guidance as to what type of thing they applied to. For example, "Resource Description" included the subelement "Existing metadata," an example of which was "a MARC bibliographic bib·li·og·ra·phy  
n. pl. bib·li·og·ra·phies
1. A list of the works of a specific author or publisher.

 record." Bibliographic records usually describe intellectual entities, such as books, sound recordings, and Web sites. Another element, "File description" (defined as "technical specifications of the file(s) comprising a Content Data Object"), would appear to apply to individual digital files. A third element, "Size of object," might be taken to apply to the total size of a complex object (for example, a book made up of many page images) or to a single stored file. The lack of specifics as to what level of granularity The degree of modularity of a system. More granularity implies more flexibility in customizing a system, because there are more, smaller increments (granules) from which to choose.  of an object the elements applied to made the document difficult to actually use in metadata implementations.

The data model was intended to accomplish three purposes. First, it would force PREMIS members to be rigorous in their thinking in the development of the data dictionary. Second, it provided a structure for arranging entries in the data dictionary. Third, it would help implementers of the data dictionary understand how to apply semantic units. The data model was not, however, meant to imply any particular implementation of the semantic units in the data dictionary.

In the PREMIS data model there are five types of entities: intellectual entities, objects, agents, rights, and events. Although it is possible these definitions will change before the final report, these entities are currently defined as follows:

* An event is an action that involves at least one object, agent, and/or rights entity.

* An agent is an actor associated with preservation events in the life of an object.

* A right is an assertion of one or more rights or permissions pertaining to an object.

* An intellectual entity is a coherent set of content that is reasonably described as a unit, for example, a particular book, map, photograph, or database.

* An object is one or more sequences of bits stored in the preservation repository.

There are four subtypes of the object entity: file, filestream, bitstream, and representation. The most difficult part of the development of the data model has been to appropriately identify, name, and define these subtypes. Definitions in this article are slightly less elaborate than those in the actual data model, but they communicate the concepts effectively.

Of the five entity types, file is perhaps the most intuitive, as our definition resembles that of common usage: a named ordered sequence of zero or more bytes known to an operating system operating system (OS)

Software that controls the operation of a computer, directs the input and output of data, keeps track of files, and controls the processing of computer programs.
 and accessible by applications. Every file has a file format, defined as a specific pre-established structure of a computer file that specifies how data is organized. A file may contain zero or more bitstreams and zero or more filestreams.

A "bitstream" is defined as data within a file that cannot be transformed into a stand-alone file without the addition of file structure (headers, etc.) and/or reformatting in order to comply with some particular file format. A "filestream" is a contiguous Adjacent or touching. Contrast with fragmentation. See contiguous file.  set of bits within a file that can be transformed into a stand-alone file conforming to some file format without adding information or reformatting the bitstream. An example of a bitstream is an image embedded Inserted into. See embedded system.  within a PDF (Portable Document Format) The de facto standard for document publishing from Adobe. On the Web, there are countless brochures, data sheets, white papers and technical manuals in the PDF format. ; an example of a filestream is a TIFF image within a TAR file.

A "representation" is the set of files needed to provide a complete and reasonable rendition ren·di·tion  
1. The act of rendering.

2. An interpretation of a musical score or a dramatic piece.

3. A performance of a musical or dramatic work.

4. A translation, often interpretive.
 of an intellectual entity. It can be thought of as the digital embodiment em·bod·i·ment  
1. The act of embodying or the state of being embodied.

2. One that embodies: "The flag is the embodiment, not of sentiment, but of history" 
 of an intellectual entity. Preservation repositories never store intellectual entities, but they may store representation objects.

As an example, the final PREMIS report is an intellectual entity. There will probably be PDF and HTML HTML
 in full HyperText Markup Language

Markup language derived from SGML that is used to prepare hypertext documents. Relatively easy for nonprogrammers to master, HTML is the language used for documents on the World Wide Web.
 versions posted on the Web; many readers will download To receive a file transmitted over a network. In any communications session, "download" means receive, and "upload" means send. The download/upload often implies a big/little scenario, in which data is being downloaded from the "big" server into the "little" user's computer.  their own copies, but all copies will have the same authors, title, and content. If the report were archived in a preservation repository, at least one representation would be stored. This might, for example, be a single, specific PDF file See PDF. . The PDF file will doubtless contain embedded graphics for tables and charts, which would be bitstreams. If the HTML version were archived, the representation might consist of three or four files--the HTML file and several GIF GIF
 in full Graphics Interchange Format

Standard computer file format for graphic images. GIF files use data compression to reduce the file size. The original version of the format was developed by CompuServe in 1987.
 images. Perhaps the repository will want to bundle these files together for storage by creating a TAR file. That TAR file would then have within it three or four filestreams, which could be extracted into files at some later time.

These distinctions are important because different semantic units of metadata apply at different levels. The intellectual entity may have an ISBN ISBN
International Standard Book Number

ISBN International Standard Book Number

ISBN n abbr (= International Standard Book Number) → ISBN m 
 or technical report number, but the representation does not. The representation may have an identifier known to the preservation repository, but the intellectual entity does not. The file will have a file name and file format, the filestream will have a file format but no file name, and the bitstream will have no file name or file format, although it may have other format characteristics such as color space A system for describing color numerically. Also known as a "color model," the most widely used color spaces are RGB for scanners and displays, CMYK for color printing and YUV for video and TV. .

The PREMIS data dictionary attempts to define core semantic units pertaining to all subtypes of objects and events. Intellectual entities and agents are not addressed in any detail because they have been the focus of other metadata schemes and they do not present unique requirements in the digital preservation context beyond the minimum needed to establish relationships between these and other types of entities. At the time of this writing, the group was still exploring the extent to which rights and/or permissions should be described.

Relationships are the other important part of the data model. Entities can be related to entities of different types (for example, objects can be related to agents) and to entities of the same type (for example, objects can be related to other objects). Just as there may be core semantic units generally necessary in the majority of preservation repository applications, there are core relationships that most preservation repositories will need to record.

The relationships between objects, agents, and events constitute digital provenance. As Clifford Lynch Clifford A. Lynch is the executive director for the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) who lectures extensively in the US offering his perspective on trends concerning digital libraries, information policy, and emerging interoperability standards.  wrote in "Authenticity and Integrity in the Digital Environment":
   Provenance, broadly speaking, is documentation about the origin,
   characteristics, and history of an object; its chain of custody;
   and its relationship to other objects. The final point is
   particularly important. There are two ways to think about a digital
   object that is created by changing the format of an older
   object ... We might think about a single object the provenance of
   which includes a particular transformation, or we might think about
   multiple objects that are related through provenance documentation.
   Thus, provenance is not simply metadata about an object--it can also
   be metadata that describe the relationships between objects (2000).

Objects and Events

Most of the semantic units in the data dictionary pertain to pertain to
verb relate to, concern, refer to, regard, be part of, belong to, apply to, bear on, befit, be relevant to, be appropriate to, appertain to
 objects and events. Semantic units related to the object entity describe characteristics relevant to preservation management. It is assumed that data content objects are held in the preservation repository and that associated metadata may be held in the repository, in external systems, or in both. Data dictionary entries for objects indicate the level at which the semantic unit is applicable: representation, file, and/or bitstream. Filestream is considered equivalent to file for the purposes of applicability.

Semantic units associated with object entities include identifiers, location information, and technical characteristics. In anticipation of the development of format registries such as the proposed GDFR, the data dictionary also contains semantics semantics [Gr.,=significant] in general, the study of the relationship between words and meanings. The empirical study of word meanings and sentence meanings in existing languages is a branch of linguistics; the abstract study of meaning in relation to language or  for referencing format registry entries. Similarly, it provides for basic software and hardware environment information and anticipates adding references to future environment registries.

Figures 1 and 2 provide examples of entries in the data dictionary. Figure 1 shows the definition of a "container" unit (fixity fix·i·ty  
n. pl. fix·i·ties
1. The quality or condition of being fixed.

2. Something fixed or immovable.
), which has no data itself but serves to group together three related semantic components (messageDigestAlgorithm, messageDigest, and messageDigestOriginator). Figure 2 shows the definition of one of these semantic components, messageDigestAlgorithm.

Events are actions that involve one or more objects and may be related to one or more agents. The PREMIS report states that whether or not a preservation repository records an event depends upon the importance of the event in the context of that repository. It recommends using the semantic units related to the Events entity when recording actions that modify objects. Other actions, such as the copying of an object for backup purposes, may be recorded in system logs or an audit trail but not necessarily as an event.

Most of the documentation about the digital provenance of objects is given in relation to events. Semantic units include event identifier, event type (for example, compression, migration, validation See validate.

validation - The stage in the software life-cycle at the end of the development process where software is evaluated to ensure that it complies with the requirements.
, etc.), event outcome, and event date/time. When properties of an object are the result of an event, this is considered event-related information, but in practice this may be recorded with the object or with the event. An example of a data dictionary entry for a semantic unit related to the Event entity is given in figure 3.


The final PREMIS report will go into greater detail about the findings of the working group and will present a completed data dictionary with examples. In addition, it will include a glossary, a description of the data model, discussions of some of the more difficult or controversial semantic units, and other related information. As of this writing, the working group was still conducting work by conference calls and the data dictionary was not yet completed. The target date for completion is December 2004. (1)

Although the data dictionary is intended to be implementation neutral, for information to be exchanged between repositories there must be some standard representation. The implementation survey showed wide use of METS among implementers. The METS initiative intends to draft PREMIS-based XML schemas This is a list of XML schemas in use on the Internet sorted by purpose. XML schemas can be used to create XML documents for a wide range of purposes such as syndication, general exchange, and storage of data in a standard format. Bookmarks
  • XBEL http://pyxml.sourceforge.
 suitable for use as extension schemas Schemas
Fundamental core beliefs or assumptions that are part of the perceptual filter people use to view the world. Cognitive-behavioral therapy seeks to change maladaptive schemas.
 for the digital provenance metadata section (digiprovMD) and technical metadata section (techMD) of a METS document. The digiprovMD will be based on the events section of the data dictionary. The new techMD section will complement the other format-specific technical metadata sections and will include general technical metadata that applies regardless of file format. It will be necessary to reconcile existing format-specific extension schema with this new general one, since some data elements that apply regardless of file format will already be included in defined-format specific technical metadata extension schema (for example, MIX, the XML XML
 in full Extensible Markup Language.

Markup language developed to be a simplified and more structural version of SGML. It incorporates features of HTML (e.g., hypertext linking), but is designed to overcome some of HTML's limitations.
 binding of the NISO/AIIM standard Z39.87, Technical Metadata for Digital Still Images) (National Information Standards Organization & AIIM International, 2002).

Opportunities for developing testbeds for implementing PREMIS-compliant metadata are currently under discussion, as are trials of the exchange of preservation metadata among repositories. It is unlikely that these will actually be implemented before the group is formally disbanded, so other mechanisms for continuing this work are being considered. Mechanisms for supporting the adoption of PREMIS metadata, gathering feedback and evidence of practice, and maintaining the data dictionary over time will also be necessary. The PREMIS Web site should be consulted for the status of these and other related activities.


Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems The Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS) was formed in 1982 by the major space agencies of the world to provide a forum for discussion of common problems in the development and operation of space data systems. . (2002). Reference model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS) (CCSDS CCSDS Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems
CCSDS Consultative Committee for Space Data System (NASA)
CCSDS Consultative Committee on Space Data Standards
CCSDS Consultative Committee for Standard Data Services
 650.0-B-1). Retrieved March 8, 2005, from http://ssdoo

Global Digital Format Registry (GDFR). (n.d.). Home page. Retrieved March 8, 2005, from

Library of Congress. (2005). Standards: Metadata encoding and transmission standard. Retrieved March 8, 2005, from

Lynch, C. (2000). Authenticity and integrity in the digital environment: An exploratory analysis of the central role of trust. In Authenticity in a digital environment (Council on Library and Information Resources (1) The data and information assets of an organization, department or unit. See data administration.

(2) Another name for the Information Systems (IS) or Information Technology (IT) department. See IT.
 report). Retrieved March 8, 2005, from

National Information Standards Organization & AIIM International. (2002). Data dictionary: Technical metadata for digital still images (NISO Z39.87). Retrieved March 8, 2005, from

OCLC. (2002). OCLC digital archive system guides: Digital archive metadata elements. Retrieved March 8, 2005, from da_metadata_elements.pdf.

--. (2003). Preservation Metadata Framework Working Group. Retrieved March 8, 2005, from

OCLC/RLG. (2002). Preservation metadata and the OAIS information model: A metadata framework to support the preservation of digital objects. Retrieved March 8, 2005, from http://www.oclc. org/research/projects/pmwg/pm_framework.pdf.

OCLC/RLG PREMIS Working Group. (2004). Implementing preservation repositories for digital materials: Current practices and emerging trends in the cultural heritage community. Retrieved March 8, 2005, from surveyreport.pdf.


(1.) Since this article was written, the PREMIS working group released Data Dictionary for Preservation Metadata: Final Report of the PREMIS Working Group in May 2005. It is available from the PREMIS Web site at The Web site for PREMIS maintenance activity is

Priscilla Caplan, Assistant Director for Digital Library Services, Florida Center for Library Automation, 5830 NW 39th Avenue, Gainesville FL 32606,, and Rebecca Guenther, Senior Networking and Standards Specialist, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave AVE Avenue
AVE Average
AVE Alta Velocidad Espanola (train between Madrid and Seville)
AVE Alta Velocidad Española (Spanish: High Speed Train)
AVE Audio Video Entertainment
AVE Advertising Value Equivalent
. SE, Washington, DC 20540-4402, Priscilla Caplan is Assistant Director for Digital Library Services at the Florida Center for Library Automation, where she is managing a project to develop a digital preservation repository for the use of the public universities of Florida She is the author of Metadata Fundamentals for All Librarians This is a list of people who have practised as a librarian and are well-known, either for their contributions to the library profession or primarily in some other field.  (ALA Editions, 2003) and numerous articles on digital preservation, metadata, reference linking, and standards for digital libraries. In addition to co-chairing the OCLC Working Group on Preservation Metadata: Implementation Strategies, she co-chairs the NISO/EDItEURJoint Working Party on the Exchange of Serials Subscription Information.

Rebecca Guenther is Senior Networking and Standards Specialist in the Network Development and MARC Standards MARC is an acronym for MAchine-Readable Cataloging. The MARC standards consist of the MARC formats, which are standards for the representation and communication of bibliographic and related information in machine-readable form, and related documentation.  Office of the Library of Congress, in which she has worked since 1989. Previous positions included cataloger cat·a·log or cat·a·logue  
a. A list or itemized display, as of titles, course offerings, or articles for exhibition or sale, usually including descriptive information or illustrations.

 at the National Library of Medicine; cataloger in the Library of Congress' Shared Cataloging Division/ German Language Section, and section head of the National Union Catalog union catalog
A library catalog combining in alphabetical sequence the contents of more than one catalog or library.
 Control Section/ Catalog catalog, descriptive list, on cards or in a book, of the contents of a library. Assurbanipal's library at Nineveh was cataloged on shelves of slate. The first known subject catalog was compiled by Callimachus at the Alexandrian Library in the 3d cent. B.C.  Management and Publication Division. Her current responsibilities include work on national and international information standards, including, among others, rotating ro·tate  
v. ro·tat·ed, ro·tat·ing, ro·tates

1. To turn around on an axis or center.

 chair of ISO (1) See ISO speed.

(2) (International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, Switzerland, An organization that sets international standards, founded in 1946. The U.S. member body is ANSI.
 639 Joint Advisory Committee on language codes and a member of the NISO Standards Development Committee. Rebecca has worked in the area of metadata since the early 1990s, including maintaining a number of crosswalks between various metadata schemes; participating in development of XML bibliographic descriptive schemas (MODS MODS

multiple organ dysfunction syndrome.
 and MARCXML); serving as chair of the Dublin Core A set of meta-data descriptions about resources on the Internet. Used for resource discovery, it contains data elements such as title, creator, subject, description, date, type, format and so on. Dublin Core descriptions are often included in HTML meta tags.  Libraries Working Group and as a member of the Dublin Core Usage Board; serving as a co-chair of PREMIS, an OCLC/RLG working group on preservation metadata implementation strategies; and participating in the Open Ebook An XML-based standard for electronic books and Web publishing from the International Digital Publishing Forum ( Introduced in 1999 and officially known as the "Open eBook Publication Structure Specification" (OEBPS), Open eBook publications are not read directly by an e-book  Forum's Metadata and Identifiers Working Group, among others. She has published articles and made presentations widely on metadata and various standards-related efforts.
Figure 1. Data Dictionary Entry for Fixity

Semantic unit     fixity

Semantic          messageDigestAlgorithm, messageDigest,
components        messageDigestOriginator

Definition        Information used to verify whether an object has
                  been altered in an undocumented or unauthorized

Data constraint   Container

Object category   Representation     File              Bitstream

Applicability     Not applicable     Applicable        Applicable (see
                  (see usage note)                     usage note)

Repeatability                        Repeatable        Repeatable

Obligation                           Optional          Optional

Creation/         Automatically calculated and recorded by
Maintenance       repository.

Usage notes       To perform a fixity check, a message digest
                  calculated at some earlier time is compared
                  with a message digest calculated at a later
                  time. If the digests are the same, the object
                  was not altered in the interim. Recommended
                  practice is to use two or more message digests
                  calculated by different algorithms.

                  The act of performing a fixity check and the date it
                  occurred would be recorded as an Event. The result
                  of the check would be recorded as the eventOutcome.
                  Therefore, only the messageDigestAlgorithm and
                  messageDigest need to be recorded as object
                  Characteristics for future comparison.

                  Representation level: It could be argued that if a
                  representation consists of a single file, or if all
                  the files comprised by a representation are combined
                  (e.g., zipped) into a single file, then a fixity
                  check could be performed on the representation.
                  However, in both cases the fixity check is actually
                  being performed on a file, which in this case happens
                  to be coincidental with a representation.

                  Bitstream level: Message digests can be computed for
                  bitstreams although they are not as common as with
                  files. For example, the JPX format, which is a
                  JPEG2000 format, supports the inclusion of NID5
                  or SHA-1 message digests in internal metadata that
                  was calculated on any range of bytes of the file.

                  See "Fixity, integrity, authenticity," page 4-5.

Figure 2.
Data Dictionary Entry for messageDigestAlgorithm

Semantic unit     messageDigestAlgorithm

Semantic          None

Definition        The specific algorithm
                  used to construct the message
                  digest for the digital object.

Data constraint   Value should be taken from
                  a controlled vocabulary.

Object category   Representation    File              Bitstream

Applicability     Not applicable    Applicable        Applicable

Examples                            MD5

Repeatability                       Not repeatable    Not repeatable

Obligation                          Mandatory         Mandatory

Figure 3. Data Dictionary Entry for eventType

Semantic unit     eventType

Semantic          None

Definition        A categorization of the nature of the event.

Rationale         Categorizing events will aid the preservation
                  repository in machine processing of event
                  information, particularly in reporting.

Data constraint   Value should be taken from a controlled vocabulary.

Examples          E77 [a code used within a repository for a
                  particular event type]


Repeatability     Not repeatable

Obligation        Mandatory

Usage notes       Each repository should define its own controlled
                  vocabulary of eventType values. A suggested starter
                  list for consideration (see also the Glossary for
                  more detailed (definitions):

                  capture = the process whereby a repository actively
                  obtains an object

                  compression = the process of coding data to save
                  storage space or transmission time

                  deaccession = the process of removing an object
                  from the inventory of a repository

                  decompression = the process of reversing the
                  effects of compression

                  decryption = the process of converting encrypted
                  data to plaintext

                  deletion = the process of removing an object from
                  repository storage

                  digital signature validation = the process of
                  determining that a decrypted digital signature
                  matches an expected value

                  dissemination = the process of retrieving an object
                  from repository storage and making it available to

                  fixity check = the process of verifying that an
                  object has not been changed in a given period

                  ingestion = the process of adding objects to a
                  preservation repository

                  message digest calculation = the process by which
                  a message digest ("hash") is created

                  migration = a transformation of an object creating
                  a version in a more contemporary format

                  normalization = it transformation of an object
                  creating a version more conducive to preservation

                  replication = the process of creating a copy of an
                  object that is, bit-wise, identical to the original

                  validation = the process of comparing an object with
                  a standard and noting compliance or exceptions

                  virus check = the process of scanning a file for
                  malicious programs

                  The level of specificity in recording the type of
                  event (e.g., whether the eventType indicates a
                  transformation, a migration or a particular method
                  of migration) is implementation specific and will
                  depend upon how reporting and processing is done.
                  Recommended practice is to record detailed
                  information about the event itself in eventDetail
                  rather than using a very granular value for
COPYRIGHT 2005 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 Reader Opinion




Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Preservation Metadata: Implementation Strategies
Author:Guenther, Rebecca
Publication:Library Trends
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2005
Previous Article:Preservation metadata: National Library of New Zealand experience.
Next Article:Establishing a global digital format registry.

Related Articles
Digital Preservation in the United Kingdom.
The digital future: a look ahead: information management professionals will find new challenges, strategies, and approaches in store with digital...
MIT's super archive. (Up front: news, trends & analysis).
Managing engineering, architectural, and cartographic drawings: because drawings will continue to be important information sources for most...
Exploring variety in digital collections and the implications for digital preservation.
Digital archiving in the twenty-first century: practice at the national library of the Netherlands.
What should we preserve? The question for heritage libraries in a digital world.
Preservation metadata: National Library of New Zealand experience.
Prototype preservation environments.
Building preservation partnerships: the Library of Congress National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2014 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters