Preserving Video

Working with an Archive

Most individuals and organizations cannot do long-term preservation on their own. Rather, they partner with an institution that has a specific mandate for preservation, such as an archive, historical society, museum, or library. You may also look to institutions engaged in gathering evidence, like human rights organizations, documentation centers, and courts and tribunals that have archives.

Institutions like the US Library of Congress have significant infrastructure to support archiving and preservation.
Institutions like the US Library of Congress have significant infrastructure to support archiving and preservation.

An archive that is potentially interested in acquiring your collection will likely want to first assess whether it has value and fits with their interests, and what the usage restrictions will be. The archive will also want to do an initial survey of your collection to understand its size, scope, and formats. Having an inventory or catalog of your collection can facilitate this process.

Working with an archive does not mean that you must give up your collection. With digital collections, you can easily deposit an exact copy of all your videos and documentation to an archive, while holding on to your own copy. Because of their investment, most archives will want rights to provide access to your collection to their users, and many will want you to eventually donate your collection. Some archives, however, are open to deposit relationships where you do not have to give up ownership of your collection.

Video as Evidence TIP

Depositing a video with a trustworthy archive that performs regular repository audits can simplify your work of maintaining an unbroken chain of custody.

Choosing an Archive

There may be one or many institutions or organizations interested in acquiring your collection. When choosing a potential archive, there are several factors you should consider:


Do you trust the archive (and the institution it may belong to) to take care of your collection and abide by its agreements with you (e.g. regarding security restrictions, access, preservation)?


Does the archive have the staffing and infrastructure to meet the processing, storage, preservation, and access needs of your collection?

Collecting focus

Does the archive have a real interest in your collection, and experience and expertise in dealing with collections similar to yours?

Restrictions/ access

Can the archive accommodate your expectations for security and privacy restrictions?


Do you want to retain ownership of your collection, or are you willing to transfer ownership to the archive? Some archives will accept collections they do not own, but some will not.


Do you own the copyright or have rights to the content in your collection? If not, can you provide the archive with information about third-party rightsholders? Archives need to understand the rights restrictions in order to provide access.

Deposit logistics

Are you able to get your collection to the archive?

Donor/Deposit Agreements

If you work with an archive, draft a written agreement that outlines their acquisition of your collection and the terms of your relationship. This ensures that both sides clearly understand their rights and obligations, which ultimately protects the collection.

The main areas that the written agreement should address are:


What exactly is being acquired by the archive? What is not being acquired?

Ownership and rights

Who owns the collection, and what rights are being transferred to the archive?


How will materials with restrictions be handled? When, if ever, will the restrictions expire?


What is the archive responsible for? What are you responsible for?

  • Digital preservation is never-ending and requires an ongoing commitment of resources.
  • Preserving videos requires regular refreshing on new storage media and migration to new usable formats.
  • Prioritize videos for preservation based on their archival value, uniqueness, contextualizing information, and whether you have rights to use them.
  • Most small organizations cannot do preservation on their own. Consider partnering with an archival institution.
Key Concept: Refreshing

Over time, video files need to be regularly moved to new storage media.
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Key Concept: Repository

A repository is the locus of long-term digital preservation.
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Key Concept: Obsolescence

Over time, file formats and storage media become unusable because the technology they rely on is unavailable.
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Key Concept: Migration

Over time, video files need to be transcoded to new formats to remain usable.
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Key Concept: Fixity

The long-term integrity of your original files is a fundamental goal of preservation.
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The Archiving Workflow

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