Archive Guide Key Concepts

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There are currently 26 names in this directory
Access point

A name, term, code, or type of information such as the date, by which a set of records can be sorted or searched. For example, in a library book catalog, access points are author, book title, and subject. In a database, access points are any fields you can search, such as name, date, and title.


An organization made up of people and systems responsible for preserving records and documents of enduring value and making them available to a designated community. Archives are sometimes parts of larger organizations, such as universities, public libraries, media centers, or museums.


The practices and decisions that support the preservation, authentication, use, and accessibility of content with enduring value.


The quality of being genuine, not fake or counterfeit, and free from tampering. Authenticity means that an object was actually created by the person represented as its creator, and that it was actually created at the time and place that is represented as its time and place of creation. Video footage that has been manipulated or altered but is represented as if it had not been, for example, is not authentic.

To authenticate a video means to verify the relationship between it and its creator and point of creation. Documentation about who created something, when and where it was created, and the preservation, chain of custody can provide a starting point for this authentication process.


Creating and organizing descriptive information in a structured way so that resources can be found, used, and understood. Cataloging expands on basic metadata, and enables users to access content in multiple ways.

Chain of Custody

Chronological documentation that shows who has held or controlled a video file from the moment it was created. The ability to show an unbroken chain of custody is one important indicator of the authenticity of a video, and therefore a factor in using video as evidence.


The quality of having all of the information a record contained when it was created, and that its original context is maintained. Incomplete records are not as reliable as complete ones, since one might not know what information is missing and why. Transcoding a video to another format can reduce the image quality and discard metadata, making the video less complete and therefore less reliable. Keeping original video files, documenting context, and organizing videos in a way that maintains the original order of video files contributes to the completeness of the video records.

Controlled Vocabulary

A predefined list of terms used to ensure consistency in cataloging. Since there is usually more than one way to describe or refer to a concept, choosing one term eliminates guesswork and circumvents the normal ambiguities of language (and spelling). Imagine searching for “Doctors” only to later learn that some records use the term “Physicians”. Consistent vocabularies increase the findability of records.


The ability of a user to easily find what they are looking for.


Related to integrity, the quality of being unchanged over a given period of time. Fixity maintains the authenticity of an object over time, and is key to the concept of preservation. Long-term fixity requires good policies and handling practices, sustainable infrastructure, and strong security. Regular fixity checks (e.g. computing and comparing checksums) are used to detect changes.


The relationship between a copy and its original. This term originates from the time of analog copying. In the digital realm, where it is possible to create exact copies of originals, generation usually implies a change in format or specifications, such as an H.264 access copy generated from an Apple ProRes master. Having a video available in multiple generations is therefore not a replacement for having exact backup copies of your originals.

Information Package

A self-describing container - usually a clearly named folder or directory - used to keep media and its related documentation or metadata together.

Informed Consent

The process of ensuring that a person identified in a video fully understands the purpose and intended use of the recording, as well as any potential unintended consequences of his or her participation. With this awareness, the person must voluntarily give his or her permission to be identified and for the recording to be used.


The quality of being whole, unaltered, and uncorrupted. A file that is not intact may not be usable or may have decreased informational and evidential value. Videos files can lose their integrity if they are accidentally mishandled, deliberately tampered with, or if data corruption occurs in transfer or storage due to hardware or software malfunction. The best way to ensure integrity is to establish a system to check file fixity regularly (e.g. by computing hashes and checking them against a registry of previously computed hashes) and to restore any corrupted files from an intact copy.


In an information technology (IT) system, the quality of being able to exchange information with another system and being able to use that information. Using widely adopted formats, metadata standards, and controlled vocabularies enhances interoperability.

Media Management

The process of keeping track of media, such as the video files in your collection, and overseeing any actions performed on your media, such as backup, refreshment or migration. Media management can be performed manually, or with the aid of a software system (e.g. a media asset management (MAM) system).


Any information about a video: from technical information embedded in the file that allows the video to function, such as format and duration, to descriptive information about the content to help you understand or find it--such as keywords, security restrictions, geographic locations, and so on. Metadata is critical to any future use, and is important throughout the archiving process.

Despite what is sometimes said, images almost never speak for themselves. They require context and description to make sense, to corroborate their factuality, and to be accessible beyond one person’s memory or desktop.

Metadata can be automatically generated and embedded in the file, such as with technical metadata, or it can be manually recorded on an external medium, such as with descriptions, security flags, and keywords in a database. Metadata capture sometimes needs to be manually enabled on your device, such as with GPS or location services.


The process of re-encoding or transferring data from one digital or physical format to another to ensure long-term accessibility of the information as the format becomes obsolete and unusable over time.


The process of becoming out-of-date and unsupported by available technology. Video cameras, video formats, storage media and storage devices, can all become obsolete over time. The obsolete technology is functional but is unusable because the other technologies they depend on no longer support them. An old video camera, for example, may not be able to plug into new computers, or an old video format might not be playable on new desktop video players.

Original File

In the digital realm, the “original file” is any copy of a file that is exactly the same (i.e. bit-for-bit) as the file in question when it was created. This means that there are no accidental or deliberate alterations to any aspect of the file, including its format and technical specifications.

Original Order

The archival principle of maintaining files in the same order they were created. Original order is important to preserve context and the relationship between individual files, so that you can make sense of each file and of the whole. Keeping files in their original context makes them more complete and reliable.


The process of ensuring the long-term accessibility of authenticated content. Digital preservation involves preventing loss or damage to digital objects, and extending their existence beyond the lifespan of their storage media or technology. Preservation requires ongoing resources, commitment and actions.


The process of copying data from one storage medium to another to ensure continued access to the information as the storage medium becomes obsolete or degrades over time. It is one strategy for avoiding loss of digital information.


The process of identifying materials to be acquired, or to be preserved, because of their enduring value. Having selection criteria, or a selection policy, helps ensure you acquire and save only what is most important.

Unique Identifier

A number, word, or symbol for unambiguously identifying and distinguishing an object from other objects in a set. Common everyday unique identifiers include computer logins, credit card numbers, tax ID numbers, and so on. Applying unique identifiers to video files makes it easier to identify, distinguish, and organize videos and related documents.


A map of processes and roles for activities that require multiple stages and usually more than one person.

Control, accountability, and consistency are key to effective archiving, yet archiving involves many steps and potentially many people. It is therefore important to clearly define roles and document procedures so that people working in distributed locales understand their responsibilities, produce usable results, and ensure safety and security. Workflows need not be complex, but are often a helpful tool to plan your work.

The Archiving Workflow

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