Workbook on Digital Private Papers > Collection development > Conclusions


From the analysis of the six basic approaches presented above it is evident that there is no simple solution to successfully developing collections of personal digital archives. To date, methods of collecting personal digital archives are largely untested. A pragmatic approach which combines 'snapshot', 'self-archiving' and 'post-custodial' collecting with the transfer of retired hardware and media in the case of very eminent individuals may offer the best solution at this point in time. What is apparent is that the approach will need to fit with the preferences, personality and skills of the individual creating the archive. It is also clear that the earlier personal digital records enter the managed environment of a digital archive the greater their chance of permanent survival. However, this has to be measured against the information overload (and likely abundance of low value material) threatened by the snapshot approach versus the more selective (and hopefully higher quality) material generated by 'self-archiving' and 'post-custodial approaches'. The latter reach the managed environment of a digital archive at a later stage but are likely to have undergone partial appraisal by the creator.

General issues

Paradigm also discovered some more general considerations potentially relevant to several collection development approaches. These include:

Legal agreements - defining expectations
At the outset, regardless of which approach or approaches are adopted, collecting institutions should draw up a legally binding contract which clearly establishes what is expected from both the creator and the collecting institution. Such an agreement will protect the collecting institution from investing time, energy and resources in a collection which is ultimately deposited elsewhere. The deposit agreement will also need to address data protection, privacy and copyright restrictions.
Defining 'advice'
It is important that both parties understand where the boundaries lie for advice relating to the management of current and semi-current records. At an early stage in the relationship, the extent and nature of the 'advice' to be offered by the digital archivist should be defined clearly to avoid potential misunderstandings and liability risks.
Writing guidelines and offering advice
While guidelines written for depositors are of necessity formulaic, the digital curator should avoid alienating potential depositors by being unduly dogmatic or prescriptive. The digital archivist should seek to supplement generic guidelines with ongoing tailored advice which is relevant to the depositor and which accommodates their wishes. See Appendix B: Guidelines for creators of personal archives.
Purchasing personal digital archives
In future high value personal digital archives, such as those created by an eminent literary figure or artist, are likely to be sold in auction houses. This raises a number of issues for the collecting institution, including the need to prove authenticity and establish provenance. If the records were held on obsolete media it would also be necessary to prove that the records could be reliably retrieved prior to purchase. Another key consideration would be whether the seller might try and sell copies of the same records to multiple institutions. To prevent such an occurrence a legally binding agreement that guarantees the collecting institution the right to hold the sole complete research copy will be required.

All collecting strategies adopted by a collecting institution must be reviewed regularly in light of technological and cultural changes and with regard to successful strategies adopted elsewhere within the digital archive community.