Workbook on Digital Private Papers > Introduction > Background


The Paradigm Workbook is an evolving resource based on an exemplar project at the academic research libraries of the Universities of Oxford and Manchester. Between January 2005 and February 2007, the Paradigm project explored the issues involved in the long term preservation of personal digital archives using today's politicians and their personal archives as a testbed.

Why personal archives?

Despite the exponential growth in digital content being created by individuals, there is a marked lack of research and development dedicated to the preservation of this kind of content. To date, digital preservation projects have tended to be sponsored by corporate bodies or state archives, where legal, financial and organisational drivers have provided an impetus to develop policies, procedures and systems designed to preserve digital objects deemed to be of value to the organisation. These developments are welcome, but working with individuals to preserve their personal digital archives presents different challenges which require different solutions.

Project methodology

The project team investigated various tools, models, software, standards, metadata, strategies, policies and procedures associated with preserving digital objects. During the course of the project these have been mapped to traditional archival workflows and the particular circumstances of institutions scollecting personal digital archives.


It is hoped that the Workbook will be helpful to all that are interested in the preservation of digital objects with long-term value. Its principal audience is organisations, of any flavour, which care for the personal archives of politicians, scientists, writers, journalists, academics or of other individuals. Personal archives illuminate the history inscribed in official records; developing the capacity to collect, preserve and provide long-term access to such materials is critical if institutions, such as academic research libraries, are to continue fulfilling their roles as humanity's remembrancers.

The authors

The principal authors of the Workbook are the project team: Susan Thomas (Project Manager and Digital Archivist, Oxford), Renhart Gittens (Software Engineer, Oxford), Janette Martin (part-time Digital Archivist, Manchester) and Fran Baker (part-time Digital Archivist, Manchester).


The workbook should be cited as follows:
Paradigm project, Workbook on Digital Private Papers, 2005-7 <> [access date].

The printed edition of the Paradigm Workbook

A printed edition of the Workbook is available free of charge. Please contact to request a copy.


The funding which has made this project possible came from the JISC's Institutional Digital Preservation and Asset Management Programme; and from the University of Oxford's Research Development Fund (now the John Fell OUP Research Fund).


The project team would like to thank the politicians and their staff, who made this project possible by contributing their time and archival materials. We are also grateful to those that provided input to the project and the Workbook, including the following: Paul Bevan (National Library of Wales), Stephen Bird (Labour history Archive and Study Centre), Stella Butler (John Rylands University Library), Chris Fletcher (Bodleian Library), Richard Gartner (Oxford Digital Library), Stella Halkyard (John Rylands University Library), Sarah Higgins (Digital Curation Centre), Amanda Hill (Archives Hub), Helen Hockx-Yu (JISC), John Hodgson (John Rylands University Library), Jeremy John (British Library), Helen Langley (Bodleian Library), Charlotte McKillop-Mash (Bodleian Library), Matthew Neely (Bodleian Library), Richard Ovenden (Bodleian Library), Tim Padfield (The National Archives), James Peters (John Rylands University Library), Michael Popham (Oxford Digital Library), Glen Robson (National Library of Wales), Jane Stevenson (Archives Hub), Emily Tarrant (Bodleian Library) and Dave Thompson (Wellcome Library). Thanks go too to the members of Paradigm's academic advisory Board: Lawrence Goldman (University of Oxford), Simon Bailey (Oxford University Archives), Martin Conway (University of Oxford), John Davis (University of Oxford), Steven Fielding (University of Salford), Alex May (University of Oxford), Kevin Morgan (University of Manchester) and to the following organisations: Digital Curation Centre, Digital Preservation Coalition, the Fedora community and JISC Legal.