Information Services

What is the Digital Archive service?

Find out about what the Centre for Research Collections currently provides in relation to its digital archive service and digital preservation.

Definition of the Digital Archive Function and Activity

The Digital Archive at the University of Edinburgh has been established to handle the rare and unique born digital material that would, under archival appraisal principles and practices, be considered appropriate for long term preservation due to its evidential, legal, contextual or information value.  This material provides the University with its corporate memory, or society with a wider understanding of itself, background, events, knowledge or connections with communities locally, nationally and internationally.


Digital collecting follows the University’s Collecting Policy. It is the digital equivalent of both a physical archival store and a physical Centre for Research Collections for access. The Digital Archive will hold the ‘golden copy’, and therefore unique, authentic and authoritative collections of digital items, in a variety of formats, which mirror the physical collections and nature of collecting within the Centre for Research Collections, as the University’s responsible place for Library, Archive and Museum collections.

While some data sets may eventually become ‘archival’ and move into the digital archive, or need to be kept for a longer period as a resource or for a funding body, the Digital Archive is not a repository for all digital content.

The Digital Archive will be part of a suite of digital preservation activities across the University, which will have different levels of category, and requirements.


The Digital Archive will:

  • Preserve authoritative and authentic collections of born digital content or digital content, which is unique and assessed as archival by the Archives Team.
  • Provide access to archives that are digital for research, learning and teaching through the creation of an access copy from the original digital object.
  • Provide the University with its corporate memory and continue the university’s archive from the physical to the digital.
  • Collect digital content that is archival and which will support teaching, learning and research, such as personal papers, records of businesses or organisations, societies and charities.

Business Processes or Systems

There are a suite of systems currently being used for the digital archive:

  • Archivematica is the digital preservation system
  • ArchivesSpace is the access and discovery system
  • Dspace is the repository for digital objects

All these systems are open source and sustainable, developed in conjunction with users and its developers.

Additional tools are used for activities such as transfer, integrity checking, appraisal, and migration processes, the majority of which are also open source, sustainable tools.

Specific Exclusions from Scope of the Digital Archive

  • Duplicates
  • Surrogates (unless where the surrogate is considered the ‘golden copy’)
  • Items appraised and assessed through the appraisal process as non-archival by a professional archivist. These can include items that:
    • do not have an archive status on a retention schedule,
    • are ephemeral in nature,
    • are likely to be duplicated outwith the university,
    • are system generated, executable, or configuration files that have no informational value.

Schedule and Service Levels

The Digital Archive is an active archive and is managed in adherence to the Digital Preservation Policy and our Digital Archiving and Preservation workflows. Collections are under continual review to ensure ongoing authenticity and integrity of its content. New collections are processed in line with our Digital Archiving and Preservation workflows, which consist of donor engagement, transfer, checks and validation, accessioning, appraisal, migration, cataloguing and preservation.