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  Preservation Procedure Policy: Provenance
Related Guidance Policy
Definition/ Description Provenance can be defined as: “Documentation of processes in a Digital Object’s life cycle. Digital Provenance typically describes Agents responsible for the custody and stewardship of Digital Objects, key Events that occur over the course of the Digital Object’s life cycle, and other information associated with the Digital Object’s creation, management, and preservation.” (Source: Premis 2.2) This Provenance information is often described in preservation metadata.
Knowing the designated community and their requirements is an essential guide for determining which elements of provenance will establish authenticity for them. A set of research data without information on the software and related parameters used to create those research data might infringe the authenticity for a researcher. Lack of information about the original publisher of an e-book might make the digital object useless for a literature researcher.
It is not only important to know which elements are important for the Designated Community - the (future) users of the digital material, but these elements need to be recorded as well and verified by them.
The provenance trail might differ for different sets of digital objects. For research data this might be links to the analysis process/raw data/publications, etc., for legal deposit libraries this might be the moment when the publisher delivers the digital objects.
Provenance will also play a role in preservation actions like Migration and Normalization (see chapter 7.2)
Why “[Provenance] This ensures that the actions applied to that representation are documented in sufficient detail for present and future users to understand their nature and consequences.”(Source: Premis 2.2 ). This is also called Provenance information and is often described in preservation metadata.
Risks Provenance missing may lead to loss of trust by the Designated Community / stakeholders
Life cycle stage Preservation Planning, Community Watch and Participation, Description & Representation Information, Ingest, Receive Data
Stakeholder Management: set requirements
Producer: will show meeting the requirements
Regulator: will do the actual checking
Collection manager (non Shaman): support management from point of view related to the content to preserve
Cross Reference Metadata, Functional Preservation (Migration)
Examples Parliamentary Archives: “Maintaining a full audit trail of all preservation actions performed on a representation of a record.“Source:,
Control Policy For a particular collection, which is of high value, the following control policies might be applied:
  • All preservation events MUST be recorded
  • Information on preservation events SHOULD use the PREMIS schema
  • Original creation date MUST be kept
to foster
  • Does your organisation have identified the user community for each set of digital objects?
  • Does your organization have identified and described the crucial elements with regard to establishing authenticity for the user community?
  • Is it clear to your organisation how provenance will be achieved, for example where the provenance trail will start and how this will be maintained during the preservation life cycle?
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