Commission on Preservation and Access

Structured Glossary of Technical Terms

Scope of the Glossary

This document is a structured glossary, in the sense that the terms have been hierarchically grouped. The term “taxonomy” was used to describe earlier drafts of the manuscript, but that term was dropped since it might imply a degree of completeness and form beyond that envisaged, or even possible, for such a document. This document is not intended to be complete with respect to preservation and access technologies as a whole, but is highly selective (and even highly subjective) in its choice of terms to include, and very much slanted towards the use and impact of digital technologies. Other preservation technologies are sketched in for contextual purposes only. Within these constraints, the Glossary is intended to be comprehensive but not exhaustive.

The Glossary is not intended to solve all issues associated with the definition of technological and other terms associated with preservation and access. It is a conceptual document. Not all terms are defined with equal precision; indeed, the degree of precision is largely directed by the extent to which it is necessary to distinguish among these terms. The Glossary is intended to be adequate to support further research and development on the subject. Indeed, one measure of success of the Glossary will be the extent to which it stimulates additional work in the field, including refinements of the Glossary itself.

For the conceptual reasons outlined above, the Glossary departs from many well-established norms. Furthermore, excluded in any detail are terms primarily associated with conservation, such as paper deacidification, where every effort is made to preserve the documents in their original physical form, [6] or hand conservation. The focus, as stated, is on preservation through media conversion (traditionally known as “reformatting”, a term which we do not favor in this Glossary–see 3.1), where the objective is to preserve the intellectual content of the original document on some other medium, and also if desired to produce at some later stage a close physical facsimile of the original, at least to the extent allowed by the technology.

The focus is also for the most part on paper documents requiring preservation. These represent the principal (but not the only) area of national and international attention: paper documents have the longest history and exist in the greatest numbers. They are also in urgent need of preservation because of the “embrittlement” (see 1.5.4) caused by the high acid content of paper manufactured since the mid-nineteenth century and by improper storage environments. In the years to come, the focus may well shift to other media. There is already, for example, considerable attention paid to film preservation, and video recordings are already deteriorating at an alarming rate.

Different technologies are more or less suitable to preserve different classes of documents or for achieving different access or other objectives. One of the main applications intended for this Glossary is for the classification of ranges of activity that can be used to describe different investigations into preservation and access methodologies. The level of detail varies throughout the Glossary according to what we believe is necessary to make the Glossary most pertinent to this intended application.

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