PRONI has a responsibility to receive and preserve records that are part of Northern Ireland’s archival heritage. This responsibility applies equally to paper and digital records. Digital Preservation at PRONI aims to preserve digital records to make them available for future generations.
Digital Preservation Project:
On 31 March 2015, PRONI launched its Digital Preservation System. The primary aim of this system is to store, preserve and provide access where possible to digital records. The records that we receive are created by government departments, public sector bodies and private depositors.
The system is made up of four key components:
The Quarantine system acts as a staging post for records before they're transferred into the Digital Repository.
Data Preparation System
The Data Preparation System performs the functions and processes necessary to prepare digital records for permanent deposit in the Digital Repository.
This is where the digital objects and their associated metadata are permanently stored.
Access copies are created for digital records which are open to the public and are made available through PRONI’s online fully searchable database eCatalogue or through CALM, the onsite electronic catalogue.
Digital preservation guidance
- Digital Preservation Strategy
- PRONI Digital Repository – Submission Guidance (Public Sector – Non RecordsNI)
- PRONI Digital Repository – Submission Guidance (Private Records)
The aim of the conservation unit is to preserve the archives in their original form for as long as possible.
Conservation work involves cleaning, repairing damage and sometimes, chemically treating documents to slow down deterioration.
Conservation staff treat the full range of archives held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) which includes paper and parchment manuscripts, maps and plans, prints, drawings, photographs, volumes and seals. Conservation treatments are intrusive by nature and conservators only carry out those treatments which are absolutely necessary.
The conservators also have responsibility for disaster planning and preventative preservation functions which cover all aspects of collection care.
The conservation unit works closely with all other sections in PRONI to make sure that preservation standards are maintained by all staff and visitors.
Digitisation means capturing information in a digital or electronic form.
In archives, digitisation means producing a digital copy of a physical record – for example, scanning a paper document into a computerised format. The digital copy is known as a ‘digital surrogate’.
Archival collections which have been digitised by PRONI and are available to the public online include Will Calendars, Valuation Revision Books, Street Directories and Londonderry Corporation Records.
By digitising suitable collections, PRONI can:
- preserve rare and fragile collections while also improving access to their content by providing digital surrogates of the items for use
- build a collection of digital content about Northern Ireland’s documentary and cultural heritage to support research and PRONI’s education, outreach and exhibition programmes
- allow people, regardless of location, to directly access and use a range of collection materials without having to visit PRONI
- engage with new audiences by making PRONI’s collections available online
- In certain cases, further improving access to content by enhancing the legibility and clarity of records using digital restoration software techniques
Specific details of PRONI’s preservation practices and policies can also be found in PRONI's Preservation Strategy.