Planning Kit for a Quality Site for Small and Medium Sized Museums

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The Quality Principles Handbook says:


This section examines the tenth and final quality principle, that «A quality Website must adopt strategies and standards to ensure that the Website and its content can be preserved for the long-term». It:

  • examines how to interpret the preservation principle
  • outlines criteria for establishing whether or not a Website can be preserved
  • suggests a checklist of Website characteristics to use to ensure preservability
  • describes a number of tests which can be taken in order to verify that the Website can be preserved.


This principle focuses on long term preservation and how to facilitate it. An underlying reality and risk factor for all Websites, cultural and otherwise, is the rapid evolution of technologies. This means that there is a strong likelihood that the dominant publication and rendering technologies in the medium and long-term futures will be quite different to those in use today. This in turn has the consequence that Websites created today are likely to be inaccessible in the longer-term future.

This concern is of particular relevance to cultural Websites, because the material presented there is typically of long-term value. Cultural material is likely to be as valuable in twenty years’ time as it is today, with only few exceptions. This makes a long term preservation strategy a critical part of any cultural Website and a key quality indicator.

The key focus for long term preservation is the digitised cultural material that is hosted on the Website. These images, multi-media displays, digital text, etc. will hold their value for much longer than the Website which displays them today.

It is not feasible to predict with any reliability the technologies and approaches that will be used for information access in the future. Instead, any long term preservation strategy must work on the basis that there will be some demand, in the future, for material which is being produced today. Some technologies will continue to be supported, or will be the subject of migration or emulation tools which will allow them to be accessed. It is a reasonable assumption that the technologies that will have the most support in the future are those which are dominant and standard today. Thus, to increase its prospects of long-term preservation, any Website should utilise standard technologies and approaches to as great a degree as appropriate.

Long term preservation has a good deal in common with interoperability - in this case, the Website must interoperate with future systems, rather than remote ones. Again, strategies should emphasise the use of standards in areas such as:

  • Data models
  • File formats
  • Presentation (Website) technologies
  • Media

For guidance on standards in these areas, see the Minerva Technical Guidelines. In addition to the use of standard technologies, Website owners should have explicit strategies for dealing with shorter-term preservation, and agreed approaches for the longer term. For example:

  • backup and restore procedures must be put in place, to preserve cultural information after machine outages, tape corruption, etc.
  • Disaster recovery plans must be in place, which deal with the consequences of fire, flood and earthquake
  • Media with good medium-term durability, such as Digital Linear Tape (DLT-tape) should be used for periodic backups, supplementing other common storage media such as CD and DVD
  • The archiving of content over the Internet to a remote server, data farm or Web archive which has another, complementary preservation strategy may also be considered. If selected for preservation by a Web archive, then permission should be given, with agreement to reasonable IPR licensing requirements
  • Archived media should be reviewed and tested periodically, to protect against media corruption
  • Migration onto new media should be considered, when older media reach close to their expected corruption or degradation dates.

There remains an important element of technical uncertainty with regard to long term preservation. However, a Website manager can lay the foundations for successful long term preservation by establishing policies and procedures which will facilitate preservation in the future, as the technology evolves.

Footnote: several third party organisations (e.g. the Internet Archive) currently archive elements of the Internet based on their potential cultural value and long-term interest. While such an organisation could potentially act as a preservation vehicle, it would not be advisable to rely upon them as the sole source of such preservation.


The following criteria should be met if a site is to be considered amenable to preservation. The degree of readiness for preservation reflects the number of these criteria which are met; thus a site can be ‘75% prepared for preservation’ if not all the criteria are met.

Some of the criteria overlap across the quality principles. As noted above, there is a good deal of parallel between long term preservation and interoperability; both promote the use of standard technologies and approaches.

Criteria for long term preservation include the following:

  • Long term preservation policy exists
  • Short term preservation strategy includes: il salvataggio
    • Backup
    • Disaster recovery
    • Remote backup
    • Durable media such as DLT
  • Medium term preservation strategy includes :
    • Replacement of aging media
    • Migration to new media as they become dominant
    • Migration or emulation of content formats and presentation technologies, as replacements appear
    • Website uses standard file formats
    • Website uses standard presentation technologies
    • Website avoids the use of proprietary technologies, plugins, etc.


This section presents a number of points against which a site can be checked.

Long term preservation policy exists      
Short term preservation strategy exists      
Web site backed up regularly      
Off-site backups held      
Disaster recovery plan exists      
Disaster recovery plan has been tested      
Periodic backups taken to more durable media (e.g. DLT)      
Medium term preservation strategy exists      
Media migration has been considered      
Media migration is planned or ongoing      
Replacement of aging media planned or ongoing      
File format and presentation migration and/or emulation planned or ongoing      
Website content uses standard file formats      
Website uses standard presentation technologies      
Website avoids proprietary extensions and plugins      

Practical tests

This section suggests some simple, pragmatic tests and questions to be asked in order to assess how completely your Website is prepared for long term preservation

  1. Has a long term preservation policy been drawn up?
  2. Has a short term preservation strategy / backup plan been drawn up?
  3. Is it in effect?
  4. Is the Website backed up regularly?
  5. Are backups held off-site?
  6. Are master periodic backups held on DLT or other more durable media?
  7. Does a full disaster recovery plan exist?

  8. Has it been tested?
  9. Has a medium term preservation plan been drawn up?
  10. Does it include
    • Media refreshing?
    • Media migration?
    • File format migration or emulation?
  11. Does the Website use standard file formats?
  12. Does the Website use standard presentation technologies?
  13. Does the Website use proprietary extensions and technologies?
  14. Does the Website use plugins or downloadable extra functionality?

© Minerva Project 2005-03, last revision 2006-03-30, edited by WP5, Committee for the development of a prototype of public cultural websites.
URL: www.minervaeurope/structure/workinggroups/userneeds/prototipo/verificaqualita/principi/conservato_e.html