PERSIST Selection Guidelines for sustainable digital preservation

The UNESCO PERSIST Project has launched The UNESCO/PERSIST Guidelines for the selection of digital heritage for long-term preservation in 2016. The Guidelines provide an overarching starting point for heritage institutions when drafting their own policies on the selection of digital heritage for long-term sustainable digital preservation. The guidelines are available in five languages.

The Unesco Persist guidelines

Frontpage of the UNESCO PERSIST guidelines

Starting point

We encourage everyone to use the Guidelines as a starting point for the institutional policies. The Guidelines target institutions, professionals and administrators on every level and in every region of the world in order to review existing material for selection, highlight important issues, and offer guidance when drafting institutional policies, they were written by a team of seven authors from the libraries, archives, and museums community.


If you do use the Guidelines, we would very much appreciate any feedback you have in order to improve them and make the truly usable for all communities.

The Guidelines are available in:


UNESCO PERSIST Symposium: Lost in the Cloud. 3 Oct, 2018, Canberra, Australia

Lost in the Cloud : Saving Humanity’s Digital Documentary Heritage
This symposium will explore the nature of digital heritage and the vulnerabilities that place it at risk. Speakers from government, academia and the ICT industry will consider the implications, threats and opportunities presented by technological advancements, including the loss of documentary heritage to future memory, education and cultural heritage.

Wednesday, 9am-4pm, 3 October, 2018
Realm Hotel, Canberra, Australia
Registration from 8.30am

8.30   Registrations
9.00   Opening statement Kylie Walker, Chair of the Australian National Commission for UNESCO and Chief Executive Officer of Science and Technology Australia
9.20   UNESCO statement David Fricker, Vice-President of the UNESCO Memory of the World International Advisory Committee
9.45   Keynote speaker: Tim Gollins, Head of Digital Archiving, National Records of Scotland
10.30  Morning tea

11.00   Panel 1: DigitalWhat are the preservation challenges for documentary heritage?
• Panel MC: Kylie Walker, Chair of the National Australian Commission for UNESCO
• Tim Gollins, Head of Digital Archiving, National Records of Scotland
• Meg Labrum, General Manager, Collections and Access, National Film and Sound Archive
• Representative, Dell EMC
• Anne Lyons, Visiting Fellow, Australian Strategic Policy Institute
12.30   Lunch

1.30   Keynote Speaker: Dr Maya Haviland, School of Archaeology and Anthropology,
Australian National University
2.15  Panel 2: Memory, education and cultural heritageWhat are the threats, implications and opportunities?
• Panel MC: David Fricker, Director-General, National Archives of Australia
• Dr Maya Haviland, School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University
• Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, Director-General, National Library of Australia
• Craig Ritchie, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
• Professor Ross Harvey, Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University

3.45  Summation – David Fricker
4.00  Networking

UNESCO PERSIST joins forces with Digital Preservation Coalition

PERSIST, with the UNESCO Memory of the World Secretariat, is joining forces with the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) to produce an Executive Guide on Digital Preservation. The Guide will provide an overview on the importance and urgency of digital preservation activities, including resources for internal advocacy initiatives. Leading the activity for PERSIST will be the Policy Working Group.


Executive Guide on Digital Preservation

The Guide is aimed at decision-and policy-makers in organizations which now rely heavily on digital media and need to secure their digital legacy. On the DPC side, these include memory and heritage institutions, commercial and financial organizations, government bodies and not-for-profits. On the UNESCO side, they include those in the member states who have a role in implementing the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Preservation of, and Access to, Documentary Heritage Including in Digital Form. The Guide is intended to provide easy access to the points that need to be understood before decisions on preservation policies can be made and implemented. It will give senior executive and policy makers a firm grasp of the underlying issues for their discussions with stakeholders and implementers.

Work in progress

DPC will manage the project and the development of the Guide. UNESCO will provide a platform at experts meetings and forums for review and validation of the work and will publish the Guide through UNESCO channels. A joint DPC-UNESCO-PERSIST Advisory Group has been formed to oversee the direction and progress of the project. The Executive Guide is due in January 2019.

About the Digital Preservation Coalition

The Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) exists to secure our digital legacy; enabling members to deliver resilient long-term access to digital content and services and helping them to derive enduring value from digital assets and raising awareness of the strategic, cultural and technological challenges they face. The DPC offers support through advocacy, community engagement, workforce development, capacity-building, good practice and good governance.

Spanish Translation of Persist Guidelines for the selection of digital heritage for long-term preservation


After the presentation on the Persist project made by Ingrid Parent at the ICA annual conference in Mexico in 2017, various participants expressed the wish that the Persist Guidelines for the selection of digital heritage for long-term preservation should be translated in Spanish.

The Persist Programme Committee is very grateful to Catherine Bloch Gerschel and Jesús Galán Sanchez for their work on the text, and hopes that heritage institutions in the Spanish speaking world will find something usefull in this work of the Persist Content Taskforce.

Earlier, translations of the English text were made into French and Arabic.

PERSIST at ALA ICA Conference, Mexico

The Latinamerican Association of Archivists (ALA – Asociación Latinoamericana de Archivos) hosted the annual conference of the International Council on Archives (ICA) in Mexico City in November.  The event attracted over 600 archivists and other information professionals from around the world to discuss the emerging issues affecting documentary heritage – including preservation of digital heritage.


Vint Cerf, David Fricker, President ICA

Ingrid Parent and David Fricker gave an extensive presentation on PERSIST, during a session chaired by Mr Guy Berthiaume, Director of Library Archives Canada.  The session generated a great deal of discussion, with many contributions from the floor – including from Dr Anthea Seles, the incoming Secretary General ICA and Mr Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Evangelist for Google.  Discussion led to a wide range of issues for PERSIST, including ideas on a sustainable business model, how to advocate for support and how to extend the benefits of PERSIST to less resourced memory institutions.

Ingrid, Guy, David PERSIST

David Fricker, Ingrid Parent and Guy Berthiaume

  • Watch the ALA ICA 2017 PERSIST presentation
  • The Mexico City Declaration adopted by the participants reiterated ICA’s commitment to cooperate with Unesco’s Memory of the World Programme and PERSIST to preserve humanity’s digital documentary heritage. The Declaration can be downloaded in English, French or Spanish.’

Blog on PERSIST’s Policy Working Group

Rob BuckleyRobert Buckley, Chair of PERSIST’s Policy Working Group, wrote a blog on PERSIST at the website of the Digital Preservation Coalition. The blog focuses on the past and future work of this Working Group: the survey on policies and the upcoming Digital Preservation Starter’s Guide. But also the budding plans to provide guidelines for implementing the digital aspects of the UNESCO 2015 Recommendation concerning the preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage including in digital form.

International Digital Preservation Day


Yesterday was the last Thursday of November, so we celebrated International Digital Preservation Day. This day, an initiative from the British Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC), aims to create wider recognition for the value of digital heritage, and for the urgent need to keep it alive. In the framework of International Digital Preservation Day, a Digital Preservation Roadshow was organised at Cambridge University. Prof. Natasa Milic-Frayling spoke there about ‘The Digital Future’. She chairs of the UNESCO PERSIST Technology and Research Group, and spoke of course about the plans of that Group to work for digital continuity, bringing together heritage institutions and the ICT-industry under the aegis of UNESCO.


The notion of ‘digital continuity’ demands of creators of digital technologies to enable the use of their technologies beyond their market prime. Emulation and virtualisation are particular techniques to run old software and access old digital content but they come with complex licensing issues. Researchers and scholars however can virtualise open source research codes used in experiments and we can easily package research data and software together so that is can be used for decades to come. Milic-Frayling also explored the issue of economic sustainability, drawing on her own experience of software sustainability within the vendor market and asking similar questions of sustainability within an academic context.

International Digital Preservation Day was also celebrated, among other countries, in The Netherlands.

The International Advisory Committee of the Memory of the World Programme discusses PERSIST

At its 13th meeting from 24 to 27 October 2017, the International Advisory Committee (IAC) of the Memory of the World (MoW) Programme discussed not only the 132 submissions for the MoW Register, but also various other aspects of its work for the safeguarding and stimulating access to documentary heritage.

The Unesco MoW International Advisory Committee

The Unesco MoW International Advisory Committee

Two members of the IAC, David Fricker and Jonas Palm had presented a document on the future status of the PERSIST programme within the framework of MoW. Fricker is the chair of the PERSIST steering committee and Palm chairs the MoW Sub-Committee on Technology (SCoT), a body that has now changed its name to  Preservation Sub-Committee (PSC).


The document Advancing the PERSIST Initiative explained that PERSIST needs a more recognizable connection to MoW if it is to advance on its mission to start a policy dialogue between heritage institutions, governments and industry on digital sustainability. PERSIST has been part of MoW since its very inception at the Vancouver Conference The Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation in 2012, but its status has not always been sufficiently clear for the Unesco Secretariat and the Unesco member States. PERSIST has likewise cooperated with SCoT since its official launch at the Hague Conference in December 2013, as there is a big overlap between the goals of both groups. Fricker and Palm proposed the transition of PERSIST to a Digital Subcommittee (DSC) on a par with the various other Sub-Committees that function MoW, and to decide on a next IAC meeting whether the PSC and the DSC would merge to one entity.


There were, however, concerns that by creating a new Digital Subcommittee, the preservation of analogue documentary heritage would be side-lined.  It was decided that a working group consisting of Jussi Nuorteva, Adolf Knoll,  Dietrich Schüller, Jonas Palm, Vitor Fonseca and David Fricker should examine how PERSIST can be integrated into the framework of MoW.  The IAC asked the Working Group to make proposals on this within six months. Fricker is confident that this working group will come up with a solution that will beneficial to both the PSC and PERSIST.

PERSIST Policy Working Group publishes report on National Policies and Strategies on the Preservation of Digital Heritage

One of the outcomes of the UNESCO PERSIST meeting in Abu Dhabi (14-16 March 2016) was the decision to organize a global survey about governmental policies and national strategies on long-term preservation of digital heritage. The survey took place between September and December 2016, with the option to send in additions until the end of May 2017.

Persist survey

Strategies on national level

33 countries

In total, 48 respondents from 33 countries filled out the complete survey. Some two thirds of the respondents reported that in their country is no written and cross domain national or federal strategy. 45 respondents described their biggest challenges regarding a national digital preservation strategy. Theses fall into  four main subjects: lack of leadership, lack of knowledge,  lack of funds and lack of consensus between domains or institutions.


The report, written by Wilbert Helmus, will help the Policy Working Group and the Content & Best Practices Working Group in developing their future activities.