The Dutch Digital Heritage Network (NDE) has developed an on-line tool for helping archives and heritage organisations to formulate a policy on file formats: the Guide to Preferred Formats. It consists of three parts, i.e. 1) a step-by-step plan intended to help organisations in formulating a policy on preferred formats, 2) a registry of file formats with detailed information on each of them based on PRONOM and the Digital Preservation Risk Matrix by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and 3) an institution page which provides an overview of the institution’s preferred formats.
Data and their carriers work in tandem with each other. Data needs a carrier, whether it is a sheet of parchment, a glass negative plate or a PDF file. Clearly, if you work with digital information objects, you’ll need to find out as much as possible about the media that carry the information in question, i.e. file formats. The organisation curating the information needs to have a policy on file formats. That means deciding what guarantees it is willing and able to give about preservation, and how it should communicate about preservation issues with suppliers (and users) of the material.
The Guide to Preferred Formats is overseen by an ‘expert group on preferred formats’. The expert group’s remit will be to bring together, share and refine the expertise on file formats currently available in the Netherlands.
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