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Migration of file formats: understanding loss and how to manage it

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Course Information


Migration of file formats: understanding loss and how to manage it

This course is brought to you by the CoSector Digital Preservation team, providers of the original Digital Preservation Training Programme (DPTP) since 2005. We have expanded elements from our modules on Preservation Approaches, Migration and File Formats to create this detailed and focussed all-new course.


Topic Areas Covered

  • Introduction: the risks of file format migration
  • Migration as a method in the context of digital preservation
  • Selecting formats, selecting tools
  • Migration of a word-processed file (demo)
  • Embedded properties and invisible losses
  • Image files
  • Acceptance criteria: the method
  • Other migration considerations for long-term preservation
  • What can we do about migration losses?
  • Conclusion


Start time: 09:00

End time: 17:00

Course Code


Course Date

20th June 2017

Places Available

Course Leader

Ed Pinsent

Course Fee

Course Description

A course focusing on File Format Migration, including demos of how migration tools work on test files. The course is taught by a mix of slides, participatory exercises, and live demos on the screen.

Migration is one of the oldest and most widely used digital preservation approaches. Yet migration also causes loss. When we change a file from one format to another, we’re introducing profound changes to the data, and the way that data gets presented to us. Even when we think it’s succeeded, there are changes underneath the surface that might be problematic for us.

Since this loss is inevitable, we need to plan for it. One way of looking at a preservation strategy is that we are planning for loss caused by migration. How can we identify it, what is causing it, and how much of a hit are we prepared to accept?

The main point of this course is to teach an understanding of this strategy, demonstrating the detail by showing actual migrations of files. Word-processed files and image files are covered in these demos.


Learning Outcomes

If you attend this course you will:

  • Understand better the risks of file format migration
  • Be equipped to build your own set of acceptance criteria
  • Learn about current best practice in migration and selection of file formats
  • Be equipped to make your own selections for suitable file formats
  • Gain confidence about using file format tools yourself
  • Be equipped to make your own selections for suitable migration tools
  • Be able to make migration decisions based on visual checks of files and documents
  • Better understand how tools work, and their limitations
  • Understand the importance of embedded properties in files
  • Learn how you can view embedded properties in files, and become aware of tools that help with this
  • See the consequences of the loss of embedded properties
  • Learn some simple expedient measures for loss mitigation
  • Feel more confident in establishing migration workflows that are suitable for your collections


Is this course right for you?

The course is suitable for:

  • Digital Librarians
  • Information Technology managers
  • Archivists
  • Records managers
  • Repository managers
  • Curators
  • Collection managers
  • Information management professionals


Testimonials and quotes

“All of these modules were the ones I was particularly interested in. Though we discuss significant properties and XML and metadata standards at work, there has never been time for me to delve into what these things are and how they influence or are applied to our workflows. Very useful.”

“I am about to propose a strategy on managing file formats, so this was very relevant and useful”.

“Everything on migration was particularly useful. The benefit of having a checklist laid out that can be referred to. It’s a good way to ensure we don’t miss any steps.”

“Provided practical guidance. Excellent!”

“Practical guidance and something I can now apply confidently”.

“The course is perfectly timed for my practical needs at this time”.

“The modules are pitched at a perfect level for my knowledge and experience”.

“It was good to get information on what tools are available”.

“Very helpful in terms of establishing a workflow”.


About the tutor:

Ed Pinsent

Ed Pinsent wrote the recent iterations of the Digital Preservation Training Programme, building on the work of Kevin Ashley, Jen Mitcham, William Kilbride, Patricia Sleeman and others. Ed is a senior archivist based within the Digital Preservation Team at CoSector, and has been involved in all aspects of digital preservation since 2004. He has a traditional archivist and records manager background, and brings to his teaching a wide range of skills and experience from numerous digital preservation projects.