Resources: Key Concepts

Here are some key concepts important for understanding archiving. For additional terminology used in the Guide, see the Glossary.


In an information technology (IT) system, the quality of being able to exchange information with another system and being able to use that information. Using widely adopted formats, metadata standards, and controlled vocabularies enhances interoperability.

Media Management 

The process of keeping track of media, such as the video files in your collection, and overseeing any actions performed on your media, such as backup, refreshment or migration. Media management can be performed manually, or with the aid of a software system (e.g. a media asset management (MAM) system).


Any information about a video: from technical information embedded in the file that allows the video to function, such as format and duration, to descriptive information about the content to help you understand or find it--such as keywords, security restrictions, geographic locations, and so on.  Metadata is critical to any future use, and is important throughout the archiving process.

Despite what is sometimes said, images almost never speak for themselves.  They require context and description to make sense, to corroborate their factuality, and to be accessible beyond one person’s memory or desktop.

Metadata can be automatically generated and embedded in the file, such as with technical metadata, or it can be manually recorded on an external medium, such as with descriptions, security flags, and keywords in a database. Metadata capture sometimes needs to be manually enabled on your device, such as with GPS or location services.


The process of re-encoding or transferring data from one digital or physical format to another to ensure long-term accessibility of the information as the format becomes obsolete and unusable over time.


The process of becoming out-of-date and unsupported by available technology. Video cameras, video formats, storage media and storage devices, can all become obsolete over time. The obsolete technology is functional but is unusable because the other technologies they depend on no longer support them. An old video camera, for example, may not be able to plug into new computers, or an old video format might not be playable on new desktop video players.

Original File

In the digital realm, the “original file” is any copy of a file that is exactly the same (i.e. bit-for-bit) as the file in question when it was created. This means that there are no accidental or deliberate alterations to any aspect of the file, including its format and technical specifications.

Original Order

The archival principle of maintaining files in the same order they were created. Original order is important to preserve context and the relationship between individual files, so that you can make sense of each file and of the whole. Keeping files in their original context makes them more complete and reliable.


The process of ensuring the long-term accessibility of authenticated content. Digital preservation involves preventing loss or damage to digital objects, and extending their existence beyond the lifespan of their storage media or technology.  Preservation requires ongoing resources, commitment and actions.


The process of copying data from one storage medium to another to ensure continued access to the information as the storage medium becomes obsolete or degrades over time. It is one strategy for avoiding loss of digital information.


The process of identifying materials to be acquired, or to be preserved, because of their enduring value.  Having selection criteria, or a selection policy, helps ensure you acquire and save only what is most important.

Unique Identifier

A number, word, or symbol for unambiguously identifying and distinguishing an object from other objects in a set. Common everyday unique identifiers include computer logins, credit card numbers, tax ID numbers, and so on. Applying unique identifiers to video files makes it easier to identify, distinguish, and organize videos and related documents.


A map of processes and roles for activities that require multiple stages and usually more than one person.

Control, accountability, and consistency are key to effective archiving, yet archiving involves many steps and potentially many people. It is therefore important to clearly define roles and document procedures so that people working in distributed locales understand their responsibilities, produce usable results, and ensure safety and security. Workflows need not be complex, but are often a helpful tool to plan your work.