The Digital Preservation Awards 2020

Last week, the eyes of the world were drawn to a single momentous contest: who would be the winners of this year’s Digital Preservation Awards? Wonder no more: you can find a full list of winners on the Roll Of Honour. You can also click on the embedded clip above to hear about finalists for the award for Safeguarding The Digital Legacy, sponsored by the National Archives. The eventual winner was the UK Web Archive.

Derbyshire Record Office has been preserving paper and parchment records for the full length of our history – but it’s fair to say we are still at the early stages of preserving records digitally. It’s one thing to have a preservation copy of an original (printed reproductions, microfilm copies of parish registers, digital images of archive sources and so on) and quite another to look after a record that has only ever existed in its digital form. The pace of technological change simultaneously solves old problems while creating new ones! That’s why it’s good to know the UK Web Archive is shouldering the preservation burden when it comes to online content.

The archive has been going strong for fifteen years now, aiming to collect as much of the UK web as possible. What you can find on the internet changes rapidly and regularly, and the idea behind the UK Web Archive is that future generations will be able to put themselves in our shoes, and experience an authentic representation of our present-day information environment. There are sixteen sites maintained by Derbyshire County Council which we have specifically asked the web archive to capture. These are:

Arts Derbyshire (for arts events and information)

The Derby and Derbyshire Road Safety Partnership

Derbyshire Economic Partnership (facilitating economic development across the county)

Derbyshire Information, Advice and Support Service (DIASS – supporting young people with special educational needs and disabilities)

Derbyshire Music Education Hub

Derbyshire Partnership Forum (the local strategic partnership aiming to improve the quality of life for the people of Derbyshire)

Derbyshire Pension Fund

Derbyshire Safeguarding Adults Board (information for anyone concerned about adult abuse or neglect)

Derbyshire Spirit (positive examples of people finding a way to thrive despite the pandemic)

Digital Derbyshire (improve the county’s broadband coverage and speed)

Donut Creative Arts Studio (youth arts facility)

Live Life Better Derbyshire (helping us all get healthy and stay that way)

Our Derbyshire (the staff website of Derbyshire County Council – the Web Archive only preserves the public-facing bits)

Park Smarter (information on parking, and a place to pay up if you have received a penalty charge notice)

Safer Derbyshire (the website for community safety)

Schoolsnet (services and information for schools)

Our congratulations to all the winners!

“Why don’t you just digitise it all?”

If we had a £ for every time we have heard this question…

There are many reasons why archive services do not scan all historical documents and make them available electronically – one of the main reasons being the inherent instability of digital files. Most professionals would now dispute that we are really heading for a digital dark age but that doesn’t mean we can be laissez-faire about the preservation of digital content.

As technology changes so rapidly, preservation of digital data actually requires much more active management than most of our paper and parchment collections – the computer I’m typing this on doesn’t even have a CD/DVD drive let alone a floppy disk drive (although fortunately, we do have access to both of this within the office).

There are many examples of lost digital data, the loss of over 50 million songs from MySpace being the most recent – see If it’s online, it’s not permanent. Internet archives can disappear.

Here at Derbyshire Record Office we have been thinking about how we preserve digital content for many years, but this is still something very much in development. However, in the last few weeks we have made good progress and more digital archives are now being received. Watch this space for further developments.


The future history of the school admission register

I’m recycling this image of Steve Bloomer’s school admission record (blog posts passim.), and throwing in a question: have you used our admission registers on Find My Past in your research? And do you think historians a century from now will have the same level of interest in us? Old-style admission registers like this are very largely out of use in today’s educational system, in which schools use pupil management software to record the same types of data. I wonder what effect this will have on historians whose specialist period is Britain of the late 2010s.

It’s not merely a rhetorical question (but what’s wrong with rhetorical questions?) because I have a genuine need to gauge future demand based on present use. As a records manager I have a role in helping to shape the advice the council gives to schools on retention of records. Our current recommendation is that admission and withdrawal records should be transferred here to the record office – but what should we say to schools that don’t produce actual registers?  Are historians so reliant on these sources that we should ask schools to use their software to create an annual “snapshot” of admissions and withdrawals for posterity? Would anyone ever use it?  It’s very hard to say whether this would be an efficient use of resources, because for all we know historians will have other digitally-preserved resources at their disposal – like the central government’s national pupil database, perhaps… Oh, and bear in mind that the present-day admissions process doesn’t capture interesting titbits such as parental occupation (like Steve Bloomer being the son of a blacksmith).

If you have an interest in this subject, whether frivolous or scholarly, I should like to hear from you.  Please leave a comment below, or write in to

Advent Calendar – Day 3

Another day closer and another item featured from our collections… what might it be?

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You can see an enlarged version of today’s item here; to view the whole presentation and other records for the church, we can arrange access through our search room and public computers at the Record Office in Matlock.

And don’t forget, if there is an item you particularly like in our Advent Calendar why not nominate it for our 50 Treasures?