Preservation metadata is an essential component of most digital preservation strategies. As an increasing proportion of the world’s information output shifts from analog to digital form, it is necessary to develop new strategies to preserve this information for the long-term. Preservation metadata is information that supports and documents the digital preservation process. Preservation metadata is sometimes considered a subset of technical or administrative metadata.
Preservation metadata stores technical details on the format, structure and use of the digital content, the history of all actions performed on the resource including changes and decisions, the authenticity information such as technical features or custody history, and the responsibilities and rights information applicable to preservation actions.
Preservation metadata often includes the following information: Provenance: Who has had custody/ownership of the digital object? Authenticity: Is the digital object what it purports to be? Preservation Activity: What has been done to preserve the digital object? Technical Environment: What is needed to render and use the digital object? Rights Management: What intellectual property rights must be observed?
Digital materials require constant maintenance and migration to new formats as technology changes. In order to survive into the future, digital objects need preservation metadata that can exist independently from the systems which were used to create them. Without preservation metadata, digital material will be lost. “While a print book with a broken spine can be easily re-bound, a digital object that has become corrupted or obsolete is often impossible (or prohibitively expensive) to repair”. Preservation metadata provides the vital information which will make “digital objects self-documenting across time.”