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Preservation is one of the central responsibilities of an archive. UNESCO CCCAA defines preservation as “the totality of the steps necessary to ensure the permanent accessibility – forever – of an audiovisual document with the maximum integrity”.

Both passive and active strategies (including digitisation) are employed to maintain and ensure accessibility to an archive’s content (and for some archives, the physical carriers) over time. Since every archive has limited time and resources, the creation of a “preservation plan” (sometimes called a “preservation strategy”) is required. Such a plan outlines selection criteria which specifically defines which material has priority for active or passive preservation. Selection criteria should consider copyright considerations as well as the content and physical deterioration of materials.

Passive preservation strategies
Passive preservation (also referred to as preventative preservation) covers the maintenance of proper storage conditions, establishing professional handling procedures, carrying out low level physical treatment of material in order to stabilize its physical condition and performing condition surveys (through random sampling) in order to establish priorities for active preservation treatment over time. It also includes writing a Disaster Preparedness Plan so that the archive knows precisely how to act when something unpredictable brings the collection in physical danger.