A Practical Approach to System Preservation Workflows

Ian Welch 1 , Niklas Rehfeld 2 , Euan Cochrane 3 , and Dirk von Suchodoletz 4
  • 1 School of Engineering and Computer Science, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • 2 School of Engineering and Computer Science, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • 3 Independent Consultant Melbourne, Australia
  • 4 Department of Computer Science, University of Freiburg, Germany


Digital objects are often more complex than their common perception as individual files or small sets of files. Traditional methods of preserving these complex objects such as migration may not be suitable for maintaining access to them in an economically and technically feasible way. Many of today’s preservation scenarios would benefit from a change in our understanding of digital objects. Instead of focusing on single digital files or small groups of files as they are commonly conceived of, computer systems in full should be considered. The preservation community could benefit from widening its collecting scope to include complex objects such at scientific desktops, databases, machines running networked business processes or computers of famous people such as authors or politicians. Such objects are not just interesting in their own right but also have to potential to provide a more immersive and contextually rich experience than simpler digital object.

In this paper we describe a workflow to be used for replicating installed application environments onto emulated or virtualized hardware, we discuss the potential for automating steps in the workflow and conclude by addressing some of the possible issues with this approach. We focus on the x86 architecture but we also discuss considerations for generalising the workflow to work with a wider range of architectures such as Macintoshes or Android smartphones.

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