The purpose of this section of the guidelines is to discuss how to manage digital images as records.

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A trusted, reliable framework for digitisation

Where digital images are replacing the original paper records they are required to function as evidence of your organisation’s business, especially in business process digitisation where the records may be more current than in a back-scanning project. Therefore the digitisation process needs to create images that are full and accurate and:

Authentic The product of routine, authorised digitisation and registration processes
Complete An accurate, legible reproduction of the original, without substantive changes or deletions of content
Accessible Available and readable to all with a right to access them for as long as required

To enable the digital images to function effectively as evidence, your organisation needs to establish a trusted, reliable framework for your digitisation project. This means ensuring that the project is effectively managed. You should ensure that:

  • plans are in place
  • equipment and allocated space is fit for purpose
  • suitable processes are devised to meet established benchmarks, documented in policies and procedures and made known to staff members
  • suitable technical specifications and metadata requirements have been established
  • there are quality assurance measures in place to ensure all procedures are followed correctly and that images are adequate for their purpose
  • relevant staff members are trained and supported to meet their roles and responsibilities
  • the project is regularly monitored and reviewed.

Your organisation should already have a records management program in place. Back-capture digitisation projects should be integrated into this program to ensure that both the original paper records and digital images are managed effectively and strategically for as long as they are required.

Your organisation will also have existing workflows and business processes which may involve the records earmarked for digitisation. The digitisation project may provide an opportunity to examine and streamline existing processes or devise new processes and integrate digitisation into workflows.

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Suitable storage of digital images

Digital images need to be stored, backed up and managed effectively for as long as they are required. Poor storage could nullify the longer term value of the images to the organisation.

When digital images are replacing the original paper records as evidence of business, it is particularly important to store masters in a way that can promote and ensure their security and longevity.

Projected storage requirements

In the planning stages of a digitisation program, projections should be made for the storage requirements of digital images so that the ICT infrastructure and system architecture can support their storage. Requirements should be updated as required.

Note: While digital storage costs are reducing, the potential size of individual digital images and the potential volume of images will have an impact on your organisation’s ICT resources. You will need to understand the size of storage required for the digital images and the need for any system purchases within the framework of your organisation’s ICT infrastructure and systems architecture. Relevant ICT staff must be key stakeholders in digitisation projects.

For example:
Do you have adequate storage capacity for the amount of digital images likely to be generated?This will vary based on digitisation volumes, document types, resolutions etc.

This should be adequate to meet projected storage requirements for at least 3 years (with the ability to cost-effectively increase storage when required) or 5 years (which would be the projected life of the storage system).

A digitisation program in a small agency may have a calculation like this:
[Average file size = 20MB] x [#Digitised files/day = 100] x [Workdays/year =260] gives a storage requirement of 520GB/year (or 1.56Tb over 3 years).

A larger organisation could be in the vicinity of 10-15Tb per year, doubling each year.

You will also need to consider what bandwidth is required for access, depending on access requirements.

Storing images in a digital recordkeeping system

Images should be stored in a digital recordkeeping system. The following table lists the protections afforded records stored in a recordkeeping system:

The digital image should be... That is...
Secure Unable to be altered or tampered with or accessed by unauthorised users. The digital images must remain accurate and reliable reproductions of the original paper records that were created or received so that they can be trusted as reliable evidence. Unauthorised attempts to access them must be able to be detected by the system. The images and their metadata must also be backed up and protected from disaster.
Accessible Stored in a way that allows anyone with sufficient access privileges to access and view the digital images and their metadata.
In context with related records  Related to other records (paper or digital) documenting the same business processes. The digital images will also inherit the metadata and classifications associated with the business process they document or relate to.
Able to be managed long term (when required) Protected, accessible and useable for as long as required (as defined in current retention and disposal authorities). 

If a digital image is to be linked to business systems, the systems should have recordkeeping functionality or be integrated with recordkeeping systems. This will enable the  image to have the protections described in the table above and inherited metadata associated with the business processes it forms part of.

All digital images and their associated metadata need to be included in your organisation’s back-up regime. Back-up regimes should be documented and back-up copies maintained to a level of security that will ensure the authenticity of any recovered records. System failures should be documented and any use of back-up copies for restoration purposes should be accompanied by verification testing.[1]

For more information about requirements for digital recordkeeping systems and metadata within business and recordkeeping systems see the Standard on records management and the Managing digital images as records guidelines.

Remember when choosing storage methods that response times required by users should be considered. If an image takes 15 minutes to access it will not satisfy user needs.

Storage of digital images on removable media (e.g. compact discs)

State Records advises that organisations should not use removable media for the storage of State records. Removable media is subject to a number of risks. For example, they can easily be damaged, stolen or lost, or left on a shelf and forgotten when migration projects are underway. In addition, records stored on removable media are not backed up as part of the regular backup cycle.

Storage of derivative images

If your organisation creates derivative digital images (copies of lesser quality), you should establish rules about how these derivatives are stored. In many cases they too may need to be captured into recordkeeping systems e.g. if the records are sensitive and their access needs to be carefully controlled and monitored or if they are used in another business process. Your organisation may also need to provide guidance to prevent staff from saving multiple copies of digital images to their local or shared drives.

Storing images in an image management system

In its back-capture digitisation projects, your organisation may choose to use its EDRMS to store digital images. If digitisation of archival records is being undertaken you may choose to use an image management system that is separate from your organisation's EDRMS. Image management systems allow for the storage and retrieval of digital images and their associated metadata.

Your choice will be dependent on:

  • the size of your project
  • your current hardware and software environment
  • any existing investments in image management, collection management or other relevant systems
  • the specific functions you want the system to perform.[2]

You should discuss your needs more fully with State Records' staff before purchase.

Access and security

Decisions regarding where to store digital images will influence how access controls can be applied to them.

For example:

If you store digital images in recordkeeping systems, you can apply security classifications and other access controls as required. Audit trails can also kept of who accessed the images and when.

When examining a business process, your organisation can determine whether existing access and security controls for the original paper records are adequate and also applicable to the digital images and any copies or derivatives, as well as how these might be applied.
Considerations for access should also include how the digital images will be delivered to clients (if relevant).

Conducting system checks

Your organisation will need to ensure that audit trails can demonstrate who had access to digital images, whether staff followed procedures or whether there has been unauthorised access to images. Routine tests of system performance may need to be implemented and operational records of the system kept for as long as required.

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Authorised and managed disposal of digital images

When digital images are being managed as records, their disposal needs to be authorised. They must be retained for the entire retention period the original paper records were subject to.

For example:

An organisation digitised paper records that were authorised for destruction 10 years after last action. At the time of digitisation the records were no longer needed for current business and had not been actioned for 3 years. The organisation then destroyed the original paper records. The digital images now need to be retained for a further 7 years before destruction can take place (i.e. a total of 10 years after last action).

A digital image's metadata should be disposed of in accordance with General retention and disposal authority: administrative records.

Disposal actions applied to digital images and their metadata need to be documented in accordance with the Standard on records management.

When the retention period for the digital images has been reached and they are to be destroyed, any derivative images should be destroyed at the same time, unless they have been used in new business processes.

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Strategies for the long term management of digital images

Some digital images will need to be kept for a very long time, but they are at risk of media degradation and technological obsolescence. The average life span of a digital image is 5-7 years. If digital images are replacing original paper records as evidence of business activity, and need to be retained for longer periods of time, it is essential that your organisation establishes and documents management regimes to ensure they continue to be preserved and accessible for as long as required. These regimes are likely to form part of wider organisational strategies for the long term management of digital records.

One way to promote the long term management of digital images is to capture them in standard file formats and with the highest technical specifications that can be supported. In addition, good quality metadata should be added so that the images will continue to be meaningful. See Technical specifications and Metadata requirements for more information.

Planning for the long term management of digital records involves being vigilant in monitoring for technological obsolescence or media degradation, being flexible to change and adopting migration strategies. A migration strategy aims to transfer a record and its associated metadata into subsequent generations of software, hardware and media, in ways that preserves its authenticity and integrity.[3]

For example:

An organisation had a system that needed to be decommissioned but the digital images stored within it still needed to be kept for another 10 years according to their retention and disposal authority. The organisation exported the images and their metadata and maintained them in another system until their retention period expired.

Any decision not to migrate digital images when necessary constitutes disposal and needs to be authorised in accordance with the State Records Act 1998.

Note: It is essential to recognise that the long term management of digital images also means a long term commitment to staffing, continuous quality control, and hardware, storage, and software upgrades.[4]

See Managing digital records for more information.

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Managing digital images as records Yes No
Has the organisation identified the official records to be used in the transaction of business?    

If the digital images replace the original paper records as the official records can they be retained for as long as the originals are required under current retention and disposal authorities?

Does the organisation have a trusted and reliable framework for digitisation?     
Are digital images stored in ways that will protect their security and accessibility, links with related records and longevity?    
Have projected storage requirements been defined so that the ICT infrastructure and system architecture can support their storage?    
Is the disposal of digital images and their metadata authorised and managed appropriately?    
Are digital images part of the organisation's framework for the long term management of digital records?    


[1] Archives New Zealand, Digitisation standard, 2007, p.21.

[2] David Roberts, 'Digitisation and imaging' in Keeping Archives III, Australian Society of Archivists, 2008, p.419-420 (not available online).

[3] Ibid, p.24

[4] Howard Besser, Introduction to imaging: Long term management and preservation, Getty Research Institute, n.d., available at:

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