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Music Notation: Preferred Preservation Formats for Digital Scores

Digital Preservation Practices

United States Extension Service. Woman displaying jars of canned food. 1931. Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division.

Persistent, iterative digital preservation practices help keep files accessible. The following list reflects best practices in saving digital scores in all three preferred formats:

  • Create file names without spaces or symbols
  • Regularly backup files
  • Consider saving versions of works as they evolve to capture the compositional process.
  • Save three copies of digital files on at least two different kinds of storage media made by different manufacturers. Storage media can include the cloud but tangible storage, such as external hard drives, is recommended in conjunction with cloud storage.
  • Keep the storage media in different geographic locations.
  • Replace storage media every three to five years.
  • In a text file, record information about the contents of the files including file types, date of creation, date of alteration, dates of backups, software needed to access files, and save with the files described.
  • Recommended: Establish fixity to check for alterations to the files. Fixity software generates a checksum, or a unique alphanumeric string assigned to a digital object. When the digital object changes, the checksum will change as well. Some fixity software scans files at scheduled intervals and tells the user which checksums and files have changed since the previous scan. Fixity software is available both open-source and commercially. It is recommended that users research fixity software to find which program best suits their needs.