Digital Preservation Overview
March 31, 2020
State legislatures face critical challenges in preserving digital materials. This site provides background information and tools and resources from NCSL and other organizations working to keep legislative digital records trustworthy, complete and accessible over time.
NCSL's Preserving Legislative Digital Records publication explains the challenges of preserving legislative records in a digital age and provides options, advice, and simple, low-cost tools and preservation practices.
Printed versions of legislative documents are still the official version in most states. But digital versions of statutes, administrative rules and other legal and legislative documents are gaining broad use in the legal and legislative community, and in some cases, may be the only version.
NCSL is tracking state legislation that would adopt the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA), which provides guidance for the authentication and preservation of certain electronic legal materials.
The Minnesota Historical Society's Center for Archival Resources On Legislatures (CAROL) is the final product of a collaborative project with several state legislatures, which NCSL was involved with, related to the preservation of and access to digital legislative content. CAROL pulls together research information and other resources on pertinent topics, while the Final Report summaries project activities.
Recent External Resources
State Archiving in the Digital Era: A Playbook for the Preservation of Electronic Records, NASCIO and the Council of State Archivists, Oct. 2018
Many states are finding that they are unprepared to deal with the unique management and preservation issues that are related to digital archives. NASCIO, along with the Council of State Archivists created this playbook for the preservation of state electronic records.
NCSL Staff Contact
Pam Greenberg. NCSL Denver Office
Digital Authentication Resources for Legislatures
The California Office of Legislative Counsel has developed a White Paper, Authentication of Primary Legal Materials and Pricing Options, which reviews electronic authentication methods for legal and legislative materials. Six sample solutions are described and their relative costs are compared.
The Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes has published Prototype for Authentication of Official Electronic Record and Pricing (August 2012), which describes a software prototype built to satisfy the requirements of UELMA.
In a September 2016 NCSL conference, legislative staff heard a presentation from California and a presentation from Minnesota about implementation of UELMA requirements. Similarly, in presentations at the NCSL Legislative Summit in July 2014, representatives from the California and Minnesota legislatures described their states' implementation of UELMA: The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act Implementation in California and Minnesota.
Additional information from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes, Minnesota about authentication of digital legal materials and implementation of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) in Minnesota was provided at an NCSL seminar in Oct. 2014 (view handout).
View handouts from a session on digital preservation issues, held at the 2011 Legislative Summit, and read more in NCSL's blog, The Thicket.
Other states that have adopted and implemented UELMA include Delaware and Iowa.
Collaborative Projects and Other Resources
The National Digital Stewardship Alliance of the Library of Congress was launched in July 2010 as an initiative of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. NCSL is a founding member of NDSA, which Congress charged with building the capacity for public and private organizations across the United States to save digital content of current and future value to the nation.
The Council of State Archivists launched the State Electronic Records Initiative focused on improving efforts to manage, preserve, and provide access to state government electronic records nationwide.
The American Association of Law Libraries has researched primary legal materials in the states to determine if online legal materials--statutes, session laws, and more--are trustworthy and preserved for permanent public access.