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Guide to Organizing Digital Files

Welcome and Important Info

Welcome to Guidelines for Organizing Digital Files!

First, if you have analog materials that you've already digitized, we'd actually prefer to re-digitize your analog materials so we can digitize to our specifications to better ensure proper digital preservation of the files. If that's the case, contact us for next steps!

However, if your materials were never analog and started out born-digital, this guide is mainly for those materials. Born-digital just means that an object was first created in a digital format. These files, while convenient to work with and share with others, are not usually as stable as materials created in an analog format such as photos taken on a film camera in the 1980s, a paper journal from the 1800s, or some home movies on 8mm film from the 1960s. Born-digital files aren't as stable because they're not "human-readable" and we have to rely on software and computers to interpret the information on the files instead of  seeing what they are with our own eyes. Also, as time passes, new software and formats are created and it gets hard to open files created in older formats. When was the last time you took a look at what was a floppy disk from 1994?

So, in order to properly preserve items that are born-digital, we need to make sure we have them properly taken care of. This guide will help you select and prepare your born-digital files for long-term preservation and use so that they can be accessible for decades to come! 


Who created this Guide?

The documents that informed the Guide to Organizing Digital Files were created by a Born-digital Discussions Group (BDDG) subgroup. The BDDG is an informal group focused on sharing information around born-digital projects/workflows and creating practical solutions to born-digital challenges.

BDDG subgroup members included, in alphabetical order:

Jessica Breiman, Special Collections, Digital Archives Librarian

Sara Davis, Special Collections, Senior Photograph Archivist

Tawnya Keller, Digital Library Services, Head of Digital Preservation 

Rebecca Roper, Special Collections, Collection Manager

Molly Steed, Special Collections, Head of Multimedia Archives; Multimedia Curator

Kirk Watson, Digital Library Services, Digital Preservation Software Specialist

Betsey Welland, Special Collections, Senor Manuscripts Archivist



Access to Collections

As you navigate through this guide, remember that Special Collections at J. Willard Marriott Library is open to the public. We are dedicated to providing access to the materials we preserve. In the majority of our collections, we provide unrestricted access to the collections onsite. If you have materials that you'd like to embargo or restrict access to, we recommend that you retain those files until you are ready to provide access to them. 

Interested in adding your files to the Marriott Library Digital Library? Navigate to the section on file organization to learn more about identifying materials to publish in the digital library. 

Contact Us!

If you're confused about any of these guidelines and want to talk to us, please reach out! We're happy to meet with you to get your collection arranged so that we can preserve and make it accessible before it's donated. 

Contact the Digital Archives Librarian at    801-581-7925 (

Contact the Head of Digital Preservation at 801-581-8594 (

How to Get Your Collection To Us

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