Preserving reactions to Lord Of The Rings

‘Preserving reactions to Lord Of The Rings’ is a funny blog posting title, but I’ll explain…

Back in 2003 to 2004, our department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies undertook the biggest audience response survey to a film ever. They collected just short of 25,000 responses to the films from speakers of 14 different languages. The project is now finished, published, and they’re hoping to move on to even bigger projects of the same type. So the work is ready to archive in our repository, and its my job to archive the data in such as way as to enable and ensure preservation.

Now, I’m no preservation expert, so the following details what I did to archive the data which was given to us in the form of a Microsoft Access database, and a word document explaining the structure of the database and the codings it used:

  • The database: Well, nothing wrong as such with archiving an Access database – it can easily be used by people today. So that gets archived. But what about a long-term copy for archival and preservation purposes? Access has a nice handy ‘Export to xml’ feature. That looks good! It even gives the option to ensure the file is correctly encoded in UTF-8 to preserve the audience responses in different character sets. (As an aside, the xml file is about 40MB big, so I found in order to get an xml editor to open the file in order to validate it and check the encoding I had to upgrade the RAM on my Vista workstation from 2Gb to 4GB!).
  • The guidance notes: These came in Microsoft Word format, nice and easy, so that gets archived. A PDFa copy is then created using Microsoft Word’s ‘Export to PDF’ option, and that is archived too.
  • The repository: All this is stored in a DSpace-powered repository, has daily file checksum checks being run to detect bit-rot, backed up nightly to disk and tape, with off-site copies of the tapes stored.
Now to a non-preservation expert, this all sounds too easy. Have I been naive and missed any thing out? (Wouldn’t surprise me! 🙂 )

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4 thoughts on “Preserving reactions to Lord Of The Rings

  1. Maureen

    Hi Stuart,

    Interesting stuff! I’ve posted a few comments on the DCC blog in response, more about usability than preservation as I couldn’t find your preservation policy 😉 and I don’t have much experience of the XML generated by MS Access.

  2. Steve Hitchcock

    Stuart, I don’t think you’ve missed anything major as far as this item is concerned. Your approach includes strategy, planning and action. By applying this approach across other repository items I suspect a reasonable policy could be formalised. If you wanted to be strict about this, you might make a significant properties analysis of the Access-XML conversion, i.e. what is the key functionality of the db that you want to preserve, and does the XML enable that to be reproduced? Ultimately, following our theme of data proliferation in the preservation session at the recent RSP summer school (, you might want to think about storage and how this how this might scale up

  3. Chris Rusbridge

    Stuart, I agree with Steve, this is pretty good. However, I would suggest just a little more editing of the guidance notes, particularly in relation to the coded questions. Someone attempting to use the database could probably work them all out, but you have not been explicit about the likert codings, nor about gender coding

  4. stuart Post author

    Maureen / Steve / Chris: Thanks for your useful comments. I’ll try and find some time over the few weeks to work on your suggestions. Cheers, Stuart

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