REF2014 Impact Case Study: Preserving the Digital Future: The impact of the TOTEM (Trustworthy Online Technical Environment Metadata) registry on preservation professional policy and practice.

  • Janet Delve (Participant)

Impact: Cultural & Creative Impacts

Description of impact

TOTEM is the result of fundamental research at the University of Portsmouth into the metadata required to create stable, long-term solutions to preservation through a strategy of emulation. A global consortium of libraries has adopted the innovative TOTEM registry data model to address urgent issues surrounding the preservation of digital artefacts. End-users confirm that TOTEM has had significant cultural and technical impact on the preservation practices of national libraries including the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia, and US National Archives and Records Administration. Benefit to these organisations is technical, societal and economic, contributing to viable, long-term solutions in digital preservation policy.

Who is affected

National Archives; Libraries; Records administration; Digital preservation organisations.


The core challenge for digital archiving is to match potentially obsolete software that originally created artefacts – ‘complex’ objects with sound and visuals as well as data information – with later computing platforms that can thus preserve them. The TOTEM project has effected major change in the technical specifications of preservation: its technical strategy for ‘emulation’ enhances previous processes through which old files are ‘migrated’.
£3 billion of public finance is invested annually in research in the UK alone yet the full economic and cultural value of research in all disciplines is lost where it cannot be preserved. TOTEM directly contributes to the sustainability of global digital architectures, lowering barriers to effective conservation and curatorial management of collections, and preserving cultural value through technical application of research to preservation policy and practice.
Impact statusOpen
Category of impactCultural & Creative Impacts
Impact levelBenefit (delivered impact)


  • archives
  • digital artifacts
  • preservation


  • REF2014