Spotlight: The Role of FADGI in Meeting NARA RequirementsWhen creating records, especially those intended for long-term preservation and archiving, records managers must consider an enormous number of variables to ensure the records will serve their intended purpose.

This is particularly true when creating an electronic version of a physical or analog record (for example, creating a digital image of a paper document, map, or drawing). These variables go far beyond simply determining a resolution for the image, as archivists must consider how to ensure the electronic record faithfully captures the exact colors, what equipment to use to create the electronic record, what kind of preparation is required, how to setup the physical space when capturing the record, what format to use to store the record, how technical metadata should be captured and incorporated, and much more.


To help address questions like these and ensure some degree of consistency and quality in output, a number of federal agencies came together to establish the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative (FADGI), which provides comprehensive guidelines: “FADGI is a collaborative effort started in 2007 by federal agencies to articulate common sustainable practices and guidelines for digitized and born digital historical, archival and cultural content.”

How does FADGI work?

As discussed above, FADGI presents performance specifications for creating electronic content – particularly audio-visual content – in a standardized and scalable way. The initiative has produced nearly 100 pages of guidelines addressing everything from file specifications and color encoding to data storage, backup, metadata and file naming conventions. FADGI uses a staged 1- to 4-star approach to judging the quality of electronic output. As Duke University explains, “The 1 and 2 star tiers are used when imaging for access and tiers 3 and 4 are used for archival imaging and preservation as the focus.”

Who is impacted by FADGI?

Any agency that creates permanent records that will be transmitted to the National Archives should consider adopting FADGI standards. That said, meeting the highest levels of FADGI quality standards is more difficult than it sounds. It may require specialized equipment that is more expensive to procure and more difficult to manage and maintain. For example, the equipment may need to be constantly recalibrated to work with different kinds of media.

As a result, meeting FADGI guidelines can be costly and labor-intensive. Of course, not all records need to be captured at the 3- or 4-star level and meeting the lower quality specifications is much easier. To determine what quality level is appropriate for given records, agencies should review the FADGI guidelines or consult with a service conversant with the standards.

Agencies that decide to adhere to FADGI for some or all their records will need to ensure that the equipment they use can generate FADGI-compliant output. They will also need to verify that any records management vendors or services they use can produce FADGI-compliant electronic records as well.

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