Inspection is the process of gathering detailed information about tape or file condition, in preparation for migration to new formats, as well as to check the status of works already preserved or yet to be preserved.

Inspection at Intake and Cataloging

A detailed physical inspection of the installation and its materials can provide a great deal of information about the work and can help the archivist, conservator, and vendor determine what steps are necessary to migrate the media components to a new format. Inspection for videotape and inspection of digital files will be handled separately, as each form deserves different considerations.

Ongoing Inspection for Digital Files

Rapidly changing technologies and the threat of obsolescence necessitate regular inspection of the work-the work as an interoperable system of data, data formats, software, and physical hardware. It is hard to quantify how frequently items should be checked. Often, software upgrades do not provide backward compatibility, thereby rendering large amounts of digital information obsolete in a short amount of time and without advance warning. Ideally, inspections should be performed as often as every six months in order to make certain that digital files and the systems and equipment needed to run them are in full operation. This is not always feasible, of course, but when bringing a computer-based work into a collection, periodic inspection should always be considered as part of the institution's responsibilities. Test the work in its original environment as well as in the latest environment using the newest version of software, operating system, and/or hardware. Retain multiple copies of the original software. These tests provide a good opportunity to assess the risks and consider what actions will be necessary when the work must be migrated.