File naming guide for digital files

You have compiled your inventory, have written a Digitisation Plan and have selected your Queensland heritage materials to digitise. You are now ready to start scanning and capturing your physical items in order to create digital surrogates for access and preservation. Before you start scanning and capturing, you will need to set up file naming and file directories, in order to properly store all digitised files.

What is file naming and what are file naming conventions?

  • File naming is setting up digital files with appropriate file names for individual files and for the computer directories that the files are going into
  • File naming conventions are best practices established and accepted throughout the world to provide consistent ways to name the digital files, to store the files in a computer system, to find files and to access files in the future.
  • State Library of Queensland recommends starting with setting up file directories by accession number and format with consistent file names to be used by everyone in the organisation
  • Consistent file naming is for both turned digital (digital surrogate of a physical items) and born digital files (digital capture where there is no physical item, e.g. digital photos):
    • Image files – photographs, manuscripts, books, maps, music scores and artists’ books
    • Audio files – of music, oral histories, public speakers or other public programs (webcasts)
    • Audio-visual files – films, VHS, recordings of public presentations (webcasts) and digital stories

Why use consistent file naming?

Consistent and appropriate file naming is the most fundamental process you can set up to ensure that digital files of Queensland’s heritage collections will be available in the future

Example of File Naming:

Use a basic file naming structure that identifies the accession number, then the file name for the capture. Use numbers when possible with dashes. Stay away from underscores and long file names whenever possible. Don’t leave blank spaces between numbers. Stay away from words or phrases, use numbers when possible. Rely heavily on your accession record / inventory numbers here:



(digital folder)

(digital file in the folder with file name for first item\suffix indicates type of file -tiff)

(Accession Number-set of photos-first photo in set)
(Accession Number-set of photos-second photo in set)

All digital files at State Library of Queensland are prefixed with a reference code. This is usually the accession number. Digital objects from multipart collections include an item/part number element.
This may be one of the following -

  • Item number
  • Volume number
  • Volume & issue numbers
  • Date
  • Track number

Multipart objects will include a sequential image element. The file naming sequence will start at 0001, regardless of actual page number of the item, except in the case of maps, where it refers to the actual sheet number.

How to save files

  • Place master / archival files in a separate computer directory and lock it down
  • Create derivatives (access copies) for sharing, engagement and place in a separate computer directory
  • Use derivatives for everyday engagement, not archival images
  • Add checksums to to check digital files and to ensure digital files are not corrupted

How to set up file naming directory structures for storage and access

  1. State Library of Queensland sets up files by format for photos, posters, music and so on and then scans or captures, saving the files with the appropriate file names
  2. The master digital files are uploaded to an incoming directory by format
  3. After being checked, the master digital files are moved to an archive directory for digital preservation with copy access only
  4. Derivatives are created from a copy of the master and are stored in a separate directory structure that everyone in the organisation can access eg jpegs for website
  5. A small file (checksum) that can check for corruption or loss is attached to all digital files and stored as well in both the archival files and the derivative files
  6. Files are checked periodically as part of an ongoing digital preservation process to make sure there is no loss or corruption
  7. Files are kept in two locations, with one being away from the building. Both sets undergo periodic checks for file corruption and updating as needed.
  8. Look at OAIS (Open Archival Information System) to understand best practices for long-term storage

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