Preservation is defined as all the practises and procedures necessary to ensure permanent accessibility (with a minimum loss of quality) of the visual or sonic content of the materials. Preservation may be considered as having both active and passive dimensions.

Passive preservation

This is synonymous with ‘storage’ meaning keeping the material in an ideal environment and not subjecting it to any mechanical risk through use.

Active preservation

This includes such practises and procedures as technical examination, technical selection, conservation, methods of storage in correct environments, housekeeping and collection control procedures (such as maintenance of technical records, surveillance, labelling etc.), technical restoration, rejuvenation, duplication and quality control.

All aspects of preservation are closely inter-related. For instance, it is pointless having first-class storage environments if preservation materials are handled, shelved or canned incorrectly, or if labelling, numbering or housekeeping records are inadequate to ensure complete identification or control of the material. Together the various aspects of preservation comprise what film archives call the preservation system.