Early collections-based digital projects and their infrastructure, including website platforms and software, digital asset management systems, information systems, metadata, and preservation protocols, serve as the foundation for many library, archives, and museum (LAM) repositories' ongoing efforts to organize, describe, and make digital assets widely accessible online. Completed projects, despite well-intended planning and execution, can become time intensive to maintain and migrate forward as new projects that meet fresh programmatic goals and current professional standards, become today's focus. Assessment of past projects, with the goal of making better decisions in the future (i.e., “lessons learned”), can be framed through an understanding of the term “technical debt,” a metaphor used within the software development community. The authors define and explore the concept of technical debt, relating it specifically to the archival field, and suggest a preliminary conceptual framework of technical debt to inform decision-making.

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