Social-ecological research studies complex human-natural environments and the uses and sharing of ecological resources. Elinor Ostrom, a Nobel prize laureate from IU, pioneered the idea that social-ecological data can be collected and stored in a centralized database, which will capture complex relationships between various components of data and facilitate their collective collaborative use. While useful in its active stage, databases present a challenge for archival and preservation, especially if they are stored in a proprietary format and where changes are often applied retrospectively to both new and existing data. In this talk we will present an approach to archiving a social-ecological research database, the International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) database, and discuss challenges that we encountered as well as lessons learned. The talk aims at stimulating a discussion about preservation of complex data objects and possible solutions that can be generalized beyond one case.