Four years ago, the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program awarded grants to four projects involving multiple states, known as the Preserving State Government Digital Information initiative.
At that time, NDIIPP was in the process of expanding its network of partnerships through projects exploring the preservation of and future access to at-risk digital content. State government digital information was identified as content particularly at-risk, and there was relatively little experience in cross-state preservation collaboration. In fact, few individual states had made much headway in managing digital information at the state or local levels.
Flash forward to 2012. The Preserving State Government Digital Information projects are in the process of wrapping up. We’ve talked about the excellent results the Model Technological and Social Architecture for the Preservation of State Government Digital Information project. Now I have the opportunity to share some of the results of the Persistent Digital Archives and Library System research project.
Led by the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, the goal of PeDALS was to develop a shared curatorial framework for the preservation of digital public records and to investigate technical solutions for managing the records, including ingesting and cost-effective storage solutions for large collections of state government agency publications and records.
Results from the technical investigations are one of the highlights of the project. The project adopted a distributed preservation system for a cost-effective storage solution. Partner states benefited from sharing knowledge, increasing staff technical skills and understanding requirements for maintaining and providing access to electronic records. Creating and leveraging shared learning that resulted in expertise across states – a great outcome.
The project website documents the results of the partner efforts mentioned above. The projects also explored solutions to support the life cycle of the curatorial process. Project members from Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin and New York developed a core metadata dictionary of the metadata elements used across multiple states; the network architecture developed for the project is laid out; and a description of LOCKSS technology concisely discusses the “digital stacks” approach of the project.
As the PeDALS final report (PDF) notes, the partner states faced many challenges due to budget cuts, making it difficult to hire, train and retain staff, to participate in project meetings and to contribute staff or technology resources. Despite these challenges, partner states and project team members developed a strong affinity for collaborating across state lines. A community of shared practice emerged, engaging in best practices for preserving state government records, developing and testing software, with the hope to foster a system that could be applied to multiple states.
The PeDALS project officially wrapped up in March 2012. Going forward, the PeDALS partnership will be a loose confederation of the four states – Alabama, Arizona and Wisconsin, with New York being an active observer.