There is a new collaboration under way, which is community driven, international in scope, and will be an invaluable resource for the entire digital library community. The “Unified Digital Formats Registry” is a project with the ambitious goal of providing online access and open information sharing for the entire range of digital format information.
A key milestone in this project was achieved earlier this spring, with a meeting of all the UDFR stakeholders held here at the Library of Congress. A lot of work has been done leading up to this point, but this was the first time all the participants met for discussion face to face. Eighteen different cultural heritage organizations were represented, including archival, technical and government organizations from the U.S. and abroad.
The goals for this meeting were no less than the following: identification of major technical requirements, agreement on data modeling process, agreement on overall project plan, and laying the groundwork for UDFR as an ongoing service.
So how far did they get towards meeting these goals? I asked Leslie Johnston, Chief of Repository Development here, and the LC representative for this project. “We made significant progress in tackling these items, providing the project team with the international community guidance they needed to create the initial implementation. The community is very engaged in the process and with the proposed results.”
UDFR is an outgrowth of two other similar format projects: GDFR and PRONOM, which have now been folded into the general UDFR effort. There are other resources available, such as the existing digital formats guide from the Library of Congress, which documents the specifications for more than 100 formats. The UDFR aims to consolidate all such existing information into an open source format, interactive for both tools and people, and to include the status, who created it, and what applications use any given format. This resource covers a lot of territory in the digital library community, and could be used for digital preservation, curation and repository operation.
To illustrate how this might be useful, Johnston provides an example: “Say the archive of a famous writer was written with an obsolete program, such as WordStar, which would need to be either rendered for use, or migrated to a more current system.” So, a decision would have to be made on which program or tool would be used to extract the information from the archive. Johnston notes, “UDFR will provide the documentation to help make the decisions, and be incorporated into the tools themselves to make preservation format analysis and action easier.”
NDIIPP has provided funding to cover one year of technical development work, which will be carried out by the University of California Curation Center, at the California Digital Library. The next major goal for the project is to roll out a prototype open source, technical framework, which is due out soon, and which CDL is currently developing. Johnston says “We are thrilled to be supporting the development of this and are looking forward to seeing this take shape.”
We will post more on UDFR in the future, as the project progresses.