Ensuring the Long-Term Accessibility of Creative Content

This is a guest post by Ted Westervelt, a section head in the Library’s U.S. Arts, Sciences and Humanities Division; Kate Murray, a digital projects coordinator in the Digital Collections Management and Services Division; and Donna Brearcliffe, an electronic resources coordinator in the Collection Development Office.

Since the first edition of the Recommended Formats Statement came out in 2014, the Library of Congress has been committed to making it as useful as possible to a wide and varied audience. The statement identifies formats, or sets of technical characteristics – such as physical books, digital file types, specific editions or specific metadata elements – that encourage preservation and long-term access for creative works. Recently, the Library released an updated 2018–19 edition of the statement.

The statement’s technical characteristics are of value to the work of the Library of Congress in building its own collection: The scope of the Library’s collection is so broad and diverse that all efforts to mitigate preservation costs down the line are embraced gratefully. This is true of physical works and, these days, even more so of digital works, as the Library dedicates more of its efforts to collecting digital content – including content that is available only in digital form as well as digital copies the Library has decided to obtain in lieu of print versions. Expanding the scope of collection building in this way, and on a large scale, requires care in selection and acquisition, for which the Recommended Formats Statement is a critical tool.

As America’s foremost cultural heritage institution, the Library understands its responsibility to the nation and the world. With regard to the Recommended Formats Statement, the Library is thus well aware of the need to identify the characteristics necessary to support preservation and realizes that others involved in the lifecycle for creative works also have an interest. From the authors, artists, musicians and programmers who create works; to the vendors and publishers who distribute them; to the organizations and institutions that dedicate resources to preserving them – all have a compelling interest in ensuring the survival of these works and the continued ability of people to use and enjoy them.

The value of the Recommended Formats Statement to this broad audience is, in large part, what moves the Library to invest in the annual review and revision of the statement, including reaching out to the creative community to get vital input. The review results from the need to reflect changes in technology and digital-format sustainability. But just as importantly, it allows for critical feedback from the practical, day-to-day work of those who dedicate their time and effort to these creative works, whether they are inside or outside the Library of Congress.

To make the statement useful, it has to reflect reality. For example, the 2018-19 edition of the statement emphasizes the benefit of electronic delivery of datasets. Datasets are a rapidly expanding content area that bring unique challenges for large-scale file delivery and repository management. The datasets section of the statement now includes a preference for access by public or private online URLs over tangible media such as CD-ROM or DVD-ROM. This more accurately reflects the reality of acquiring and managing digital content in modern workflows.

The new edition of the statement reflects a collaboration between Library of Congress staff and members of the creative community. For creators, the statement is a guide to consult before they start work, to help them choose the right canvas on which to express themselves, ensuring that their creative output will stand the test of time. For publishers and vendors, it offers a way to identify material that can continue to be distributed and disseminated long after its first creation. For archives, the statement helps to determine the level of effort that will be needed to ensure that a work will remain for generations to come. For all these partners and colleagues, as well as for its own internal needs, the Library of Congress has issued the new edition of the Recommended Formats Statement, and it very much looks forward to collaborating on future editions.

In the meantime, we welcome your feedback on the 2018–19 edition.

Preservation Week 2018: Celebrating Veterans and Their Families

This is a guest post by Jacob Nadal, Director for Preservation at the Library of Congress. Every spring, libraries all across the U.S. celebrate Preservation Week. This annual event highlights what we can do, individually and together, to care for our personal collections and to support preservation efforts in libraries, archives, museums, historical societies and […]

National Recording Registry Reaches 500!

Harry Belafonte, Run-DMC, Yo-Yo Ma Recordings Among Newly Announced Inductees Tony Bennett’s hit single “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”; the Latin beat of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine’s 1987 “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”; the timeless soundtrack of “The Sound of Music”; Run-DMC’s 1986 crossover hit album “Raising Hell”; and radio […]

New Online: Rare Photo of Harriet Tubman Preserved for Future Generations

This post draws on the article “Building Black History: A New View of Tubman,” published in the January–February issue of LCM, the Library of Congress Magazine. The issue is available in its entirety online. A remarkable photo album brought two major institutions together to restore and preserve an important piece of American history. Today, the […]

Celebrating Film: ‘Dunkirk’ Director Advocates Film Preservation

This is a post in advance of the announcement this week of this year’s selection of motion pictures to be added to the National Film Registry. Director Christopher Nolan, the subject of this post, is a member of the National Film Preservation Board, which advises the Librarian of Congress regarding selections to the registry. Even in the […]

Celebrating and Advocating #Preservation of America’s Audiovisual Heritage

The advent of recorded sound and moving images has enriched our lives beyond measure. We have heard the voices of presidents and shared the beauty of piano concertos. We have watched tragedies unfold worldwide, and in our own backyards. We’ve been transported by movies that captivate, beguile, frighten and inspire. We have absorbed voices of […]

Inquiring Minds: Restoring the Legacy of a Barnstorming Movie Man

Most are just a few minutes long, and some last only a few seconds. But the movies at the center of a new documentary film, “Saving Brinton,” are treasures even so. The film follows the journey of Mike Zahs of Iowa, a retired middle-school history teacher, as he travels near and far—including to the Library […]

Oz Squared, Cowboy Pop, Ziggy, Gospel and Pie

This year’s National Recording Registry is a sonic smörgåsbord– quite a lot to choose from, and all of it audibly appetizing. The 25 selections being preserved by the Library of Congress based on their cultural, historic or aesthetic value include two takes on “The Wizard of Oz,” in the form of Judy Garland’s version of […]

Curator’s Picks: Signature Sounds

(The following is from the July/August 2016 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) Matt Barton in the Library’s Motion Picture and Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division discusses some of the nation’s most iconic radio broadcasts. DATE OF INFAMY SPEECH President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a Joint […]