Skimpy. Sparse. Sporadic.
I used these words a few years ago to generalize the state of tools, services and other technology for digital stewardship. Until recently, an institution that wanted to actively manage its digital content over the long term had one basic option: build an infrastructure from scratch.
Much has changed over the last several years. Cultural heritage organizations and others from around the world have developed a host of means to facilitate work during each phase of the digital content life cycle. Many of these tools are open source, which permits broad community sharing. A search for “digital preservation” on SourceForge, for example, currently yields over 30 programs.
I’m happy to say the Library of Congress contributes substantially to this flowering. The National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program supports a number of open source projects, including:
- ACE, monitor file integrity
- EMET, extract image metadata
- INFORM, risk assessment of digital file formats
- JHOVE2, identify, validate and assess digital objects
- Recollection, create and share embeddable interfaces to digital cultural heritage collections
We support the Unified Digital Format Registry to provide “a reliable, sustainable and publicly accessible knowledge base of file format information for use primarily by the digital preservation community.” In addition, we’ve maintained the Sustainability of Digital Formats website since 2004.
The Library and its NDIIPP partners developed the Library of Congress – Transfer Tools, which is code that assists with validation and transfer of data that conforms to the BagIt file packaging specification.
As a member of the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative, we participated in development of BWF MetaEdit to permit embedding, validating and exporting of metadata in Broadcast WAVE Format files.
Availability of these and other tools now gives organizations the opportunity to stitch together a preservation system from existing components rather than laboriously start from scratch. We have long encouraged this modular approach to tool development and are very pleased to see the idea take off in the form of micro-services, which are, as noted by the University of California Curation Center, “small and self-contained [and] are collectively easier to develop, deploy, maintain, and enhance. Equally as important, they are more easily replaced when they have outlived their usefulness.”
While more work is needed on tools and services to support digital stewardship, it is heartening to see so much recent progress.