Oya Rieger & Rebecca Springer

Oya Rieger & Rebecca Springer

Last updated on 23 October 2020

Oya Y. Rieger is a Senior Strategist and Rebecca Springer is an Analyst, both working at Ithaka S+R, US

The long-term stewardship of digital cultural materials depends not only on the technical resiliency of preservation systems, but on their financial and organizational sustainability. This need has been underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic as many libraries and other cultural heritage organizations brace for sharp budget reductions in the coming fiscal year and beyond. As an organization that provides research and advisory services in support of enhanced access to and preservation of the scholarly record, Ithaka S+R has been exploring the landscape of digital preservation programs and services in order to contribute to the advancement of strategies in support of future scholarship. To address the need for a greater understanding of the business and operational strategies of digital preservation and curation systems (DPCSs), we have launched a research project to examine and assess how these systems are developed, deployed, and sustained. In this project, we will conduct a series of case studies of the business approaches of community-based and commercial DPCS initiatives, offer lessons learned, and propose alternative sustainability models for long-term maintenance and development.

The initial scope of our study is broad, comprising digital asset management software packages, long-term storage services, and Software as a Service (SaaS) products used by cultural heritage organizations to undertake digital preservation and curation work. This includes turnkey systems such as Archivematica, DuraCloud and Preservica; software frameworks that can be used to build customized applications, such as Islandora and Libsafe Advanced; “dark archive” storage services, such as AP Trust, Chronopolis, and Amazon S3 Glacier; and a variety of digital content libraries and repositories, from HathiTrust to Mukurtu to DSpace. Our definition is therefore functional, not prescriptive. Rather than trying to adjudicate what does and does not “count” as digital preservation, we are studying the systems and services that cultural heritage organizations might use toward meeting digital preservation goals. In taking this broad approach, we hope to acknowledge the wide variety of curatorial practices, priorities, and resource capacities that cultural heritage organizations bring to digital preservation work.

Our initial review of prominent initiatives has identified two key issues. First, there has been limited examination of how community-based initiatives develop sufficient capital and agility to thrive in sectors that include for-profit competitors. Second, there has been very little sustained engagement with the funder community to help it consider how altered programmatic guidelines or investment strategies might improve outcomes.

We have enlisted an extraordinary group of  project advisors (from the US institutions):

  • Mike Furlough, Executive Director, HathiTrust

  • Carol A. Mandel Distinguished Presidential Fellow, Dean Emerita, New York University (NYU) Libraries

  • Robert Miller, Chief Executive Officer, Lyrasis

  • Veronica Reyes-Escuerdo, Katheryn B. Willock Head of Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries

  • Katherine Skinner, Executive Director, Educopia Institute

  • Donald J. Waters, Independent Scholar, Former Senior Program Officer for Scholarly Communications at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

We thank the Institute for Museum and Library Services for supporting this project and look forward to engaging with stakeholders and practitioners who design, develop, select, use, assess, and fund DPCS. In order to develop actionable recommendations that will both draw on and contribute to community knowledge, throughout 2021 we will convene a series of virtual forums to share the findings with the members of the digital preservation community, funders, and policy makers to discuss the implications of our research findings. If you are interested in learning more about this project or have insights to share, please reach out to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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