For almost 15 years, the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative (FADGI) has been a model for collaboration, cooperation and community building in the multifaceted and maturing digital preservation landscape. What first started in 2007 as an idea to bring together emerging scanning and digitization expertise from US federal agencies has evolved into a global model for knowledge and resource sharing that not only services the cultural heritage community but also service providers and manufacturers. FADGI’s collective body of work is nominated for the DPC 20th Anniversary Award. 

FADGI comprises two working groups – one focused on Still Images (textual content, maps, paintings, and photographic prints and negatives) and the other on Audio Visual content (sound, video and motion picture film). It is supported by The Library of Congress but relies on its 20 member institutions, expert
consultants and dedicated colleagues to do its work.

20th Ann FADGI WG

L-R FADGI Working Group Members: Tom Rieger (Still Image Working Group leader), Kate Murray (Audio Visual Working Group leader), Hana Beckerle for The Library of Congress on behalf of FADGI. 

It’s been said more than once that the FADGI acronym doesn’t role easily off the tongue (it’s pronounced ‘fah-gee’ for the record) but it’s an essential part of the group’s identity. The “F” and “A” reflect our membership scope of US federal agencies who work together in collaboration with others to draft the documents and benchmarks. But in truth, FADGI products are used across the world in many different domains from small historical societies and academic libraries performing in house scanning to national libraries and major service providers reformatting content for broadcast. FADGI strives to produce resources that are easy to use, with low barriers to implementation. FADGI guidelines have always been freely available online and as works of the US federal government, its guidelines and
documents are in the public domain. In response to requests from international users, starting in 2017, FADGI publications explicitly carry the CC0 1.0 Universal license for worldwide use and reuse. The “G” stands for “guidelines” which is the bulk of our areas of interest. The “D” was updated in 2017 from Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative to the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative to reflect an adjusted scope and evolving focus. Finally, the “I” for “initiative” continues to demonstrate FADGI’s willingness to take the lead on advancing the field of digital preservation for all.

From the very start, FADGI’s work has been based around user needs for explicit, well-researched and consensus-based guidelines. Early discussions in the Still Image Working Group focused on how to adapt 2004 research from the US National Archives and Records Administration on digitizing archival records for electronic access on a wider scale. This work evolved into the highly influential Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Cultural Heritage Materials: Creation of Raster Image Master Files and its Star Rating system for defining image quality. This document was revised in 2010, again in 2016 and a substantially updated version is due for publication in summer 2022. These updates to the guidelines expand on the earlier works and incorporate new material reflecting the advances in imaging science and cultural heritage imaging best practice. The FADGI Star Ratings are the gold standard of determining imaging quality across the world.

On the Audio Visual Working Group, some early areas of focus included research on embedded metadata especially for Broadcast Wave files which evolved into Embedded Metadata in Broadcast WAVE Files (updated in 2021 with new support for cue or marker data) as well as testing for audio digitization system performance which resulted in performance metrics and measurement for analog-todigital converters (ADCs). Success with these projects led to the development of additional resources for the Digitizing Motion Picture Film: Exploration of the Issues and Sample SOW (updated in 2016), Guidelines for Embedded Metadata in DPX Files for scanned motion picture film (updated in 2019), Creating and Archiving Born Digital Video (updated 2014) and MXF Archive and Preservation Format Registered Disclosure Document (RDD 48) as well as public domain sample files for testing. RDD 48 is published by SMPTE in 2018 with a new annex coming in 2022 to include a mapping of the FFV1 encoding into MXF. It’s worth noting that this is the first SMPTE document to carry a Creative Commons license and was done at FADGI’s request to assure continued free and low barrier access to the content.

Joint working group projects include file format comparison projects that evaluate still image and audio visual formats against a backdrop of sustainability factors, cost factors, system implementation factors (full lifecycle) and settings and capabilities (quality and functionality factors). 

As the adoption and complexity of its guidelines increased, FADGI understood that guidelines alone are not enough. Free and open source tools to implement the various guidelines were the logical next step. The Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Cultural Heritage Materials guidelines are supported by OpenDICE and AutoSFR (developed by Lei He for the Library of Congress); the Embedded Metadata in Broadcast WAVE Files guidelines are supported by the enormously popular BWF MetaEdit (designed by AVP; developed by MediaArea and RiceCapades); the performance metrics and measurement for analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) are supported by ADCTest (Developed by AVP in collaboration with Christian Landone); the embedded metadata guidelines for DPX and MXF are supported by embARC (Metadata Embedded for Archival Content) (developed by AVP and PortalMedia with product testing by Metaglue). BWF MetaEdit was groundbreaking for the audiovisual community upon its first release in that it supported fixity or checksums on the entire file or just audio stream data making it easy for users
to determine if there was any corruption in the essence data. All of FADGI’s software carries defined open licenses, are available free of charge and actively maintained.

In addition to FADGI’s wide variety of guidelines and tools, it also supports a heavily resourced glossary which attracts hundreds or even thousands of visitors each month. Some recent changes to the glossary include updates for more inclusive language using “primary” as a substitute for “master” files as well as additional terms and other refinements driven by the upcoming 2022 Still Image guidelines. 

In conclusion, while FADGI is based in the United States, its impact extends beyond geographic borders. Institutions far and wide, large and small, cultural heritage and beyond, look to FADGI for expert, no cost and low barrier technical resources for creating and managing their digital content.

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