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Michael Nelson and Johan Bollen, Old Dominion University computer science assistant professors, were selected by the Library of Congress along with faculty members from three other universities to participate in a yearlong test of procedures to preserve large digital collections.

The Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Libraries, Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources, and Harvard University Library were also selected to participate.

"Noted scientist Jeff Rothenberg has said 'digital information lasts forever - or 5 years, whichever comes first,'" noted Nelson. "With so much of our scientific and cultural heritage in digital format only, it is imperative that we understand the long-term implications of digital storage," he continued.

All four participants will independently investigate and apply various digital preservation strategies, using a digital archive donated to the Library by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. The archive is a collection of 57,000 digital images, text, audio and video related to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. "At 12 gigabytes, it is small enough to be manageable, but large enough to be interesting," said Nelson. "It also has a complex structure and many different file formats." The participants will document their own experiences archiving this collection as well as exporting and ingesting the archive with the other participants. They will also simulate what happens when digital formats become obsolete and study other effects on the material including the passage of time.

At the end of the 12-month test, the Library and its partners will publish a final report detailing both current practices for digital preservation and future areas of research. Further information about the project will be posted periodically at http://www.digitalpreservation.gov.

This article was posted on: June 24, 2004

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