Repository Approach

Currently, most of the scholarly literature on digital archiving and digital preservation concerns archiving at a large institution, in a repository approach.  Larger institutions tend to have more resources to manage these larger projects or are connected to a larger group that can create economies of scale for smaller participating institutions.  McCargar (2007) references a need for collaboration amongst many groups for success of these projects, as generally no one department or group is responsible for digital preservation and digital archives.

While the repository approach appears to be mostly utilized within larger connected institutions, this approach may also be an alternative for a smaller community organization or institution, pending their budget, technical expertise of employees and contractors and commitment to digital preservation. Most of the literature may address universities or large corporations, however learnings from these institutions can still be helpful for the smaller institution trying to digitally preserve items of value.

Digital preservation according to Smith and Nelson (2008) is mostly in the only addressed by librarians and archivists currently.  They assert that digital preservation is not sustainable as on an as-needed basis and may have to be performed on content where the value is currently unknown (Smith and Nelson, 2008). Mannerheim (2001) furthermore claims that there are two approaches to preservation, with a focus on Web preservation:  comprehensive preservation or selective preservation.  The first of these approaches is best exemplified with web projects such as the Swedish Kulturarw3 Project, Brewster Kahle’s Internet Archive and the Finnish EVA project while the selective approach was utilized by the PANDORA project of the National Library of Australia and the EPPP of the National Library of Canada (Mannerheim, 2001).

Cooperative digital preservation is a topic that is being addressed by a number of institutions and collaborative universities.  One of the best examples of this kind of collaboration is the LOCKSS (lots of copies keeps stuff safe) project from Stanford University Libraries.  The LOCKSS approach allows subscribing institutions to “regain custody of journal assets while maintaining the access and license terms stipulated by the publisher” (Rusbridge and Ross, 2007, pg. 111).

Another example of cooperative digital archiving is Merritt, which is administered by the University of California for all UC universities.  Currently the participating UC schools shoulder the costs of storage, rated at a certain amount per terabyte.  According to the University of California Curation Center of the California Digital Library, Merritt is intended to be a low-cost repository service that lets “the UC community manage, archive and share valuable digital content” (University of California Curation Center, 2009-2011).  While this service is currently only available to the University of California community, it is feasible that future services could be similarly implemented by groups of institutions to lower the costs of digital preservation.

Furthermore, there are some alternatives from private corporations, such as the OCLC Digital Archive within the OCLC Digital Collection Services.  OCLC’s Digital Archive is intended to provide storage to preserve the health of any master files or digitally-born originals. Using proprietary or open source content management systems, the Digital Archive professes to provide a low-overhead system for storing files safely and sustainably (OCLC, 2011).  While the costs of this particular program from OCLC may be variable and long-term, this is one alternative for a shared solution from a private company.

It may be relevant to approach the project with some understanding of the Open Archival Information System (OAIS), which is an ISO standard that provides the framework for preserving digital objects in repositories (Cornell University Library, 2003-2007).  The OAIS is intended for management of information in repositories long-term, and should ensure that the information preserved can be understood by those outside of the original designated community (Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems, 2002).

Based on some of the consulted literature above, the following steps or considerations may be included if you choose to archive your community institutions’ digital objects with a repository approach:

  • Determine resources and technical expertise of current team:  A digital preservation project requires a certain commitment of manpower and also understanding of the technical requirements to implement a solution.  Determining how many resources will be dedicated to the project can help to determine scope.  Also, by establishing the technical capabilities of the current team, certain decisions can be met, e.g. if the team is not technically capable of creating a system from scratch or implementing an open source solution, then other alternatives may be the only choices.
  • Based on the above-mentioned resources, determine the system most suited to your organization’s needs.  Some of the following issues may need to be considered to determine the best system: (1) The general approach to digital preservation, i.e. emulation or migration.  While there are a number of approaches to digital preservation, the two most common approaches are emulation and migration (Waters and Garrett, 1996).  Emulation is defined as content preserved in the original format that is presented to users in that same format, while migration is content presented in a current form, likely in a new file format (Rosenthal et al, 2005).  Within this decision, file formats will also have to be chosen based on the needs of the organization. (2) Selection of a metadata schema:  In order to ensure that the digital objects are properly managed, an appropriate metadata schema should be selected, which includes administrative, technical, descriptive and preservation metadata.  Some potential metadata schemas which have been used for preservation purposes include METS, MODS, Dublin Core (simplified and qualified), PREMIS, a crosswalk of multiple metadata schemas, etc. (3) Selection of repository software:  Depending on the resources and expertise of the parties involved in building and/or managing the repository, a content management system may need to be selected, for instance DSpace, Fedora, Merritt, OCLC Digital Archive, an independently built system, etc.
  • Selection and appraisal: Determine the items of the most value to your collection, especially items that you consider to have enduring value to the community as a whole. Consulting multiple parties in this process will help to ensure that the collection is well represented.
  • Accessibility:  An institutional project is likely conceived with the intention of making the digital objects publicly available, and therefore should be implemented with metadata that makes it searchable, establishes clear provenance, allows for access, etc.


Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (2002, January). Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System. CCSDS 650.0-B-1. Blue Book. Issue 1.
Retrieved on February 2, 2011, from

Cornell University Library. (2003-2007).  Digital Preservation Management:  Implementing Short-term Strategies for Long-term Problems. Retrieved on January 20, 2011, from

Home.  (2008).  In LOCKSS.  Retrieved July 29, 2011, from

Mannerheim, Johan.  (2001, December 26).  The new preservation tasks of the library community. International Preservation News, 5-9.

McCargar, V. (2007). Kiss Your Assets Goodbye: Best Practices and Digital Archiving in the Publishing Industry. Seybold Report: Analyzing Publishing Technologies 7(16), 5-7.

Digital Archive.  (2011).  In OCLC. Retrieved on August 2, 2011, from

Rosenthal, David S. H., R., Thomas, L., Thomas S., R., & Seth, M. (2005). Transparent Format Migration of Preserved Web Content. D-Lib Magazine 11(1), 1.

Rusbridge, Adam, and Seamus Ross. (2007). The UK LOCKSS Pilot Programme: A Perspective from the LOCKSS Technical Support Service. International Journal of Digital Curation 2(2).  Retrieved on February 17, 2011, from

Smith, J. A., & Nelson, M. L. (2008). Creating Preservation-Ready Web Resources. D-Lib Magazine 14(1/2), 46.

Waters, Donald and Garrett, John, Eds.  (1996, May). Digital Information, Report of the Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information. The Commission on Preservation & Acccess and the Research Libraries Group. Retrieved on January 16, 2011, from

University of California Curation Center. (2009-2011).  UC3 Merritt Home.  Retrieved on August 2, 2011, from

Further reading:

Caplan, Priscilla. (2009). Understanding Premis. Library of Congress Network Development and MARC Standards Office. Retrieved on April 8, 2011, from

Cocciolo, A. (2010). Can Web 2.0 Enhance Community Participation in an Institutional Repository? The Case of PocketKnowledge at Teachers College, Columbia University. The Journal of Academic Librarianship 36(4), 304-12. doi: 10.1016/j.acalib.2010.05.004

Digital Preservation.  (n.d.).  In Library of Congress.  Retrieved July 29, 2011, from

Digital Preservation.  (2011, January 10).  In Digital Library Federation.  Retrieved July 29, 2011, from

Flecker, Dale. (2002, April).  Preserving Digital Periodicals.  Council on Library and Information Resources, Building a National Strategy for Digital Preservation: Issues in Digital Media Archiving.  Retrieved on February 23, 2011, from

Library of Congress. (2006). Content Categories.  Sustainability of Digital Formats: Planning for Library of Congress Collections. Retrieved on February 23, 2011, from

Library of Congress. (2011).  Digital Preservation. Retrieved on August 2, 2011, from

Library of Congress. (2010).  <METS> Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard: Primer and Reference Manual.  METS Schema and Documentation. Retrieved on March 8, 2011, from

Library of Congress. (2008, March).  PREMIS Data Dictionary for Preservation Metadata.  PREMIS Editorial Committee.  Retrieved on April 8, 2011, from

Werts, C. (2010). Conserving for the Future by Archiving our Past; A Story about Technology and Digitization Informed by a Vintage Paperback Book Collection. Education Libraries 33(2), p. 47-62.

Willett, Perry.  (2011, June 16).  Merritt.  In University of California, California Digital Library.  Retrieved July 15, 2011, from

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