March 15, 2019
Community TransitionBy Sam Meister and Katherine Skinner
Embracing Transformative Change in a Digital Preservation Community
Digital preservation is, by definition, a long-term commitment.
Libraries, archives, and museums engaging in this crucial work must actively plan to maintain digital assets through decades, centuries, and millennia. As such, these organizations must both anticipate and welcome change.
When the Educopia Institute helped MetaArchive Cooperative to formalize as a membership community and service in 2007, we embedded change-management principles deeply within MetaArchive’s community-driven structure. In its first twelve years, this award-winning service has become known as a trustworthy, durable solution for digital preservation storage and a strong, dynamic community of support for diverse practitioners.
Since MetaArchive’s founding, the digital preservation landscape has changed radically as a spate of both community-led and commercially driven digital preservation options have come online for libraries, archives, and museums. The technologies and networks undergirding our digital communications infrastructures have been shifting from locally owned and controlled storage units (tape, servers, RAID arrays) to off-site, commercially owned, cloud-based environments (Amazon Cloud, Microsoft Azure, IBM cloud, GoogleCloud). The shifting costs and risks associated with these technical structures has inspired the MetaArchive Cooperative’s membership to revisit our mission and to evaluate how best to use evolving technologies to improve our network’s operations and our members’ return on investment.
With ongoing facilitation from Educopia, the MetaArchive Steering Committee is deploying two new features for this preservation network and service: 1) a streamlined, simplified ingest process that makes it easier for all member institutions, especially smaller organizations, to start preserving their important cultural and scholarly materials; and 2) a “SuperNode” structure that enables institutions to simply preserve content in MetaArchive without hosting local technical infrastructure.
The SuperNode Pilot Project, which kicked off in June 2018, is lowering digital preservation barriers. Coordinated and managed by Educopia’s Preservation Communities Manager, this process includes testing multiple transfer tools and options for utilizing cloud-based services to “stage” content for ingest to storage nodes hosted at a small number of member institutions. A significant aspect of this work includes measuring and analyzing the costs associated with the different “flavors” or versions of a SuperNode network so that MetaArchive can continue to provide an affordable digital preservation storage solution, and if possible, even lower membership fees.
Set to move into implementation and production in 2019, the SuperNode Pilot Project is positioning the MetaArchive community to stay true to its founding principles while adapting to the changing landscape and responding to the digital preservation needs of organizations with limited resources.
And if you’re curious about Educopia’s approach to the formation and evolution of collaborative communities, Community Cultivation: A Field Guide has a wealth of activities, tools, and hard-won lessons for community organizers and leaders.