April 27, 2020

MetaArchive is Collaboratively Charting a New Pathway Forward for Distributed Digital Preservation

When Community Cultivation—A Field Guide was published in late 2018, the MetaArchive Cooperative figured prominently as an example of a community entering the Transition Lifecycle Stage of maturation. Indeed, since early 2019 the MetaArchive community has undertaken a series of intensive evaluations of both its organizational model and its technical approaches to distributed digital preservation. MetaArchive has identified several critical junctures that it must navigate to move forward into the future as a relevant, viable, and sustainable community network.

After a series of intensive evaluations of its organizational and technical models in 2019, the MetaArchive community is collaboratively charting a new pathway forward to ensure the community's continued relevance more than 15 years after its founding.

If you’re curious to learn more about Educopia’s work with community organizations, see our 2019 Annual Report for additional case studies from the Software Preservation Network, BitCurator Consortium, and Library Publishing Coalition.

The MetaArchive Cooperative has chosen to take a participatory approach to charting its new pathway forward. This work is supported by the Changing for Continued Impact (CFCI) Series, a facilitated framework led by Educopia that engages MetaArchive members in a series of focused discussions and work sessions. This generative and co-creative process will continue through Spring 2020 leading up to the next Annual MetaArchive Membership Meeting.

Each CFCI session builds on the previous. MetaArchive members began this work by revisiting the community’s existing Mission, Vision, and Values and discussing what sets MetaArchive apart from other DDP endeavors. As part of this initial work, the members agreed that a distinctive feature of MetaArchive is its multiplicity of stakeholder types, spanning sector, field, discipline, and national boundaries. This intentional bridge building has also brought together less-resourced institutions (e.g., public libraries, small museums) to work alongside their more well-resourced peers (e.g., academic research libraries) and benefit from shared practices and solutions. These are features that the community will prioritize and maintain throughout the Transition process.

The CFCI process accompanies one of MetaArchive’s most ambitious member-driven, collaborative, research project to date—the SuperNode Pilot Project. Launched in 2018, the project boldly investigates how best to transform MetaArchive’s infrastructure in order to simplify integrations with its most under-resourced members. The members are seeking ways to reduce the requirement for smaller institutions to host technology for the network and make it easier for institutions with limited staffing to prepare collections for deposit into MetaArchive’s distributed network. The SuperNode research reached its final conclusions in 2019, revealing specific limitations to the current membership and cost model that impede scaling up. MetaArchive is now repositioning key components of its backbone infrastructure to accomplish the necessary changes that will enable it to thrive in the future.

Rachel Howard and Deanna Ulvestad

Rachel Howard (left) and Deanna Ulvestad (right) at the 2019 DLF Forum in Tampa, FL

The CFCI process marks the Cooperative’s commitment to actively exploring how a community-owned DDP solution expands and revives its relevancy and stabilizes its operations in a rapidly changing technological landscape. The process is harnessing the creativity and knowledge of the MetaArchive membership to chart and direct the work of Transition, with the ultimate goal of helping the community successfully navigate its own change process.

To learn more about the MetaArchive Cooperative’s activities and how you can get involved, visit their membership page.  

To learn more about Educopia’s approach to growing and sustaining collaborative communities, see Community Cultivation—A Field Guide for a wealth of activities, tools, and hard-won lessons for community organizer and leaders.