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The ECHO DEPository project was one of eight projects awarded funding in Fall 2004 under the National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation Project (NDIIPP).

NDIIPP is a $99.8M national digital strategy effort led by the Library of Congress. Its mission is to "develop a national strategy to collect, archive and preserve the burgeoning amounts of digital content, especially materials that are created only in digital formats, for current and future generations."

Additional information on the digital preservation problem and the development of NDIIPP is excerpted below from William Lefurgy's article Library Trends article "Building Preservation Partnerships: the Library of Congress National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program." [Read the full article (PDF)] Also see the NDIIPP Web site at www.digitalpreservation.gov.

Excerpts from
Building Preservation Partnerships: the Library of Congress National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, by William Lefurgy. Published in Library Trends ("Digital Preservation" issue), Deborah Woodyard-Robinson, editor; Volume 54 Number 1, Summer 2005.

The Need for Partnership

While it has been evident for some time that management and preservation of digital information is challenging, until recently there has been little in the way of a coordinated approach to meet the challenge. The reasons for this are familiar: tools and best practices for preservation are developmental; resources available to address the issue are limited; and digital content itself continues to evolve. Absent as well has been a mechanism that links into a collaborative partnership all the various institutions and other entities that manage digital assets. But as more and more significant details about our society are recorded in bits, the need for moving beyond these limits grows.

Millennia of dependency on preserving knowledge and cultural expression are starkly threatened in a digital environment. Analog objects can survive with minimal care for centuries, but no electronic format can hope to persist more than a short while without careful (and perhaps expensive) intervention. There will be no digital equivalent of the Lascaux cave paintings, Mayan stone scripts, Dead Sea scrolls, or other kinds of rediscovered ancient knowledge. For that matter, there may not even be the digital equivalent of Emily Dickinson's poetry, which languished for only a few years in original form before its posthumous publication. Today's digital record of creativity and knowledge is at risk of wholesale loss tomorrow from obsolete software applications and file formats, degraded tape and other recording media, and other hazards wrought by rapid information technology advances. There will be little opportunity to recover anything that is untended.

Tending to digital information is, however, a complex undertaking. Digital objects have come into prominence only within the very recent past and there is little collective experience to draw upon about how best to create, manage, and preserve them. There are huge-and growing-quantities of content available at any given moment. At the same time, much of this content is constantly changing or disappearing in favor of something newer. Thorny copyright, privacy, and other rights-related issues loom over all aspects of the digital life cycle. And while entities ranging from universities to corporations to government agencies are rapidly accumulating important digital content, there is no precedent for these stakeholders working in concert to preserve significant digital information.

The National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation Program

In 2000, Congress recognized that the nation needed an exceptional effort to prevent the loss of our digital heritage. Legislation enacted the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) and directed the Library of Congress to determine the shape of the effort and set forth a strategy for its implementation. Public Law 106-554 provided up to $100 million was authorized to support NDIIPP, with $75 million contingent on a dollar for dollar match from non-federal sources. Congress understood that the Library, with a core mission to make information available and useful, and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity regardless of format for current and future generations of Congress and the American people, was uniquely qualified for this assignment.

After spending nearly two years meeting with diverse stakeholder communities across the nation and studying critical aspects of the challenge, the Library issued a comprehensive plan for tackling the digital preservation problem. The plan, Preserving our Digital Heritage outlined an approach to build a national network of entities committed to digital preservation and that are linked through a shared technical framework. This strategy also recognized the need for identifying best practices and supporting advanced research into tools, repositories, and overall models for digital preservation. Underlying this approach was a strong committment to partnership: given the scope and size of the digital preservation challenge, no single institution-not even the Library itself-could realistically hope to meet the challenge alone. Instead, the most effective way forward lay in harnessing the collective interest, talent, and resources of individual institutions. Collaboration is key to making partnerships work, and NDIIPP rests on a firm commitment to sharing information and building on the insights of others. The Library's role is to provide leadership in building the partnership network and also in spurring awareness of and cooperation with preservation issues among content creators, distributors, stewards and users.

Launching the First Set of Partnerships

The Library issued a Program Announcement in 2003 for proposals to start building the partnership network. Proposals could seek awards of between $500,000 and $3 million for up to three years; applicants were also required to provide matching resource contributions. [Eight winning proposals were awarded funding in Fall 2004.]

All applications were subjected to a peer-review process administered by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington selected the eight winning proposals.

The projects represent a diverse cross section of institutions and content. What unites the projects is a dual effort to identify, get, and sustain significant material while also collaborating with the Library and the other partners to advance digital preservation methods and best practices. [See About Other NDIIPP projects for more information on the other seven projects.]

Seeking to Add States and Territories to the NDIIPP Network

The Library is presently seeking to expand the network of preservation partners beyond those noted above through an exploratory initiative with all U.S. states and territories for preserving significant state and local government information in digital form. State libraries and archives typically have broad responsibility for preserving and providing public access to state and local government information of enduring value, and are important components of a national preservation network.