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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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