I'm delighted to be able to pass on news of the funding of an important
piece of the digital preservation infrastructure, whose earlier planning
work was sponsored by DLF.



Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Awards $600,000 to the Harvard University
Library (HUL) for the Global Digital Format Registry

The Harvard University Library (HUL) has received a grant of $600,000
from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the development of a registry
of authoritative information about digital formats. Detailed information
about the format of digital resources is fundamental to their
preservation. The two-year project will result in a new Global Digital
Format Registry (GDFR), which will become a key international
infrastructure component for the digital preservation programs of
libraries, archives and other institutions with the responsibility for
keeping digital resources viable over time. 
Development of the Registry will be informed by the considerable
expertise in digital preservation the Harvard libraries have acquired
through Harvard's Library Digital Initiative. An earlier Harvard
contribution to the international digital preservation community is
JHOVE, a tool developed in cooperation with JSTOR that is widely used to
analyze and validate the format of digital objects. 

The wide diversity and rapid pace of adoption and abandonment of digital
formats present an ongoing problem for long-term preservation efforts.
As noted in the October 2002 planning report of the Library of Congress
(Preserving Our Digital Heritage: Plan for the National Digital
Information Infrastructure Preservation Program), "Longevity of digital
data and the ability to read those data in the future depend upon
standards for encoding and describing, but standards change over time."

According to Dale Flecker, associate director of the Harvard University
Library, "All digital preservation programs must document the format of
the objects they are preserving. Without precise knowledge of format, a
digital object is merely a collection of undifferentiated bits. Creating
a shared registry of such documentation will save an enormous amount of
duplicative effort in acquiring and recording such documentation. It
also allows the community to share expertise in formats, so that each
institution does not require deep local expertise in every format of
data it is preserving." 

GDFR will be established as a distributed service in which participating
research libraries, archives, and other organizations with preservation
responsibilities can contribute, as well as use, format-typing
information. According to Stephen Abrams, digital library program
manager in HUL's Office for Information Systems, "GDFR will be a
sustainable service available to any preservation institution that
chooses to participate. From the outset, we've envisioned the registry
as a distributed network of individual 'nodes.' Each node will have a
full copy of all the format-typing data in the GDFR. Carefully vetted
information and updates will be distributed among the nodes following
appropriate technical review. GDFR will also provide a separate track
for distributing non-vetted information, so that problems and issues
identified in the course of daily work can be quickly shared by
Major American research libraries are supporting Harvard's efforts to
develop the GDFR. MacKenzie Smith, associate director of technology for
the MIT Libraries, stated, "The establishment of a digital format
registry will be a major contribution to our ability to keep digital
content viable into the future, and I am grateful that Harvard is
willing to take the initiative to build it and coordinate our efforts to
use it." In the words of John Ockerbloom, digital library planner and
architect for the University of Pennsylvania Library, "Such a system
will aid in digital development and preservation not only at my library,
but also at many other institutions worldwide. Having open, globally
recognized naming, definitions, and documentation of data formats will
greatly improve the abilities of libraries and content-management
software to use, adapt and share a wide variety of digital content."

For current information and updates on GDFR, visit the project web site