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HP and MIT form worldwide digital archiving group

Antarctica aside

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HP and MIT have formed an independent organization to support the work of digital archivists who use the DSpace open source archiving software.

Called the DSpace Foundation, the new group will provide a forum and a focus for users of the software - who include over 100 universities, museums and companies - said Nick Wainwright, the DSearch project research manager at HP Labs in Bristol.

The software goes way beyond issues of what formats to archive digital documents in, he added. It can capture, store, manage and archive digitized representations of all kinds of analogue artifacts, whether it's film or video, a scan of a photo or a 3D object or a research data-set.

"The problem of archiving has moved on from digital documents to other artifacts - the document problem has been well addressed with the development of longer-lived and transparent formats," he said. Instead, the big issue now is meta-data - the ability to look into the archived item, index it, search it, see what format it's in, and so on.

Wainwright said that the decision to establish the DSpace Foundation was down to the software's growing usage, and also the increasing number of people contributing code to it.

"When we created DSpace with the MIT Libraries in 2002, we started it as open source because we wanted to build a community, and also because in archiving, the transparency of open source is very important. Over the years, that community has grown - over 100 people have contributed code, and we're on every continent except Antarctica."

He said the foundation - to be run by Michele Kimpton, formerly of the Internet Archive - would now take on the role of supporting and organizing DSpace users, while developers such as his team at HP Labs work towards version 2 of the software.

"DSpace provides sophisticated indexing for content based not only on the formal meta-data - the tags that archivists add - but also on searching the content," he said.

"We are looking at extending the modularity in v2. For example, if you archive 3D scans, how do you search those? My task is to ensure you can plug in those extra technologies in the future."®

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