Indiana State University Newsroom

Cunningham Memorial Library assists with digital preservation of history

July 7, 2016

Indiana State University's Cunningham Memorial Library in partnership with the Indiana State Library have established an affordable way for cultural memory organizations and individuals in the Hoosier state safeguard digital content that can be easily lost or corrupted and difficult to replicate.

Using $51,000 in seed money received through a 2015 Library Service Technology Act special digitization project grant, Cunningham Memorial Library in partnership with the Indiana State Library established Indiana Digital Preservation (InDiPres) to address the digital preservation needs of Indiana's cultural memory organizations, especially small to mid-sized under resourced institutions that create, manage and provide access to content in a digital format.

The 2015 grant was used to develop and distribute a digital preservation readiness survey; outline an InDiPres governance structure and membership application; conduct eight Digital Preservation Open Forums across the state; secure a collaborative membership in the MetaArchive Cooperative Preservation Network; and purchase the LOCKSS server required for participation in the network-all with the goal of providing a low-cost, secure and geographically distributed archive for the long-term preservation of locally sponsored digital resources in Indiana.

This year, a second LSTA special digitization project grant in the amount of $101,999 will expand and further develop InDiPres.

The funding will be used to hire a 10-month, full-time metadata specialist to work at Cunningham Memorial Library with Cinda May, associate librarian and chair of special collections, collect and ingest digital content from InDiPres members into the MetaArchive network, bring together an Ingest Pathways Working Group to develop, document and implement workflows for replicating InDiPres content in the MetaArchive network, present a hands-on workshop to aid cultural memory organizations with the creation of local digital preservation policies and plans and fully implement the InDiPres governance structure.

"Since the late 90s and early 2000s, we've been digitizing cultural heritage content and putting it on the web to give the public broader access to our collections, and in doing so, we created a whole new collection that now has to be preserved just like books or other materials," May said. "Digital files are susceptible to things like corruption or deletion, security breaches, and natural disasters. Digital preservation is about long-term care to ensure the viability of content into the future, but that can be expensive. InDiPres is intended as an on ramp that can help organizations and people get over the technology and staff barriers."

By June, InDiPres membership included Knox County Public Library, Lebanon Public Library, Rockville Public Library, Sullivan County Public Library, Vigo County Public Library, American Legion Auxiliary, Sisters of Providence of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, DePauw University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Butler University. Indiana State and the Indiana State Library serve as the lead institutions.

Cunningham Memorial Library has been a member of the MetaArchive Cooperative since 2007 to ensure the long term preservation of electronic theses and dissertations produced by ISU students. The InDiPres LOCKSS server will be located at Indiana State, where the ingest of content will be managed. The Indiana State Library is the InDiPres liaison and fiscal agent to the MetaArchive Cooperative.

InDiPres members share the costs of a collaborative membership in the MetaArchive Cooperative - a geographically distributed digital preservation network that uses the LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) software - as well as the expense of server refreshment on a triennial basis. Each member purchases storage space based on its individual needs.

While backup of local files is an important part of a digital preservation strategy or solution, it is not digital preservation in itself. Proper digital preservation requires there to be at least three copies of each item, though seven is optimal, May said.

InDiPres members will be able to submit their files to a server at Indiana State, where the information will be harvested by six other servers in the MetaArchive network. If one of the files on the network servers does not match the other six, the item will be replaced or repaired.

"If there is a catastrophe, like a server blows up and an InDiPres member loses its local digital files we will work with MetaArchive to obtain copies of the content that are preserved in the network, and thus restore what was lost," said May, who serves as principal investigator for the grant along with Stephen Patton, co-principal investigator and assistant librarian and chair of library systems.

Membership in InDiPres is $325 per year with a three year commitment. By working together Indiana's cultural memory organizations are able to reduce the cost of digital preservation to an affordable level. Through the MetaArchive Cooperative Preservation Network, InDiPres members will be able to store content at a low price of 59 cents per gigabyte.

"The focus is on small- and mid-sized organizations or individuals that lack the resources to store digital content on their own, but no one will be excluded in participating in InDiPres because we're all in this together; and helping each other makes it possible for all," May said. "Digital content isn't going away. It's the world we live in now, so organizations and individuals need to be certain that if they have digital content that they want to keep they have it stored in a way that will ensure its survival into the future."

The InDiPres project is made possible in part by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Indiana State Library.

Contact: Cinda May, Indiana State University, associate librarian and chair of special collections,

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or


Story Highlights

Indiana State University's Cunningham Memorial Library in partnership with the Indiana State Library have established an affordable way for cultural memory organizations and individuals in the Hoosier state safeguard digital content.

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