Sustaining Digital Scholarship

The Sustaining Digital Scholarship initiative is an outgrowth of a joint venture between the U.Va. Library and the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) begun in 2000. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded the original effort entitled “Supporting Digital Scholarship”; the 2004 final report regarding this collaboration and their findings is available here:

View the final report: SDS_Final_Report2003.pdf

The current Sustaining Digital Scholarship (SDS) initiative draws upon that foundational research and is used as the primary basis for the digital preservation of complex objects by the Library’s Digital Curation Services group.

Levels of Collecting

These are general guidelines to bringing in sophisticated materials into the library-managed content environment. They are only used as general reference points and represent a shifting spectrum of preservation activities:

Level 1: Collecting metadata only – At this level the project would be represented as a single object in the digital library which records that the project exists or existed in the past, and includes some descriptive metadata about the content of the project, people who were associated with it, etc.

Level 2: Saving the project as a set of binary files and metadata only – Only the most basic preservation would be attained at this level. Content files and possibly all the files associated with any custom software would be collected as standard binary files only. The same descriptive metadata would be collected as for level 1, along with technical metadata about the original formats of the files and any software that was necessary to use them. At this level, the assumption is that anyone interested in using the project would be on his or her own in trying to reconstruct it.

Level 3: The content can still be delivered as in the original – At this level, relationships among the content are preserved but no attempt is made to capture the exact action of the project or its look and feel. The user’s experience may be different but the ability to navigate the connections that the author provided is preserved.

Level 4: Look and feel intact – The project operates and appears exactly as it was originally intended. The software may not be identical but every effort is made to recreate the user’s experience as completely as possible.

Level 5: The project is completely documented – The project is preserved as a complete artifact, documenting its development and history. This could include ephemera such as e-mail archives from a project development team, reviews or citations of the project from other sources, documentation associated with grant proposals, etc.

Current Activities

The U.Va. Library has been working closely with the Virginia Center for Digital History over the last two years to test many of the assumptions imbedded within SDS and to implement the preservation strategies in a practical manner. To that end, we have undertaken the collection of a flagship example of digital scholarship.

The Valley of the Shadow Project
Originally conceived by Edward Ayers in 1991, the Valley of the Shadow Project has continued to be active to date. The complete background and staffing can be seen here:
Over the last 24 months, Library and VCDH staff have been collaborating on bringing the Valley Project into the Library’s managed content environment at collection level 4. This has been a complex undertaking and has involved refactoring the entire project along new national standards. This project was completed as of July 2009. It is being collected at a very high level of preservation given its scale and complexity. The physical materials related to Valley of the Shadow have also been collected by the Library’s Special Collections Department.View the complete overview of activities here:Sustaining Digital Scholarship – The Valley of the Shadow Technical Overview of ActivitiesThe SDS initiative at the U.Va. Library is an on-going exploration of digital stewardship. It could not be possible without the significant collaboration among many different units within the university including the Library, UVa’s Information, Communication, and Technology Division, IATH, VCDH, and others. Digital Curation Services is in the process of creating a business model for the entire SDS process.
The Rossetti Archive
Begun in 2000, the Archive is finalizing its fourth of four projected installments. The complete background and staffing of the project can be seen here: Archive has been successfully collected as an “archival snapshot” of preservation at level 2. This means that the snapshot can be disseminated and reflects the Archive as it existed in 2008. If you have questions about how to access the archival snapshot, please let us know.