As cultural, historic, and scientific heritage is increasingly being produced and shared in digital forms, libraries, archives, and museums have become dependent on digital preservation and curation systems to support the curation, discovery, and long-term management of digital content. Yet, some of these systems and tools face substantial sustainability challenges, complicating the work of the cultural heritage organizations that rely on their work.

In August 2020, with funding from the Institute of Library and Museum Services (IMLS), Ithaka S+R launched a two-part research project to examine and assess the sustainability of these third-party digital preservation systems. 

Graphic of the Key Stages and Processes Involved in Digital Preservation.

The first part of the project closely studied eight commercial and not-for-profit initiatives and assessed the challenges and risk factors these systems face in their ability to continue to successfully serve their mission and the needs of the market. The insights gained were shared through a public report in July 2022. 

The second part of the study aimed to facilitate community discussions to further flesh out the findings and seek feedback from the members of the relevant digital preservation and curation systems the higher education community, funders, and policy makers. The conclusions of the study should be approached as an empirical snapshot of the insights and perceptions gained through the case studies rather than broad characterizations of the marketplace. Our work in this area continues to develop and evolve with the shifting landscape of digital preservation, and we welcome additional perspectives and feedback. 

Explore a timeline of outputs from the project: 

Exploring the Effectiveness and Durability of Digital Preservation and Curation Systems – Oya Y. Rieger announces the IMLS-funded project and lays the foundation for Ithaka S+R research on digital preservation in a blog post published in August of 2020.

In the Eye of the Beholder: What’s a Digital Preservation System Anyway? – In celebration of World Digital Preservation Day, Oya Y. Rieger and Rebecca Springer provide an update on Ithaka S+R’s digital preservation initiative, discussing results from initial interviews and what’s to come in future stages of the project.

The Effectiveness and Durability of Digital Preservation and Curation Services: Case Studies in Sustainability – In March of 2021, Oya Y. Rieger and Liam Sweeney provide another update on the project’s progress and report on developing a working taxonomy of digital preservation systems. 

The Effectiveness and Durability of Digital Preservation and Curation Systems – In the project’s final report, published in July of 2022, Oya Y. Reiger, Roger C. Schonfeld, and Liam Sweeney share comprehensive findings from their examination of the digital preservation and curation systems landscape.

Community Reflections on Ithaka S+R’s Report about Digital Preservation and Curation Systems – To gather feedback from the community, we held a series of webinars attended by preservation service providers, curation specialists, technologists, and representatives from funding agencies. In this blog post, Oya Y. Rieger and Roger C. Schonfeld synthesize feedback we received during those open forums.