The annual joint meeting of the Council of State Archives (CoSA), the National Association of Government Records Administrators and Archives (NAGARA), and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) continued in DC today as a fortunate audience previewed the interface of the Distributed Custodial Archival Preservation Environments (DCAPE) Project.

The panel included:

  • Moderator Mark Conrad of National Archives and Records Administration’s Center for Advanced Systems and Technologies,
  • Presenter Caryn Wojcik, Government Records Archivist, State of Michigan,
  • Presenter Chien-Yi Hou, U of NC Chapel Hill’s Sustainable Archives and Leveraging Technologies group (SALT),
  • Presenter Veronica Martzel, Records Archivist, TUFTS University Digital Collections and Archive.

What DCAPE is All About

Their pervading message: DCAPE isn’t just bit storage.

The project team understands digital preservation and is designing the service for the archival community.

Wojcik explained the goal of DCAPE is to build a preservation environment for archival repositories based on policies that are defined by archival staff. The DCAPE team offers a viable solution to fill the needs of archival repositories that cannot build and sustain their own electronic records archive, but can provide their own end user interface.

Despite that DCAPE is not a reference service and storage resources can be local or contracted out, the project is large -- 32 participants and counting.

Partners embrace the initiative because although the physical custody of archival collections is distributed outside of the repository to a trusted preservation service, the archives retains legal custody, remains responsible for archival functions (including preservation and access) and can boast constant access to its inventory.

The project tasks include creating initial service agreements between the University of North Carolina and partners; defining rules and services organized according to the OAIS (Open Archival Information System) framework to perform operations on test collections; ingesting test collections into iRODS to validate the rules and services; developing a business model for sustaining service based on iRods; and completing sophisticated service agreements which will define where the data will be stored.

Once these elements are fixed, the next phase of the project is a business model to encourage outreach.

iRODS as a Preservation Environment

Hou demonstrated the uniqueness and versatility of iRODS.

iRODS is a powerful data management system used for everything from astronomy of geo-spatial collections to laptops. The middleware was created by The Data Intensive Cyber Environments Center (DICE). It includes an adaptive rule engine for locally enforcing policies for access, retention, disposition, distribution, replication, integrity, authenticity, trustworthiness, caching, quotas, and more.

iRods is the preservation environment that offers standard and optional services to reduce outsourcing costs as opposed to the expense of building in-house. The intuitive interface is straightforward. It’s web-based, so no archival repository will be dependent on software downloads. Upgrades will occur over time at the client/user end.

Services developed by the team align with the OAIS model from ISO and the Trustworthy Repositories Audit and Certification (TRAC) Criteria and Checklist Model from the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC).

The process is simple: files are ingested and replicated in different locations. A checksum is run on each file and the trusted digital repository infrastructure will assemble from state of the art rules-based commodity storage systems and sustainable preservation services. The simplicity is part of the appeal.

To underscore this, Martzahl testified in support of the possibilities of DCAPE to leverage resources, scalability, and microservices. While Tuft’s staff size is healthy, its digital collections are growing. The demands on staff to process backlog and new collections are a challenge. The scalability, the microservices (which give Tufts local control over an out-sourced service) and the ability to fine-tune Tufts present environment to meet the needs of the materials and researchers are compelling.

This project offers a solution that is built by archivists for archivists: the ability to incorporate an archives own standards, utilize local policies on a broader scale, and customize the interface. For archivists, the solution sells itself.

The CoSA, NAGARA, and SAA 2010 Joint Annual Meeting will continue today through Sunday, August 15, 2010, at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington DC.