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FSD Bulletin is the electronic newsletter of the Finnish Social Science Data Archive. The Bulletin provides information and news related to the data archive and social science research.
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National Digital Library Planning Common Digital Repository
Helena Laaksonen | Tuomas J. Alaterä
The aim of the National Digital Library (NDL) project is to build a common user interface for libraries, archives and museums and to provide a fast and easy access to the electronic materials of these organisations. In addition to the public interface, the project is developing a long-term preservation solution for the digital resources. The interface will be completed already next year. The plans pertaining to long-term preservation should be completed in the summer 2010, and implemented within the next five or six years.
The section responsible for the long-term preservation in the NDL project is managed by the National Archives of Finland, and besides the National Library and National Museum of Finland, 35 different memory organisations or central interest groups are participating in the project. The NDL project was launched by the Ministry of Education in the summer 2008.
The long-term preservation project is developing a national preservation solution for the central electronic materials of archives, libraries and museums responsible for the preservation of Finnish cultural heritage. The main task of the project is to ensure that digital information is preserved in an understandable and usable format also in the future. Better service and clear savings in expenses are also to be expected from the development of the more uniform information systems and co-operation.
Instant Access to Different Materials
The actual long-term preservation system planned is a relatively closed, safe preservation system. With the help of the public interface of the National Digital Library, users should be able to search for the materials of libraries, archives and museums and to gain access to them, not only to metadata and descriptions.
With the help of the system, social scientists could for example search for materials related to their research topic and find literature, research data, and perhaps pictures and audio recordings and - after user identification - gain immediate access to all of them without having to know who owns or manages the materials. For this to be possible, several things have to be changed, including some technical, legal, and practical questions.
The solutions for the long-term preservation system are planned on the basis of the Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS). Its functions include ingest, archival storage, data management, administration, planning of preservation and access. Once completed, the system and the maintaining organisation would provide services both to depositors managing the materials as well as to users accessing them. In addition, the organisation provides various preservation and maintenance services as well as statistical and log services for the disposal of the organisation which has submitted materials.
Materials Need Maintenance
Because we are talking about a long-term preservation solution, the metadata of the materials are especially important. Mere "storing of bits" does not guarantee the usability of the data. Long-term preservation means maintaining the understandability and usability of electronic information over tens and hundreds of years. Materials placed in the digital storage need to be maintained on a regular basis. As equipment, software and file formats become obsolete, the information have to remain convertible to new, usable formats.
Information network specialist Tuomas J. Alaterä has participated in the meetings of the long-term preservation section as a representative of the FSD. According to him, the project could benefit the Data Archive in three ways. Firstly, the data archived at the FSD would be visible and available through the common user interface. This could improve the findability of the data and hence increase their re-use in research. Secondly, the co-operation between the FSD and libraries and so-called traditional archives would become closer in a common infrastructure. Thirdly, the Data Archive expects that the project results in a high-quality and secure long-term preservation system for backing up the archived material.
More information and sources:
» The web pages of the National Digital Library project