Collection Care blog

19 December 2013

Supporting the UK digital preservation community through SPRUCE

The Library’s digital preservation team has worked on numerous externally funded projects over the past decade. Here, Maureen Pennock looks back at the work of the JISC-funded SPRUCE project, a collaborative initiative between the British Library, the University of Leeds, the Digital Preservation Coalition, the Open Planets Foundation, and London School of Economics, to support grass-roots level digital preservation activities in institutions across the UK.

Digital preservation
Cartoon illustration of a pink floppy disk inside a grey glass cloche.


Digital preservation
Cartoon illustration of a yellow cassette tape, some of the grey tape is protruding from the bottom of the cassette.

Of all the projects we’ve been involved with in the past, the SPRUCE project stands out for not only the number of useful outputs it delivered, but also its impact on practitioners across the UK.  SPRUCE has made a real difference to the people it supported, directly engaging with the wider community to meet their requirements with practical tools and support. Community and content owners are essential aspects of digital preservation, and SPRUCE sought engagement with content owners to deliver tools and processes that they need right now. Because that’s one of the things about digital preservation: it’s not just something that you do in the future, when your content is in a repository. It’s something that you do from the very moment you first acquire content, all the way through the lifecycle. It’s an ongoing activity. 

SPRUCE mashup participants
Photograph of the SPRUCE mashup participants, they are stood in several rows in front of a glass building with green hedges either side of them.

CC by SPRUCE-style mashup at York in September 2011

A core component of SPRUCE’s success was the use of agile events such as Mashups and Hackathons. These brought together practitioners (who contribute digital data and preservation challenges) and developers (who apply tools to solve the practitioners’ challenges). Requirements, approaches, software tools and other information gathered during the events proved invaluable in developing subsequent SPRUCE outputs. The project delivered a wealth of digital preservation tools for an enormously wide range of content types, and funded twelve more for supplementary development, including:

• Enhancements to the publicly available FITS and C3PO content characterisation tools

• A Resource Audit and Comparison Tool, ReACT

• A MediaWiki extension to enable extraction and transfer of Facebook data to MediaWiki

• Appraisal and Asssessment prototype solutions

• Tools to detect bitrot and repair it

• De-duplication solutions

• Fixity and Quality Assurance tools

• Migration solutions

In addition to these content-focused events, the project brought partners together in a booksprint to deliver the first ‘Digital Preservation Business Case Tookit’. Twelve digital preservation experts spent three days in a hotel in Manchester and brainstormed the toolkit, using their own expertise and the knowledge generated throughout the course of the project. The toolkit has been widely welcomed as one of the most useful non-technical digital preservation tools currently in circulation. Readers are encouraged to use the toolkit, hosted on the DPC wiki, whenever they need a business case for digital preservation-related funding. 

Data management
Cartoon illustration of a green SD card
Preserving digital assets
Cartoon illustration of a blue and grey reel of film.

Another project highlight is the production of COPTR, the first Community Owned digital Preservation Tool Registry. COPTR consolidates a number of pre-existing tool registries, uniting and supplementing them in a centralised database so that we no longer have to search across multiple registries before finding the tool we need. Like the business case toolkit, COPTR has been heralded by the expert community for its success and usability.

We’re sad to see the end of SPRUCE. It was a great project with a small budget but a huge impact. As the funder said, ‘SPRUCE is one of the best things we’ve done for many years’. Take a look at the website, use the toolkit and the tools, and add to the wiki if you can. The project may have ended, but the community it enabled can continue to grow if we keep working together. 

Maureen Pennock


The comments to this entry are closed.