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Electronic archive project launched

The MIT Libraries and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) have announced plans to build a $1.8 million digital archive at MIT called DSpace that will be able to hold the approximately 10,000 articles produced by MIT authors annually, including a large amount of multimedia content. The system is expected to begin accepting submissions late next year.

"Information technology is transforming higher education," said Provost Robert A. Brown. "This project will give MIT and other research universities the tools they need to capture the digital output of their institutions, just as they have with print."

"The purpose of this project is to develop a scalable digital archive with storage, submission, retrieval, searching, access control, rights management and publishing capabilities," said Ann Wolpert, director of the MIT Libraries. "As MIT's intellectual heritage makes its way into electronic form, the library must take responsibility for capturing those documents that will form the foundation of tomorrow's scholarship."

In addition to establishing its own research team at the university, HP Labs will provide the Institute with $1.8 million to cover staff, equipment and space.

The project will include articles written by faculty and researchers, technical reports from MIT labs and centers, and other electronic content deemed valuable by the MIT Libraries or its partners within its schools, labs and centers. The electronic formats will include text, images, audio, video and data sets.

"The digital archive will supplement rather than replace commercial publication by the MIT community," said Eric Celeste, assistant director for technology planning and administration with the Libraries. "The archive will capture 'preprint' versions of documents destined for publication elsewhere, as well as supporting data and images that would otherwise not be shared with the scholarly community."

"Some people may believe that the web already captures this content, particularly in the academic arena," said Bill Wickes, HP Labs manager for the MIT Libraries project, "but enhancements to the system are needed to insure the integrity, flexibility and long-term value of the data."

The project is designed to provide seven specific services not usually provided by the web: stable and long-term storage, support for formats beyond HTML, access control, rights management, versioning, community feedback and flexible publishing capabilities. That means a scholar submitting work to DSpace would know that it would be available for future colleagues in various formats, protected by access control and rights management, linked to earlier and later versions of itself and capable of attracting feedback.

"This digital archive will be designed in such a way that the underlying software, data models and methods can be shared freely with other academic institutions," said Dick Lampman, vice president of research and director at HP Labs.

The MIT Libraries hold more than 2.5 million volumes, 17,000 current journals, and extensive collections of microforms, maps, scores, sound recordings and videotapes. The Libraries web site at <> gives information about services and provides access for the MIT community to 200 databases and 1,200 electronic journals.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 29, 2000.

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