Memory of the future

Digisams pilot project on storage for long-term usability is now entering a sharper test phase. The project is a part of the ongoing work on a scalable and flexible infrastructure that is carried out in collaboration with SUNET, Swedish University Computer Network and e-infrastructure. The project aims to develop an effective infrastructure common storage solution in order to increase usability of digital cultural heritage information. The project is based on results from Digisams earlier work on digital preservation, including a pilot study in which a common storage, either centralized or distributed, is pointed out as desirable technical solution, together with services and tools for preservation. The short-version of the report is available in English here, and the full-length report in Swedish here

Test phase

The pilot project has had a preparatory phase during 2015 and is scheduled to run until the end of October 2016. In the next phase of the project, a model based on common storage, as opposite to each institution investing resources in expertise, staff and building of their own solution, will be tested and evaluated. This evaluation will take into account factors including the potential benefit of scalability, and the specification for the model will also include proposals on solutions for persistent identifiers. The hope is that the solution can contribute to more efficient management of information and a greater degree of interoperability and persistence. All digital information is not to be preserved ”forever” but the preservation aspect needs to be there already in the digitisation and storage processes.

Persistent identifiers

One of the priorities for the tools connected to storage and preservation are tools for persistent identifiers (PID), providing reference to different items online or in a data network. They can refer to any information about an object – digital photographs, the museum collection that the object is part of, documents that are referring to the object, and more.

In the preparatory phase a workshop on persistent identifiers and platforms for authority files has been organised, with 40 participants, mainly from cultural heritage institutions and universities. At the workshop it became clear that only a small part is really about technology. At a higher level, there is a need for policy on identifiers, to guarantee long-term management. Common system could, however, provide a technical solution available for many institutions, particularly if it could be offered as open source software. Interoperability between different systems for publishing authority files (including identifiers) also needs to be created.

As a support for cultural heritage institutions, Digisam has published a checklist of what to think about when working with persistent identifiers.

Common management interface

Administrators of collection management systems at the institutions expressed desire to be able to manage storage directly through their system management interface. Therefore Digisam organised a seminar together with SUNET, where system vendors and representatives for collection management systems participated. During the seminar it became clear that some specific use cases need to be tested to see what common benefits that can be provided at a common solution, in addition, for example, financial gain. Currently, we design some such scenarios, along with several cultural institutions.


The illustration shows how the institutions could work in a common management interface (or directly in its own collection management system for those who prefer that) and they can use quality support services to store information in standardised information packages. A user interface can also make the information easier to use for end-users.

We will continue to write about this project, as it progresses, and to share the results.

Storage and preservation are cornerstones in securing digital cultural heritage resources for the future. How digital cultural heritage memory will look like in the future depends on how we produce, describe and manage those resources today.

Sanja Halling