Library Of Congress Goes Grid

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Grid computing technology may soon be used to preserve such priceless artifacts of American history as films of the Spanish-American War and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the photographs of Matthew Brady and Ansel Adams, and Walt Whitman's notebooks.

The Library of Congress is evaluating Grid technology developed at the San Diego Supercomputer Center to archive and preserve these works and the Library's other digital collections.

The Library has assembled numerous important digital collections such as American Memory, a treasure trove of films, recordings, photos and documents from U.S history and culture. The collection, "rich primary source materials on the history and culture of the United States," contains more than 7.5 million digital items on more than 100 topics from the collections of the Library and other repositories. Items include encoded text, images, and audio and video files varying in size from 25 kilobytes to 5 megabytes each, for a total of some 8 terabytes of digital data.

Powerful data Grid technologies such as the Storage Resource Broker (SRB) developed at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) for scientific computing are showing promise of being able to preserve these digital holdings. SDSC and the Library are collaborating to evaluate the SRB data Grid software to preserve and manage priceless national digital collections.

"We're interested in how the SRB can be applied to the task of building a repository for managing Library of Congress digital holdings," said Martha Anderson of the Library's Office of Strategic Initiatives.

'Repurposing' Collections

"We're entering an era in which digital libraries can be used to preserve intellectual capital," said Reagan Moore, co-director of the Data and Knowledge Systems program at SDSC. "And beyond preservation, the ability to discover the information and knowledge content within digital holdings will add even greater value to these collections."

The researchers will investigate the capabilities of the SRB to manage and "repurpose" Library of Congress collections. Repurposing a collection involves giving users the ability to generate new views of the digital holdings. For example, a user might want to gather the material in the American Memory collection that is relevant to a landing on Mars. This material might involve NASA material on the mission and space vehicle, Congressional material on the budget debates involving the funding, and other material that puts the mission in historical context.

The collaboration will involve the installation at the Library of Congress of the SRB software and the Metadata Catalog, which keeps track of each digital object. Library of Congress staff will then build a test collection and use it to evaluate the capabilities of the SRB data Grid middleware to preserve both the collection and descriptive information about the collection; to enable a naming convention that spans the entire collection, no matter where its components are located; to merge different collections seamlessly into new virtual collections; and to control access.

Library of Congress researchers are also interested in evaluating the ability of the SRB to interoperate with other systems using open standards.

"We're looking forward to the research opportunities this collaboration will give us to understand how digital library, data Grid, and persistent archive technologies can all be integrated in support of preservation of digital holdings," said Moore. "This will help extend our ability to preserve intellectual capital."

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