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LOC Doles Out $15M

The Library of Congress announced Thursday that it has awarded nearly $15 million in grants to eight institutions and their partners for projects aimed at identifying and preserving digital materials of national historical and cultural significance.

The selected projects will focus on preserving digital content pertaining to California’s 2003 gubernatorial recall election, the early days of the dot-com era, PBS programs and Southern culture, among other topics.

The grants, totalling $14.9 million, were awarded as part of the Library’s National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, a Congressionally mandated initiative established four years ago to create a national web of organizations dedicated to the collection and maintenance of digital materials. In 2002, Congress approved the Library’s master plan for creating the proposed network. (Through its National Digital Library, begun in 1994, the LOC already displays more than 8.5 million historical items online.)

“This is the first set of formal partnerships in our attempt to build a digital preservation network across the country,” said Library spokesman Guy Lamolinara.

The project is vital to assuring that information that is “born digital” — meaning it is unavailable in any other format — is not permanently lost to future generations of researchers, he added.

Institutions receiving grants include the University of California’s Office of the President, which was awarded $2.7 million to collect Web-based materials dealing with local political movements and activities such as the recall; the Education Broadcasting Corp., which received $2.8 million to collaborate on an effort to establish structures and guidelines for the preservation of digitally produced public television shows such as “Nova” and “Frontline”; and the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, whose $220,000 award will go to maintaining “at-risk” materials related to the “Birth of the Dot-Com Era.”

Other recipients include the University of California at Santa Barbara, Emory University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science and National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Michigan Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, and the North Carolina State University Libraries.

Each institution is required to match its award in cash or in-kind contributions.

The projects were selected by Librarian of Congress James Billington after initial recommendations were made by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“Not only will these institutions collect material, preserve it and make it available,” said Lamolinara, but they also will “educate the library on the best procedures for saving” the data, helping to formulate models to be used in the broader preservation effort.

In the future, Lamolinara said, the Library expects to solicit additional proposals related to digital preservation research, such as automatic meta data generation, alternative long-term migration strategies and the handling of dynamic databases.

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