IU receives National Endowment for the Humanities grant for digital preservation

NEH also awards research fellowships to three Indiana University professors

  • Dec. 18, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded nearly $400,000 to Indiana University Bloomington for a digital preservation partnership between the IU Libraries and public broadcaster WGBH Boston.

The grant was announced last week by the NEH as part of $17.9 million in awards and offers for 233 humanities projects. Awarded as part of the NEH's Preservation and Access Research and Development program, the grant will support the development of HydraDAM2, a software tool that will assist in the long-term preservation of valuable audio and video collections.

"This NEH grant reflects the collaborative nature of the preservation community, which is vital for successful and efficient preservation efforts. I'm delighted that IU and WGBH will be partnering to refine and enhance digital preservation tools that serve the needs of that broader community," said Jon Dunn, director of library technologies at IU Bloomington.

The system will be part of Indiana University's Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, announced by President Michael A. McRobbie in October 2013 as part of his State of the University speech.

"WGBH is very pleased to work with Indiana University for this project," said WGBH Media Library and Archives director Karen Cariani. "Both organizations face the same challenges with digital media preservation and access, and we hope working together we can find solutions that will be useful for the broader community."

As digital files become the primary means for storage of audio and video content, cultural and educational institutions require manageable, flexible and reliable solutions to store and preserve these files over the long term.

HydraDAM2 will primarily address challenges posed by long-term preservation of digital audio and video files. Because these "time-based media" files are significantly larger than many other digital files managed by libraries and archives, they potentially require special solutions and workflows.

An important feature of HydraDAM2 is that it will be open source and can be used and shared freely among cultural institutions, including libraries, archives, universities and public broadcasters.

HydraDAM2 is also scalable to both small and large organizations, having the ability to interact with massive digital storage systems such as IU's Scholarly Data Archive as well as with smaller digital tape storage systems.

Dunn said that many analog media objects, such as vinyl records and video tapes, and even digital media objects, such as CDs, are actively degrading or at risk of becoming obsolete due to lack of equipment to play them back. There is a short window of opportunity to transfer the content from these objects into digital files, perhaps 10 to 15 years, after which the knowledge and cultural heritage these objects contain may be damaged or rendered inaccessible forever.

Indiana University has been recognized by the Library of Congress as a national leader in the research and development of best practices in preservation. The IU Libraries in partnership with Indiana University Information Technology Services have been pioneers in the development and implementation of open source software that serves library and other academic environments. Kuali Open Library Environment and Avalon Media System offer just two examples of that leadership and expertise.

WGBH Media Library and Archives, which developed the original HydraDAM digital asset management system with support from a previous NEH grant, is a recognized leader in media preservation. WGBH was a partner on the ambitious Preserving Digital Public Television National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program project and is the project lead for the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, a Corporation for Public Broadcasting-funded collaboration with the Library of Congress.

Both IU and WGBH are partners in the Hydra community, a group of 25 institutions working together to develop shared technical solutions for the management of digital content based the open source Fedora repository system.

NEH fellowships for university teachers

The National Endowment for the Humanities also announced fellowships of $50,400 each to three faculty members from Indiana University Bloomington.

Kaya Sahin, assistant professor in the Department of History, received an award for "Ottoman Public Ceremonies, 1520-1566." Sahin described his research as the first step of a book-length study on how the newly consolidated empire created various types of ceremonies to reach audiences and convey specific messages.

Shane Vogel, associate professor in the Department of English and director of its cultural studies program, was awarded a grant for "A Cultural History of the 1950s Calypso Craze in the United States." He called it the first book-length history of a craze that swept through the era's films, television, recorded music, Broadway shows and nightclub acts.

Ellen Wu, associate professor in the Department of History, received a grant for "Asian Americans in the Age of Affirmative Action." Wu said she will use the NEH award to launch a book project about the changes in the nation's racial order and political alignments since the civil rights era, especially as it relates to immigration and growing economic competition with Asia.

About the IU Libraries

One of the foremost library systems in the nation, the IU Libraries include 18 university library sites and collections of 9.5 million volumes in more than 900 languages, all of which serve about 2.3 million patrons annually. As a whole, Indiana University holds one of the largest and most diverse film collections at any university in the United States. Most of these holdings reside within the IU Libraries system, including the Lilly Library and the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive with a collection of more than 86,000 items. Other IU media collections reside at the Archives of Traditional Music, the Kinsey Institute and the Black Film Center/Archive.

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America’s pre-eminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including "Masterpiece," "Antiques Roadshow," "Frontline," "Nova," "American Experience" and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle and children's series. WGBH Radio serves listeners across New England with 89.7 WGBH Boston Public Radio; 99.5 WCRB; and WCAI. WGBH also is a major source of programs for public radio, including "PRI’s The World." The WGBH Media Library and Archives collection includes more than 750,000 production and administrative assets, including film, video, audio, stills, digital and print media. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards and Oscars.

About the NEH

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency that supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities. Created in 1965, the agency reviews and funds selected proposals from around the country.

Scholarly Data Archive at Indiana University Bloomington

An NEH grant will fund development of software that manages large files such as those found in the Scholarly Data Archive at Indiana University Bloomington. | Photo by Keith Danielson

Print-Quality Photo

Obsolete media storage formats

Indiana University's Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative aims to protect the university's cultural heritage, including material stored in obsolete media formats.

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Jon Dunn

director of library technologies at Indiana University Bloomington

  • Office (812) 855-0953
  • jwd@iu.edu

Becky Wood

director of communications at Indiana University Libraries

  • Office (812) 856-4817
  • rewood@indiana.edu