Last Updated: January 30, 2019
Durability is among Fulcrum's core values, and the foundation of our durability lies in our commitment to the preservation of the content which we publish. Our goal is to make publishing content on Fulcrum synonymous with adding it to the durable record of scholarship, as there is no preservation without access, and there is no access without preservation. This Preservation Statement expresses that commitment by answering the questions: "What can I expect a future scholar to encounter if they follow my citation to content I used on Fulcrum? How faithful should I expect a future representation of this content to be to what I see on Fulcrum today?"
In the interest of transparency and trustworthiness, this statement will summarize the decisions we have made and anticipate the decisions we will have to make in the future. We plan to revisit our preservation policies, and update this document accordingly, on an annual basis.
Digital preservation is often discussed in terms of technologies and file formats, but the Fulcrum team considers preservation primarily a commitment of time, attention, and active management of data and metadata. Through these commitments we will develop and maintain a variety of technological strategies and partnerships to achieve our commitments to durable publishing. As the future is unknown, successfully fulfilling our commitments requires a diversity of approaches to mitigate risk.
The digital preservation community has identified a number of basic strategies for digital preservation:
- Bit preservation: Preserving the data exactly as it is, with the guarantee that no data loss or corruption has occurred. This strategy is a prerequisite for all other digital preservation strategies; alone, however, it offers no promise of future usability or viability of the data due to file format obsolescence.
- Migration: Overcoming file formatting obsolescence by reformatting the content as necessary to usable successor formats. Choosing file formats that conform to open standards greatly increases the ability to do this without loss of content features; however, the migration process may result in changes to the presentation of the content.
- Emulation: Imitating the original (obsolete or unavailable) hardware or software on which the content was served in order to render the original digital object "as is", preserving the original presentation and user experience as much as possible.
Fulcrum is employing a number of methods to achieve bit and migration preservation strategies, as detailed below. U-M Library is a sustaining member of the Software Preservation Network and is following with interest research in the area of sustainable emulation strategies, but we are not yet employing an emulation strategy at this time.
Institutional and Geographic Diversity
Fulcrum fulfills its preservation commitments through a strategy based on balancing local and distributed resources. By engaging in a number of such relationships, Fulcrum guards against the risk of technological failure, changes in institutional priorities, or inability to meet commitments at any one institution, thereby eliminating single points of failure and ensuring the long-term access to content published on Fulcrum.
The University of Michigan Library
The strength of Fulcrum's preservation commitment derives from its home within a Tier 1 research library which embodies preservation as core to its mission. As a result, Fulcrum adheres to the policies and practices of U-M Library, and content hosted on Fulcrum is preserved according to the same policies and practices, and with the same dedicated, committed effort, as all of U-M Library's digital collections.
U-M Library's institutional stance is strongly predisposed to migration strategies, which we enable via policies that restrict file formats at the point of ingest. Our file format guidelines are based on the recommendations of the Library of Congress and reflect the accepted best practices of the digital preservation community. (Fulcrum's file format recommendations may place further restrictions based on compatibility with software tools, functionality on our platform, publishing industry standards and accessibility.) The open, published standards represented in these guidelines put us in the best position today to successfully migrate content to tomorrow's successor formats.
On those occasions where no open standard is available, or the de facto standard within a given discipline is a proprietary file format, Fulcrum may host the file with a commitment only to bit preservation. In those cases, when the file becomes obsolete, we may continue to host it as-is as an artifact of possible historical interest.
Fulcrum follows the principle of "Preservation is Access, Access is Preservation". Our Hyrax platform is backed by a Fedora 4 repository where preservation masters are managed in the U-M datacenter; masters are stored on and backed up using enterprise-quality equipment and services provided by U-M Information Technology Services. This same repository is used for managing both the preservation masters and the access derivatives which are served to the browser in a user session, their relationship expressed explicitly via RDF metadata in our data model. In this way the same resources that maintain the access repository also benefit the preservation repository, and any problems that arise are more visible to the system administrators. Furthermore, by keeping content in our preservation repository, we are also committing to maintaining its access by readers.
Fulcrum has diversified its preservation portfolio through relationships with a number of other organizations, each with their own technological implementation and management structures. We have contracted with CLOCKSS and have begun a pilot with HathiTrust to preserve content in their repository networks. Both are CRL-certified TRAC-compliant and introduce geographically distributed redundancy to our preservation solutions. Deposits into CLOCKSS and HathiTrust must be configured on a per-collection basis; at the present time, our workflows cover the University of Michigan Press Ebook Collection. If you're interested in having your collection included in such an arrangement, please speak with the Fulcrum team.
U-M Library is also a member of APTrust and is currently developing a workflow to deposit all Fulcrum content into their cloud-based, consortially-governed service, providing further organizational and geographic redundancy for everything published on Fulcrum.
The culmination of local and partnered preservation commitments, which place our content into storage networks distributed across multiple continents, actively managed by a range of mission-driven, non-profit consortia and partnerships (some of which have their own succession plans), mitigate the risk of catastrophic failure on any number of fronts, and help ensure that the content published on Fulcrum today will remain in the scholarly record for many years to come.
Scope of our preservation commitment
Preservation always entails making choices about what to preserve. While Fulcrum strives to capture the most comprehensive record possible of a published work, finite resources of time, attention, and technology require the scrupulous application of those resources in order to achieve a preservation strategy that is most likely to succeed technologically while being comprehensible and useful to future generations.
What are we preserving?
Fulcrum's preservation commitment is focused on maintaining a "Version of Record" of the published work. Such a concept is intentionally malleable and subject to change as technologies and publishing conventions evolve, but is intended to capture the material that is essential to conveying the scholarly argument embodied in a work. At present, we are focused on preserving the text in EPUB3 format; any components embedded in the text (that would typically be included in an EPUB3 file), such a figures, tables, or time-based media; metadata, for the work as a whole, for the individual components, and relationships among the parts; and any supplemental materials that may be hosted on the platform. University of Michigan Library's strategy focuses on preserving all content in the form of its constituent files, migrating to new formats when both necessary and possible. All content is accompanied by metadata in schema that conform to current best practices in the Library community. Deposits into APTrust will include the full range of content that U-M Library commits to preserving. At present, CLOCKSS and HathiTrust are supporting ingest and preservation support for the EPUB3 files, and we will be working to add support for media formats in the future.
U-M Library will conduct a review after a 10 year period to determine if objects hosted on Fulcrum should be retained and be subject to further, periodic, reviews thereafter. The goal of these reviews is to identify and possibly remove objects that have reached the end of their use and reuse life cycle, or have become unusable due to format obsolescence. U-M Library may conduct the review before 10 years if it identifies that a format is becoming obsolete. The retention review will be conducted by U-M Library and, whenever possible, by the partner who is responsible for its deposit.
In the eventuality that material is removed from Fulcrum due to retention review or for legal or contractual reasons, we will maintain tombstones with the metadata and a removal notice to which durable identifiers (DOIs, Handle System URLs) will continue to resolve. Where possible and applicable, the tombstone record will point to and/or resolve to the new location for the content.
What are we not preserving?
Fulcrum's preservation commitments do not at present attempt to capture the context or user experience in which the materials described above are made available to the public. The following are considered out of scope:
- Aboutware / Brochureware, including marketing and promotional materials.
- User experience: emulation, "look and feel", design changes over time, or navigation methods.
- The Fulcrum software is hosted open source on GitHub, in accordance with current U-M Library policy, but we do not currently have a strategy for independently preserving the codebase beyond our current production and development environments.
- Websites associated with materials published on Fulcrum but not hosted on the platform.