SPRUCE Project Award: Northumberland Estates

SPRUCE Project Award: Northumberland Estates

Help! Digital Repositories

As part of the SPRUCE Project Awards, Northumberland Estates are currently assessing digital repository solutions which will result in the creation of an associated business case justifying investment in a recommended solution. The business case will aim to implement a sustainable digital repository for the long term management of Northumberland Estates digital content. With a particular focus on small to medium organisations this project aims to address the lack of knowledge in the digital preservation community on preservation as a service (PaaS) providers.

What is a digital repository?

When you think of a traditional repository, you imagine a structure for the preservation and safety of paper archives and collections. Digital Repositories are harder to define due to their intangible nature, but in essence they provide a system for managing and preserving digital content.


There a number of high level requirements which the adopted solution must meet:

  • Incorporates methodology of the OAIS Reference Model
  • Sustainable and supported
  • Secure storage environment which provides bit level preservation and fixity checks
  • Investment appropriate for a small organisation with a single dedicated member of staff
  • Provides internal access to preserved content
  • Handles a broad range of formats including CAD, GSI, and forensic disk Images


I have identified three potential options based on these requirements:

  1. Open Source: Many Higher Education institutions already have mature repository instances through the use of open source software such as DSpace, EPrints, and Fedora. These repositories support research, learning, and administrative processes.

  2. Out of the Box: The emergence of PaaS providers such as Tessella Preservica and Ex Libris Rosetta has enabled digital preservation functionality to remain at the systems core. Often based on OAIS, they provide active preservation and curation of digital assets. Preservica uses AWS to provide bit level preservation in the cloud while Rosetta implements an in-house solution with storage provided by the organisation.

  3. Hybrid: The combination of commercial services with an in house/open source route is feasible. For instance, Arkivum provides bit level preservation while open source OAIS digital preservation systems such as Archivematica can provide the extra level of preservation required for the creation of SIP’s, AIP’s, and DIP’s.

A Call for Help!

By outlining these options I hope to spark some debate on suitable repository options for small to medium organisations. Two questions spring to mind:

  1. Am I missing any feasible repository options based on these requirements?
  2. Are there any further requirements which need to be taken account of?

Please feel free to comment below.



  1. lfaria
    August 28, 2013 @ 1:30 pm CEST

    It would be a big omission not to mention RODA, the open-source repository designed for digital preservation. Besides being OAIS based and open-source, it supports a many file formats and can be easily extended to support more. It has a nice user interface and already supports not only bit-level preservation but also preservation actions, just like file format normalization.

    Also, with the development being made on the SCAPE research project, RODA is building to become the first turn-key digital repository that directly integrates with advanced preservation planning tools like Plato and Scout.

    As it is open-source but also has paid support available, in case institutions cannot do it in-house, it is in my opinion a very suitable option for small to medium organisations to digitally preserve their digital assets.

    You can get more information about RODA at http://www.roda-community.org

  2. pixelatedpete
    September 3, 2013 @ 2:31 pm CEST

    Just another one for your list:


  3. lfaria
    August 30, 2013 @ 4:05 pm CEST

    The RODA site and user registry is quite recent, it was published a couple of months ago, together with the full opening of the project to the community. We do not know of any UK institutions that use RODA in production level, but we know of some UK institutions that have tried out RODA, like the British Library and the National Library of Wales. It would surely be insteresting to have some feedback from those or other RODA users that can help us improve the project.

  4. Chris Fryer
    August 29, 2013 @ 2:02 pm CEST

    Thanks for your response Luis. RODA certainly looks like an interesting option to consider against existing open source repositories. Are there any further users of RODA that are not listed on the site? I’d be especially interested to learn of any UK users of RODA.

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