Librarian/Assistant Dean for Information Services
Head of Digital Preservation
Effective preservation of digital architecture and design data is dependent on a variety of curatorial, technical, and legal capabilities and commitments. The Building for Tomorrow project at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), supported by an Institute of Museum and Library Science (IMLS) grant (LG-73-17-0004-17) under the National Digital Platform funding priority, addressed and made recommendations regarding these issues. The project convened two priority-setting meetings of engaged stakeholders (architects, architectural historians, archivists, librarians, technologists, digital preservationists, facilities managers, software vendors, and others) to frame a collaborative national/international infrastructure supporting long-term preservation of digital design data in the architecture and design fields. The final National Forum meeting resulted in a strategic plan of work supporting digital design archiving in libraries and museums. During 2019-2021 further work was undertaken on specific Forum recommendations. The result is a set of preservation recommendations for design practitioners and archivists; documentation and resources supporting digital design archiving; templates for legal contracts between designers and clients, and gift agreements between donors and archives, granting explicit permission to acquire and preserve digital design collections for future scholarly purposes; a collaborative exercise transferring a digital design project from an architectural firm to GSD archivists; and pilot exploration of Emulation-as-a-Service (EaaSI) for access to obsolete software tools needed to process and render older design files. We will share the progress of the work and highlight some of the larger challenges in this realm of digital archiving, which is critical for maintaining a vibrant cultural record of the built environment in the digital age.