In 1998, the DLF, working with staff of the University of California (UC) at Berkeley, developed a grant proposal that requested support to create a testbed for its Making of America II project. The objective of the testbed was to move the DLF members and the wider library and archival communities closer to the realization of a national digital library by addressing several issues that are critical to this goal.
UC Berkeley submitted the proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which awarded funding. The proposed project team included individuals associated with UC-Berkeley and four other DLF member institutions: Cornell University, the New York Public Library, Pennsylvania State University, and Stanford University.
As described in the proposal, the MoA II testbed is designed to provide a means for the DLF to investigate, refine, and recommend metadata elements and encodings used to discover, display, and navigate digital archival objects. The DLF expects that the MoA II testbed will generate a working system for investigating metadata problems and for discussing, testing, and refining different solutions. The project will give DLF members information that can be used to create the necessary standards or recommendations for best practices for each research area. The project will also be of value to the library and archival communities as a whole because it will advance discussion of the nature of the digital library and move libraries toward a consensus.
The project has three phases: planning, research andproduction, and dissemination. The planning phase was funded by the DLF. During the research and production phase, which is funded by the NEH and is currently under way, theories developed in the planning phase are being tested. In the dissemination phase, the project will share its tested ideas and practiceswith the broader community.
Planning Phase (October 1997-May 1998)
Participants in the planning phase decided that the MoA II Testbed Project must engage scholars, archivists, and librarians interested in access to the digital materials represented in the project, as well as metadata and technical experts. The following four activities were recommended:
- UC Berkeley would work with representatives from Cornell, the New York Public Library, Penn State, and Stanford, and with consultants and selected archivists, to review the collections proposed for conversion and identify the classes of digital archival objects to be represented in the testbed. The classes could include formats such as correspondence, photographs, diaries, and ledgers. (The MoA II Steering Committee recommended before the start of the project that books and serial articles be considered outside the scope of this project.)
- UC Berkeley, working with the same group, would draft a paper that identified the behaviors of each class of digital objects and the structural and administrative metadata to support those behaviors. In addition, the paper would suggest initial best practices for digitizing the classes of archival objects to be included in the project. Finally, it would include a compilation of existing work in these areas as well as any original contributions the group could provide.
- The participants in the MoA II Testbed Project and the DLF Architecture Committee would review the draft paper. It would then be revised and distributed to the wider community for review.
- Technical experts at UC Berkeley would analyze the paper and design a means of encoding the behaviors, metadata, and objects for implementation during the research and production phase of the project.
Research and Production Phase (May 1998-March 2000)
The MoA II testbed would be used to investigate, refine, and enhance the working definitions of administrative and structural metadata, and the important behaviors of archival objects. The testbed project has the following goals, defined during the planning phase:
- to create tools that help the library community understand how digital archival objects are discovered, displaye, and navigated;
- to understand how these tools use metadata and what value the metadata provide and at what cost; and
- to give the DLF a set of metadata practices that can be reviewed and recommended to the wider community.
Dissemination Phase (Summer 2000)
When the research and production phase has ended, the MoA II Testbed Project will seek funding for an invitational seminar at which project results will be reviewed. Participants will include digital library experts, archivists and special collections librarians, scholars, computer scientists, museum professionals, and others who have participated in developing the EAD protocols, are engaged in similar work, or have appropriate expertise. At the end of this phase, project results will be disseminated, practices established will be refined, as necessary, and an agenda for further community review will be formulated.