By Paul Wheatley, the SPRUCE project.
The SPRUCE project (Sustainable PReservation Using Community Engagement) will shortly be announcing a new round of hackathons and mashup events. SPRUCE focuses on digital sustainability and works with museums, libraries and archives (MLA) professionals, and particularly the higher education sector, to kick start digital action.
The SPRUCE mashup events aim to solve digital sustainability challenges by bringing together (typically non-technical) collection stewards with software developers and other technical experts. As we work through the process of identifying the challenges, understanding them and then cracking them, we capture everything we learn on a wiki. The results provide an insight into some of the practical challenges our digital culture is facing from the point of view of those charged with sustaining it.
Some of the preservation issues we take on are all about troubleshooting broken data. Like this borked TIFF file case that came down to just one incorrect bit. Others involve more serious development, typically working with and building on existing open source tools. Work with Apache Tika, as with this challenge from the Bodleian Library, has been popular. As well as providing useful results to help save our digital culture, our events have been quite a lot of (geeky) fun, and have acted as excellent forums to exchange expertise between our participants.
Keeping the ball rolling, building the community and supporting our preservation practitioners when the events finish is a key challenge for us. We're championing online collaborative approaches and providing event participants with the chance to bid for follow on funding. Our SPRUCE awards give practitioners sustainability funding to pull in extra technical expertise, further develop and embed the outputs from our events and take forward promising possibilities that couldn't be explored further in the limited time available in a face-to-face event.
The schedule for our next SPRUCE hackathons and mashups will be finalised shortly. In the meantime, a rough outline of what is happening and where is available on our events website.