FCoP: Software Preservation in Libraries and Archives

Title: Fostering a Community of Practice: Software Preservation in Libraries and Archives (FCoP)

Funder: Institute for Museum and Library Services #RE-95-17-0058-17

Duration: June 2017 – May 2020

Awardee: CalPoly University

Project Staff: Zach Vowell (Primary Investigator, Cal Poly State University), Jessica Meyerson (Project Manager, Educopia Institute)


Through a cohort of 6 organizations in the United States representing public libraries, university special collections, historical societies and museums, the Fostering a Community of Practice: Software Preservation and Emulation Experts in Libraries and Archives (FCoP) [IMLS grant RE-95-17-0058-17] project aims to broaden participation in software preservation and to empower librarians, archivists, and curators to address the key challenges to providing long-term access to software-dependent cultural heritage. Projects undertaken by cohort members will advance digital preservation practice and inform field-wide understanding. The activities and documentation produced by cohort members will also serve in parallel efforts to bring software preservation and access into mainstream digital preservation practice (addressing specific legal, metadata and technical preservation and access challenges).

Participation in the FCoP cohort includes:

  • Community fellowship, sharing and information exchange with members of the FCoP cohort
  • Crucial contribution to broader national and international software preservation efforts and access strategies, including the Software Preservation Network.
  • $5,000 financial award to be used for travel and registration costs for conferences and workshops where cohort members will present, facilitate discussion and actively solicit interest from fellow librarians, archivists, and museum conservators and curators
  • Access to and technical support for a web-based emulation sandbox which requires no local installation
  • Formal support for problem-based learning and research on the challenges to implementing software preservation and emulation in their local organization
  • Access to and support for communication tools for the duration of the project in order to encourage the cohort to communicate with one another outside of structured or facilitated interaction


November 28, 2017 to January 12th, 2018 – Project applications will be accepted

March 12, 2018 – Selected projects will be notified

Summer 2018 – Project cohort members attend in-person kick-off meeting

August 2018 – Projects launch

November 2019 – Projects wrap up

June 2019 to May 2020 – Project cohort members present/share their experiences and results


University of Virginia

From left to right: Mike Durbin, Lauren Work & Jermey Bartczak.

Emulation in the Archives

​The ​Emulation in the Archives ​project will document and openly share reproducible technical and administrative workflows that result from the processing, preservation, emulation and access to software and digital materials in the Peter Sheeran papers. Though final documentation will focus on successful, adaptable workflows, the project team will also thoroughly publicly document the parallel failures, roadblocks, and resourcing realities that will serve to inform successful approaches within the preservation community at large in the future. The project will also build on, test, and document the application of developing software preservation standards, such as metadata crosswalks and legal frameworks, and function as an empirical example for software preservation needs in cultural heritage communities.


Guggenheim Museum

From left to right: Johnathan Farbowitz & Joanna Phillips.

Developing Metadata for Software-based Art (DMSA)

In “Developing Metadata for Software-based Art” the project team plans to explore several questions related to metadata and description of software-based artworks, including: What information about an artwork must be collected to support its future exhibition? When, how, and in what form should this information be collected? And what specific role will this information play in future access, whether through emulation/virtualization or alternative strategies? Unlike typical archival objects, access to software-based artworks typically occurs through gallery presentation of the artwork or—in the case of the museum’s three web artworks—online. Because of their status as artworks, software-based pieces are not only expected to reproduce a functional experience, but also an aesthetic experience true to the artist’s original intent (maintaining properties deemed significant such as duration, colors, screen resolution, and speed of movement). Conservation staff must also ensure that they are capturing the information resources necessary to understand these
specifications in future and ideally reproduce the work to these specifications. In order to limit a potentially massive scope, the team will select representative artworks to investigate.


Georgia Tech

From left to right: Wendy Hagenmaier, Amanda Pellerin, Bing Wang (on laptop), Jody Thompson & Susan Wells Parham.

Expanding Access Through Emulation: retroTECH Online

In support of Georgia Tech’s dedication to innovation in entrepreneurship, learning, research, and improving the human condition, and of the Library’s commitment to catalyzing discovery, the mission of retroTECH is to engage the campus community in creating the future by exploring and preserving our technological pasts. As part of its efforts to reimagine the 21st- century research library, the Georgia Tech Library seeks to provide an online presence that is as innovative as its physical spaces. The overarching goal of this project would be to create a proof-of-concept for retroTECH’s contribution to the Library’s online presence — retroTECH Online — an online emulation environment through which authenticated Georgia Tech users (as well as possibly researchers and visitors who create accounts) can utilize emulated software from retroTECH’s collections for teaching and learning, explore the stories surrounding that software, and foster a virtual retroTECH community.


University of Arizona

From left to right: Judd Ruggill, Monique Lassere, Ken McAllister & Fernando Rios

Through Use and Emulation: Increasing Institutional Knowledge of Software Preservation with Computer Game Archiving

The goals of Through Use and Emulation: Increasing Institutional Knowledge of Software Preservation with Computer Game Archiving are two-fold: (1) to bring together relevant and interested stakeholders at the University of Arizona to illuminate challenges around software preservation activities related to the LGIRA, and (2) to foster discussion that results in translating the LGIRA’s approach of “preservation through use” into digital workflows involving emulation. These workflows, along with lessons learned, will then be shared with the FCoP cohort and the broader software preservation community in furtherance of the Software Preservation Network’s vision of “Preserving software through community engagement, infrastructure support, and knowledge generation.”


Living Computers: Museum + Labs

From left to right: Dorian Bowen, Stephen Jones, Cynde Moya & Josh Dersch

Emulation in the Middle Ages: Mainframes and Minicomputers

LCM+L’s project will expand the software preservation discussion into the Middle Ages of computing. One of our institutional goals is preserving and sharing our digital heritage. This project is a pilot, and will be expanded to other emulations of vintage operating systems and software. In order support emulation in the Middle Ages of Computing, LCM+L will expand current metadata workflows to include best practices for automated EaaS functionality, and test compatability of EaaS with internally-produced emulators: ContrAlto Alto emulator, DPS-8/M MULTICS emulator, simlac Imlac PDS-1 emulator, and the upcoming Xerox Star emulator. The LCM+L project team will produce web pages, quick start guides, and other documentation to help users explore emulations of these operating systems and related software. This project will contribut to the FCoP cohort and the software preservation community at-large through careful documentation of challenges, findings, outcomes, and recommendations.


University of Ilinois

From left to right: Seth Robbins, Tracy Popp, Kyle Rimkus & Karl Germeck

Preserving Musical Notation and Composition Software

Our interest in the Fostering a Community of Practice: Software Preservation in Libraries and Archives (FCoP) project is to improve access to contents recovered from born-digital media. Specifically, we are interested in preserving, improving discovery of and providing access to files created by contemporary music composers. These collections are stewarded by the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music. The focus of this project is preserving and accessing born-digital files of three contemporary composers collections acquired by the Sousa archives (Michael Manion, Peter Michalove, and Scott Wyatt). The creation dates within the collections span from 1992 – 2012, representing a significant expanse of time in terms of technological development and software versions. These software titles are often proprietary and may have limited backward compatibility functionality. We are particularly interested in further investigation and development of an emulated/virtual environments where these titles can run in as close to a native environment as possible. We are also interested in scaling this environment to meet the needs of future collections of composers’ born-digital content.



SPN is sincerely grateful for all forms of support:

  1. In-kind contributions of time and expertise from SPN participants
  2. Direct financial support from the Institute for Museum and Library Services
  3. Affiliated project support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation