The purpose of this exercise is to better understand your organization’s current descriptive/discovery limitations in terms of software. For example: 

  • “Has software been bundled during the ingest process so that it is indistinguishable from data?”
  • “Have you stored content migrated from installation media in forensic disk image formats?”
  • “What steps would need to take place to determine the range of common, complex formats that exist across your born-digital collection materials?”

This activity also serves as a preparatory step for the Scenarios for Use and Access Exercise.

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The FCoP Software and Collections Inventory is what is sometimes referred to as a Random (or spot) inventory. Random (or spot) inventories are extremely limited in scope. They are primarily used to verify the location of a representative sampling of objects. Because of the limited scope of the inventory, Random (or spot) inventories are often also referred to as a “collection audit”.

For this exercise your random (or spot) inventory should include:

  • The software you have in your collections
  • Recurring complex and/or proprietary formats that could inform how you prioritize your software curation and emulation work moving forward.

If you have already selected a use case to focus your software curation and emulation explorations, focus your spot inventory/search on software that could be relevant to your use case. Again, this isn’t a comprehensive inventory – but it should include a sample representative enough to identify gaps, raise questions about workflows and advance group discussions.


NOTE: The spot inventory and short answer questions are intended to be completed asynchronously by more or more participants. However, group learning comes when a larger stakeholder group or department is convened after Steps 1-4 have been completed and a discussion is facilitated to reflect on the findings and responses to the short answer questions.

  • (One week) Complete the spot check inventory and the short answer questions.
  • Synchronous call or in-person discussion based on the results of asynchronous work.


  1. Determine which members of your FCoP team/work colleagues need to be involved in the inventory. Support and participation from your internal stakeholders is a crucial component/goal of the cohort data gathering tasks we will undertake.
  2. Establish your scope/focus for your spot inventory and develop internal timeline/due dates to ensure that the inventory is completed by a specific deadline.
  3. Complete the Software and Collections Inventory Spreadsheet
  4. Upon completion of the inventory, document responses to the following short answer questions:
    • What was the scope or focus of your inventory?
      • (Did you limit your spot inventory to one kind of software, or to a certain type of software dependent material? How did you determine how many records might provide a healthy spot check – and help to identify gaps and other patterns?)
    • List all of the data sources you referenced or searched to complete your inventory?
    • Did you encounter difficulties locating software that you knew was stored in your collections?
    • Did you encounter anything unexpected in your collections and software inventory that would be useful in the context of emulation, sharing, etc.
    • Was it difficult to determine the use and access restrictions associated with the software that you identified in your inventory? 
    • Was it difficult to determine the dependencies associated with collections and software objects that you identified in your inventory?
    • Did this process raise any questions internally regarding policies, requirements and local user constituencies?