Guiliano Dati Woodcut

Rare items from the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History, a signature collection in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, are good examples of materials likely to be digitized and preserved in APTrust. The woodcut shown at left is part of a 1495 edition of Guiliano Dati’s Italian verse translation of Christopher Columbus’ report of his first expedition to the Americas.


Most universities have digital preservation programs for the special collections they own and repositories for the work of their scholars. However, the risk of continuing single-point preservation projects is analogous to the danger of keeping the only copies of many books in one library—if that library burns down, or that one university repository or digital archive fails, then that part of the cultural record is lost. Also, digital preservation is expensive. It is better to share the costs and the risks together rather than alone.

Therefore, institutions of higher education have decided to collaborate in the preservation of digital scholarship and collections. The University of Virginia and like-minded universities created the Academic Preservation Trust—a growing consortium dedicated to directing long-term safekeeping of self-curated scholarship, research, and cultural materials that have been born digital or reformatted to a digital state.

Prange Collection

The University of Maryland Libraries, in collaboration with the National Diet Library of Japan, are digitizing and preserving books issued during the early years of the Allied Occupation of Japan (1945-1949) from the Gordon W. Prange Collection.

APTrust is many things:
• a collaborative commitment to digital preservation
• a shared digital repository for different types of content and file formats
• a community effort to collaborate on best practices and policies
• a set of services designed to enhance the digital preservation environments of individual institutions, including disaster recovery
• a replicating content node for the Digital Preservation Network*

Dean of Libraries Karin Wittenborg and James Hilton, former VP for Information Technology and now Vice Provost and Dean of Libraries at the University of Michigan, led the formation of APTrust. Currently 17 partners strong, APTrust is hosted by UVa and includes university libraries from across the nation. UVa Deputy University Librarian Martha Sites and APTrust Program Director Chip German oversee the project and guide development of the core technical infrastructure. They foster a commitment to partnership by working collaboratively with content and technical liaisons from partner institutions and by engaging with liaisons and deans of libraries on future direction. A board composed of representatives from the partnership governs the organization.

*The Digital Preservation Network (DPN) is designed to provide the deepest level of preservation possible. Unlike APTrust, where libraries have access to their materials, DPN is a “dark” archive—its contents will only be “lit up” in the event of catastrophic loss. Depositors and even the creators of the content are unable to remove or change the material once it is placed in the dark archive. The intent is to ensure the digital objects are preserved as they are at the time of submission. It’s like securing the backup disk of a backup disk in a bank vault.