Timeline: Digital Technology and Preservation

This timeline highlights key events, projects, publications, and technological changes affecting the use of digital technology and efforts to preserve it. You can apply filters to the timeline by clicking on the green tabs below. For a complete, unfiltered, list of entries, choose Timeline: Digital Technology and Preservation in the breadcrumbs above. The seven subject categories include:



  • Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) is created by US Department of Defense to ensure military leadership in science and technology.


  • ICPSR logo

    Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan is established as a data archive.


  • Ohio College Library Center (OCLC) introduces an online shared cataloging system for libraries.

  • Project Gutenberg begins to text encode public domain written works in the hope that they will be freely reproduced and distributed.


  • The US Technology Assessment Act is passed to "aid in the identification and consideration of existing and probable impacts of technological application."


  • The National Information Systems Task Force (NISTF) develops the first two formally recognized archival description standards in the US: NISTF Data Elements Dictionary and USMARC AMC.


  • CNI logo

    Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) founded.


  • Several projects representing collaborations between academic journal publishers and universities (e.g., CORE, Red Sage, and TULIP) begin to explore distribution of scholarly journal content via the Internet.

  • arXiv, an automated repository and distribution system for preparing articles in physics, mathematics, computer science, and quantitative biology is launched.


  • National Computer Security Center (NCSC) defines a trusted computer system as one "that employs sufficient hardware and software assurance measures to allow its use for simultaneous processing of a range of sensitive or classified information."

  • Cornell publishes a joint report on use of digital imaging to reformat brittle books.


  • Yale University’s Project Open Book begins a comprehensive feasibility study on the digital conversion of microfilmed library materials.

  • World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is established to develop common WWW protocols.

  • Library of Congress creates the National Digital Library Program (NDLP).

  • Cornell's Digital to Microfilm Conversion Project begins to test and evaluate the use of high resolution bitonal imaging to produce computer output microfilm.


  • Journal Storage (JSTOR) becomes an independent nonprofit with the mission to build a trusted digital archive of scholarly journal literature.

  • Launch of D-Lib Magazine, which focuses on digital library research and development.


  • PADI logo

    Australia's Preserving Access to Digital Information (PADI) initiative receives government funding and the National Library of Australia assumes responsibility for PADI the following year.

  • Internet Archive logo

    Three web archiving projects are launched: Internet Archive founded by Brewster Kahle to archive the Web, the National Library of Australia's PANDORA Project (Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia), and the Royal Library of Sweden's Kulturarw Heritage Project.

  • The European Commission organizes the first multidisciplinary DLM-Forum to consider the preservation and authentication issues of machine readable data.

  • Preserving Digital Information: Final Report and Recommendations

    The Commission on Preservation & Access (CPA)/Research Library Group (RLG) publishes a seminal report on preserving digital information.

  • Electronic Records Research & Development conference in Ann Arbor

    Ann Arbor conference on Electronic Records Research & Development discusses the preservation of electronic records.

  • World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) copyright treaty protects databases as literary works and makes fair use optional.

  • Research agenda for networked cultural heritage

    The Getty Art History Information Program releases a Research Agenda for Networked Cultural Heritage.

  • EU Database direction provides copyright protection to databases, even if the content is in the public domain.


  • Into the future poster

    PBS broadcasts the CLIR film "Into the Future: On The Preservation Of Knowledge In The Electronic Age."

  • NEDLIB publications

    European national libraries form the Networked European Deposit Library (NEDLIB) to maintain and preserve born-digital objects within the library system.

  • OCLC Web Characterization Project begins conducting an annual Web sample to analyze trends in size and content. The project ended in 2003.

  • A collaboration between the Universities of Leeds, Cambridge and Oxford forms the CEDARS Project, whose broad objective is to explore and raise awareness of digital preservation issues.

  • An RLG study finds that 2/3 of archives, libraries, museums, and other repositories had assumed responsibility for digital information, but 42% lacked the capacity to mount, read, and access some of this material.

  • Harvard University logo

    Harvard University launches the Library Digital Initiative (LDI) as a five-year program to develop the University's capacity to manage digital information.

  • AHDS publishes "A Strategic Policy Framework for Creating and Preserving Digital Collections" discussing the key stages in the life cycle of a digital resource, and how these are influenced by major stakeholders.

  • LOCKSS logo

    Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe (LOCKSS) project is initiated to allow libraries to take physical custody of the electronic journals they purchase.

  • Time and Bits cover

    The Time and Bits: Managing Digital Continuity meeting is held at the Getty Center to discuss the future uses of digital technologies.

  • National Archives and Records Administration Electronic Records Archives project begins.


  • CAMiLEON logo

    Project CAMiLEON begins at the Universities of Michigan and Leeds to study the use of emulation as a digital preservation strategy.

  • JISC/NPO studies on the preservation of electronic materials are summarized in "Digital Culture: Maximising the Nation's Investment."

  • International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems (InterPARES) project begins.

  • Charles Dollar writes Authentic Electronic Records: Strategies for Long-Term Access.

  • Prism

    NSF funds Cornell's Project PRISM to develop policies and mechanisms for information integrity within a digital library.

  • The UK's Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS) begins "Preservation Management of Digital Materials," a project to develop a handbook giving guidance on digital preservation.


  • Using emulation to preserve digital documents

    Jeff Rothenberg writes Using Emulation to Preserve Digital Documents.

  • Cornell project on Risk Management of Digital Information offers first assessment of the risks involved in migration for use in cultural institutions.

  • National Archives of Australia

    The National Archives of Australia announces that it will accept digital records into custody and provide for their ongoing access over time.

  • The Dutch Digital Preservation Testbed is established as a part of the Digitale Duurzaamheid programme with the goal of achieving lasting accessibility of digital government information.

  • RLG Diginews digital preservation logo

    RLG DigiNews begins extensive coverage of digital preservation using this symbol to indicate articles relating to digital preservation.

  • DSpace logo

    MIT Libraries and Hewlett-Packard begin a joint project to build the DSpace digital repository.

  • PubMed Central
    BioMed Central

    PubMed Central and BioMed Central are launched as digital archives of life sciences, biological, and medical journal literature.

  • Moving theory into practice

    Moving Theory into Practice, a digital imaging reference book for libraries and archives is published.

  • The US Library of Congress establishes the MINERVA Web Preservation Project to collect and preserve digital primary source materials.

  • NDIIP Logo

    The US Library of Congress receives funding for the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) to "provide a national focus on important policy, standards and technical components necessary to preserve digital content."

  • Nordic Web Archive becomes the Nordic National Libraries' forum in the fields of harvesting and archiving web documents.


  • The Austrian On-Line Archive (AOLA) is established to take periodic snapshots of Austrian Web space.

  • The Digital Preservation Coalition is established to foster joint action to address the urgent challenges of preserving digital resources in the UK and elsewhere.

  • Safekept

    PADI begins Safekeeping Project aimed at building a distributed and permanent collection of digital preservation resources using this logo to indicate a permanent document:

  • The Guggenheim's Variable Media Initiative asks digital artists to involve themselves in the preservation strategy for their own works.

  • Maggie Jones and Neil Beagrie write Preservation Management of Digital Materials: A Handbook.

  • Paradigma

    Paradigma Project begins collecting and preserving Norway's digital cultural heritage materials.

  • The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rules that Napster violated copyright laws, and orders it to stop distributing copyrighted music.

  • Wayback Machine logo

    Internet Archive unveils the Wayback Machine allowing users to search archived versions of the Web, starting from 1996.

  • Preservation Metadata for Digital Objects: A Review of the State of the Art is published by the OCLC/RLG Working Group on Preservation Metadata.

  • The Evidence in Hand cover

    The Evidence in Hand: Report of the Task Force on the Artifact in Library Collections explores the tension between physical and digital artifacts.

  • French government adopts a law that requires every French Web page to be officially archived.


  • National Information Standards Organization (NISO) Technical Metadata for Digital Still Images standards released.

  • A report by CLIR estimates that the average Web page has a life span of 44 days.

  • Trusted Digital Repositories: Attributes and Responsibilities, and Preservation Metadata & the OAIS Information Model, A Metadata Framework to Support the Preservation of Digital Objects are both published by RLG/OCLC.

  • Swedish government issues a decree authorizing the Royal Library to collect Swedish websites and to allow the public access within the library premises.

  • The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is signed into law. "The goal of the act was to protect investors by improving the accuracy and reliability of corporate disclosures." The law requires publicly traded companies to closely monitor electronic and paper document retention and imposes criminal sanctions for the destruction or loss of certain electronic records.

  • e-depot

    Elsevier Science designated the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB), the National Library of the Netherlands, as the first official digital archive for Elsevier journals. IBM worked with the KB to create the technical infrastructure of the deposit service, called the e-Depot.

  • An initiative known as PDF/A is undertaken to develop an international standard that defines the use of the Portable Document Format (PDF) for archiving and preserving documents.

  • The Public Library of Science (PLoS), a science journal archive and alternative publisher, is launched.

  • OCLC launches its Digital Archive as a production service.

  • OAIS standards cover

    Initial Open Archival Information System (OAIS) standards are released, providing a framework for long-term digital information preservation and access, including terminology and concepts for describing and comparing archival architectures.

  • The National Diet Library Web Archiving Project (WARP), begins to harvest and archive Japanese Web resources.

  • PRONOM, a database of file formats, and a supporting library of software products is released. The collection aims at helping with the problem of software obsolescence.


  • National Academy of Science releases an assessment of the US National Archives & Records Administration's proposed digital archiving plan.

  • OCLC and RLG Announce the Formation of PREMIS, the PREservation Metadata: Implementation Strategies working group, to address practical aspects of implementing preservation metadata in digital preservation systems.

  • RLG and the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) create a task force to produce certification requirements for digital information repositories.

  • JHOVE logo

    A pre-release version of JHOVE, a tool to automate the validation of file formats, becomes available. Accurate file format information will greatly facilitate the management of files in digital repositories.

  • PLOS Biology screenshot

    PLoS Biology, the Public Library of Science's first open-access journal, is launched.

  • UNESCO releases "Guidelines for the Preservation of Digital Heritage."

  • Annual publication rates of electronic-only formats grow faster than paper-only formats.

  • FEDORA logo

    Flexible Extensible Digital Object and Repository Architecture (FEDORA) version 1.0 is launched by the University of Virginia and Cornell University.


  • The University of North Texas Libraries and the U.S. Government Printing Office, as part of the Federal Depository Library Program, creates the CyberCemetery to "provide permanent public access to the Web sites and publications of defunct U.S. government agencies and commissions."

  • design

    The US National Archives Administration begins building the infrastructure for its Electronic Records Archive (ERA) by awarding one-year design competition contracts to Lockheed Martin and the Harris Corporation to develop the best technological solution for preserving digital information across time and space.

  • The Government of New Zealand dedicates $24 million to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa to “to ward off ‘digital amnesia’, and protect New Zealand's documentary heritage for future generations.”

  • GPO logo

    The GPO convened a group of experts in March to develop minimum requirements for digitizing and preserving the federal depository library's legacy collection.

  • The California Digital Library releases the report: "Evaluating Methods for Gathering and Persistently Managing Web-based Materials."

  • ISO logo

    The International Organization for Standardization publishes: ISO 15836:2003, Information and Documentation, the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set.

  • AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture) is launched providing students and scientists in some of the world's poorest countries with free access to 400 journals in agriculture and related sciences.

  • Google begins work with the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, and the University of Oxford as well as The New York Public Library to digitize books from their collections and make them searchable in Google.

  • DCC logo

    The UK Digital Curation Centre (DCC) is launched.


  • Six institutions receive more than $1.9 million in grants in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) to digitize early 20th century newspapers in order to create a Web accessible historical resource.

  • The first meeting for the eight institutions making up the formal NDIIPP partnership is held at the Library of Congress in January 2005.

  • ESPIDA logo

    eSPIDA is launched. Funded by JISC, eSPIDA (An Effective Strategic Model for the Preservation and Disposal of Institutional Assets) adopts a holistic approach to "take digital preservation on to the next phase sustainable institutional implementation."





  • OAIS Version 2 Candidate is released by the Mission Operations and Information Management Services Area (MOIMS) of CCSDS.

  • DuraSpace logo

    Fedora and dSpace launch DuraSpace.

  • NDIIPP launches a pilot program to test cloud technologies for preserving digital content using DuraCloud.




  • New and improved version of the OAIS standard released.

  • NDIIP develops Personal Digital Archiving Day Kit to empower libraries to reach out to the public regarding personal digital information.


  • Archive Team, a self-described “loose collective of rogue archivists, programmers, writers and loudmouths dedicated to saving our digital heritage,” wins an NDSA Innovation Award for its work advocating for the preservation of digital culture within the technology and computing sectors.