MetaArchive Concludes Project Mycelium

October 10, 2023

In February 2022, MetaArchive announced a research and development project to create a next-generation distributed digital preservation solution that later became known as Project Mycelium. The project was a multi-phase effort to leverage commercial-sector infrastructure advancements to simplify digital preservation and increase sustainability. Phase 1 focused on documenting requirements and conceptualizing the design, it was completed in Fall 2022.

MetaArchive worked with Keeper Technology to complete Phase 1 activities that include an environmental scan, prioritization and justification of digital preservation storage criteria, user surveys and interviews, and a design document for a next-generation digital preservation architecture. We used multiple strategies to seek feedback from the digital preservation community including posting to digital preservation related mailing lists, presenting a paper at iPRES 2022, and a presentation at Library of Congress Designing Storage Architectures 2023; each time a link to the design document was shared, encouraging people add comments and suggestions. Pricing estimates for initial development and ongoing maintenance showed that MetaArchive would need to find partners to continue to phases 2 (proof-of-concept) and 3 (production service).

At the same time that we engaged the community on our design document, MetaArchive launched the Community Research Task Force to assess the organization’s financial health, engage in contingency planning, and present options to the membership for remediating technical debt. While the Task Force is continuing some of its work, a result of the process was a decision to strengthen our relationship with LOCKSS and contract with them to perform essential technical operations, including the creation of an anchor node that will hold a copy of all AUs in the network. 

This change was needed to maintain the viability of our network in the short- and medium-terms. It does not limit MetaArchive’s ability to resume technical operations in the future or to pursue other preservation technologies. However, it does mean that now is not the right time for us to continue working on Project Mycelium. We had a lot of fun and learned much during the process and it helped us to solidify our shared understanding and formed a consensus around digital preservation requirements. We hope the artifacts from this project may be helpful to other digital preservation networks and community members. Thank you to everyone who read or commented on the design document, attended our conference sessions, or participated in the process.