Preservation of digital material: the SPAR project

Just as with manuscripts, printed material or photos, it's of the upmost importance to store digital objects in a secure and permanent manner based on a strong and reliable framework, SPAR for Scalable Preservation and Archiving Repository.


The current acceleration in the growth of digital collections (more than 100 Terabytes per year actually) and the diversity of their formats put the BnF in front of the challenge of their preservation.

After more than a year of study, BnF launched the SPAR project, true digital stack. Its design is based on international standards authoritative in the subject of the sustainability of digital information. In particular, SPAR respects the OAIS standard (ISO-14721:2003), reference model for an open archival information system.

SPAR stands for "Système de Préservation et d'Archivage Réparti", meaning "Distributed Archiving and Preservation System".

The SPAR project is much more than a simple stack of secure data.
  • It makes multiple copies of the digital objects and provides continuous monitoring on the status of the hardware as well as the media containing the recorded files in order to anticipate new copies before a definitive loss.
  • Through a precise and complete recognition of the formats of the ingested objects, it also guarantees the continuity of access by making the necessary transformations in case of the technological obsolescence of the access software. Hence, for exemple, when the JPEG image format will become obsolete, SPAR will be able to transform all the appropriate images in a new and more performant format.
    To give this guarantee implies a constant work of technological watch on formats, prototyping and test on new tools. All of this arsenal is inherently anticipated in the design of SPAR.
  • Moreover, SPAR can at any time go back to restore the objects in their original format.

SPAR is a system serving a community. It must guarantee that the documents given back haven't been modified. To this goal, SPAR marks each object with a digital signature.

SPAR is not conceived to be only an internal tool for the BnF. In a move to pool expertise and costs, BnF is intending to open its system to other partners and institutions offering a "third-archival" service for the digital heritage.

Thursday, November 21, 2013