Community Announcement - DPN Sunset

December 4, 2018

After careful analysis of the Digital Preservation Network’s membership, operating model, and finances, the Board of Trustees of DPN passed a resolution to affect an orderly wind-down of DPN.  The DPN Board carefully considered potential changes to DPN’s current preservation and membership models and determined that it is not feasible to design and implement changes that would ensure sustainability.

The Digital Preservation Network has provided innovative digital preservation services and leadership to the cultural heritage community for the past six years.  At its largest, DPN had 62 members and deposits from 27 institutions. However, membership has fallen to 31, a number insufficient to maintain the organization. The landscape of digital preservation services has changed considerably in the past six years, as have the community’s preservation needs.

Our highest priority is to affect an orderly sunset for the organization’s operations and for the disposition of its deposits.

Recently, DPN stopped accepting new deposits. As DPN implements sunset of the organization and services, each depositing member will work with DPN staff to plan for the disposition of their content. DPN staff will also assist with referral and data movement workflows.

We appreciate the community’s support of DPN.  We are grateful to the many knowledgeable and dedicated staff at member and node organizations who contributed to advancing the field of digital preservation through our collective work. The DPN board, staff, and nodes are committed to a graceful shutdown and to working with our members to assure that deposited content is transitioned successfully.  We are also committed to the larger community in discussing lessons learned.

It is clear that there are numerous unforeseen challenges with our community-based organizations that need to be addressed.  A number of organizations formed by our community are facing sustainability challenges, despite initial momentum. The DPN board and staff hope that the community enters into conversations that may help other organizations in the challenge of sustainability.  



What are the changes that DPN is making?

DPN is sunsetting as an organization. We recently announced to members that we will be winding down and closing out operations. We will work with members over the next several months to ensure a smooth transition.

Why is this happening? 

The business model for DPN required a critical mass of member institutions making large preservation storage deposits into the network. During the time that DPN services were being developed, the landscape for digital preservation changed, including improvements to campus infrastructures and increased credibility for cloud-based services. Additionally, at a local level, many institutions found that they had difficulty selecting content to deposit into DPN and difficulty integrating DPN into local digital preservation workflows. The convergence of these factors presented a challenge to institutions as they made decisions about renewing their DPN membership. DPN has lost half of its members (31 institutions) in the past few years. With the declining membership, DPN as an organization is not sustainable. 

Will my deposited data still be held for 20 years?

No.  The intention of the DPN agreement was to provide preservation services for deposited content for 20 years.  However, with the lack of take-up of large content deposits anticipated in the business model, DPN was not able to establish the financing of the long-term model. The DPN Board and current staff are committed to returning any content not already held by the members. We will work with members who do not have copies of their DPN deposits to ensure the successful return of their content. 

Are my data at risk?  What will happen to my data?

Data requested by a member will be returned; DPN staff will work with the member to determine timetable and process.  After all requested data are returned, all remaining DPN data will be deleted.  Several of the DPN nodes provide preservation services directly, and are willing to work with depositors to discuss transitioning their data.

If I am a depositor, how do I sign up for a conversation with DPN staff regarding my content?

Instructions to sign up for a conversation were provided in the letter notifying members of the DPN wind-down.  If you need that information again, please contact Mary Molinaro at

Do I need to make any decisions?  What decisions do I need to make?  How long do I have to decide?

Current depositors will need to make decisions about what they want to do with their data by December 31, 2018. Please schedule a meeting with DPN staff to coordinate recovery.

Does DPN’s shutdown affect my institution’s membership in HathiTrust/APTrust/TDL/Chronopolis?

No, only your membership with DPN is affected.

What if I want my content to stay in the node?  What do I do?

You need to make arrangements to have a conversation with your ingest node directly.  DPN staff can provide you with contact information if needed.

Can't DPN just keep working as a coordinating body?

The DPN Board of Directors has determined that it is best to completely shut down the organization so that all resources can be focused on a secure wind-down.  The deep knowledge gained in the process of creating and implementing DPN can be used by the community to develop a more effective model of coordinated preservation services.


December 5, 2018

Dear colleagues,

Yesterday, we announced to members and depositors of the Digital Preservation Network that we are winding down and sunsetting the organization.  It was a difficult decision for the DPN board and staff, but after examining the options, it was determined to be the best path to ensure an orderly transition for depositors. Since the beginning of DPN over five years ago, the organization has operated in an environment of rapid change.  We--the organization and the community--have learned many valuable lessons. The DPN board and staff expect these lessons will contribute to future efforts to preserve valuable digital content and will also inform continuing work to sustain community-based organizations.

The following may serve to provide context for the decision to wind-down DPN.

The model of preservation storage provision under which DPN currently operates is not a match for a sufficient number of institutions in today’s environment to be economically sustainable. DPN’s financial model assumed a critical mass of member institutions making large preservation storage deposits. Both the membership numbers and the scale of storage deposits have fallen below the critical mass needed.

  • The general environment for preservation storage has changed since DPN was founded, and the current DPN model is not perceived to be a sufficiently cost-efficient complement to other campus arrangements.  For example, institutions that already have secure preservation storage in one or more cloud-based sites may not elect to pay for a service that maintains three additional copies in dedicated locations.

  • The succession agreements and 20-year term conditions of DPN do not match the planning cycles and ownership expectations at many institutions.

  • Many institutions do not have the digital preservation workflows necessary for routine deposit to an external preservation repository.

DPN’s work has been an important, constructive learning process for the digital preservation community and will lead to new models of collaborative digital storage services.

  • The investment in research and development work with the Nodes (AP Trust, Chronopolis, HathiTrust, and the Texas Digital Library) benefitted all in areas such as replication, ingest, and registry and metadata management.  This activity has proven its value and will continue and expand in other services and the work of the Nodes.

  • With the benefit of DPN research and experience, future models should be able to optimize centralized coordination services and reduce costs.

  • The investigation into succession planning and long-term commitment illuminated what is actually feasible in the institutional context.  While research universities and cultural heritage institutions are innately long-running, they operate on that implicitly rather than by making explicit long-term plans.  This needs to be incorporated into digital preservation planning.

  • Services requested by (and provided to) DPN members have identified a significant need for operational development in the areas of selection for and workflow management of digital preservation. It is important that the community keep that work going.

  • Many institutions have better understood their own workflows and requirements by exploring the DPN model.

Although DPN, in its post-research and development phase, was not able to sustain sufficient scale to establish its desired 20 year “endowed” model, all digital data are secure and will, as needed, be returned to depositors.  DPN is working with each depositor to determine if content needs to be returned and is developing a timetable and process for any necessary returns. Most depositors have their own preservation copies of content in addition to the DPN copies and are not expected to seek a return. Three of the DPN nodes (AP Trust, Chronopolis, and TDL) are positioned to provide digital preservation services to current DPN depositors.  DPN will assist in that transition.

Finally, we would like to thank the community, especially the DPN members and the Node partners for the support of DPN and the progress we have made in digital preservation.


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