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Notes from the Executive Director – September 2020

This month, Michigan Digital Preservation Network (MDPN) Coordinator Chelsea Denault and I will highlight recent work and next steps toward forming the MDPN as a community of members and set of resources for libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and other cultural heritage organizations throughout Michigan. I may be speaking for us through this piece, but to be completely clear, Chelsea is doing the work, and most of the words below are hers!

We are honored to continue the work that Matt Schultz and colleagues at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) started with the Stepping Stones project (including a helpful collaboration toolkit), and that Paul Gallagher and colleagues at Western Michigan University (WMU) led to create a statewide LOCKSS pilot group. These institutions, along with the Library of Michigan (LM), Michigan State University (MSU), and MCLS, formed a core group of partners to help bring the MDPN to life. The Network is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through the Library of Michigan.

Chelsea’s background as a public historian and scholar with significant outreach, community collaboration, and project management experience has already served her well in her first several months as Coordinator. She has also learned a great deal working with staff across MCLS to understand what we do and how we make an impact in the broader library landscape in Indiana and Michigan. Drawing on our staff’s deep knowledge and experience has positioned Chelsea to have the help and guidance she needs to build the MDPN.

Chelsea has also spent a lot of time with key MDPN stakeholders learning about digital preservation and best practices. Her initial meetings with Matt Schultz from Educopia Institute, Rick Adler from the DPLA Michigan Service Hub, Paul Gallagher from WMU, Marcus Robyns of Northern Michigan University (NMU), and Shannon White from LM helped clarify her vision for the Network and better understand the impact that building such an organization could have for hundreds of institutions across the state. Other collaborators, including Nathan Kemler and Lisa Craig Brisson of the Michigan Museum Association have also been enthusiastic and welcoming partners, especially as Chelsea works to spread the word about the MDPN and how it can serve diverse cultural heritage organizations across Michigan. Overall, Chelsea feels extraordinarily grateful for the warmth and support with which she has been welcomed into this community. We at MCLS and in the broader community are very thankful to have someone with Chelsea’s experience, interests, and drive leading these efforts!

In short, Chelsea has gotten off to a great start. So, what’s next for the MDPN?

First, a website, which will feature information about benefits of MDPN membership, how the Network will be governed, and how to get involved. The website will also feature the growing list of institutions and organizations who are involved, and current LOCKSS pilot node hosts. We encourage institutions and organizations interested in joining the Network to browse the website and contact Chelsea ( with any questions. In the future, members will be able to find helpful technical documentation, video tutorials, and community forums, as well as the latest news and social media updates.

We held an initial meeting of the MDPN steering committee on August 27, focused on drafting a vision for the Network. The steering committee, made up of early key stakeholders, is serving as the MDPN’s temporary governing body until we implement a member-led governance structure in 2021. In this first meeting, we discussed multiple elements of the vision we have for the Network – both the goals we hope to accomplish, and the values, such as inclusivity, equity, and community – we hope to embody as we build a collaborative, member-run organization. The meeting set us on a good path toward a vision, mission statement, and membership model that will guide Chelsea’s work as Coordinator over the coming years.

Based on feedback from the LOCKSS pilot group, we will host a virtual conference on digital preservation featuring three focused tracks for collections professionals, technology specialists, and administrators. In framing the conference in this way, we aim to effectively communicate the process and value of digital preservation in a focused and targeted way, to help build consensus and energy across different stakeholder groups and foster cooperation early on.

Finally, we will host a series of consensus-building groups with institutions across all of what we see as our main sectors – libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies – to better understand each sector’s unique needs. This will be a great opportunity to hear directly from prospective members about what services and support they would like to see. These informal chats will also provide institutions with a valuable opportunity to hear from other sectors and understand how their needs overlap or differ.

All in all, building the MDPN is an exciting step forward for Michigan and an important opportunity for cultural heritage institutions, especially as many are increasingly focused on developing digital assets and experiences as the coronavirus pandemic keeps visitors and patrons away from our stacks, exhibits, and programs.

How can you help build the Michigan Digital Preservation Network?

  • Consider joining as a founding member institution.
  • Talk about the MDPN with other cultural heritage organizations in and around your area, to help encourage membership.
  • Consider getting involved in governance.
  • Advocate for funding to preserve digital assets at your institution! Maintaining and caring for digital assets is part of collections stewardship, just like for physical assets.
  • Attend a consensus-building group meeting.
  • Sign up for the MDPN email list.

Contact Chelsea at to learn more about the MDPN, or to schedule a meeting with her and other stakeholders at your institution or organization.