Discussions and guidance on the preservation of digital 3D data have become increasingly necessary to address the stability, reusability, and persistence of this data type. Creation of digital 3D data has expanded rapidly over the last 10 years due to technical advancements in creation and capture. In parallel, emphasis on curation of research data, which aims to ensure digital data preservation, reusability, and reproducibility, has grown. While these phenomena have developed in tandem, they have not adequately intersected. At least in part, this seems due to a lack of mechanisms or opportunities for the respective experts to communicate.

Preservation and sharing of research data in physical and digital forms, as a parts of the scholarly record, are fundamental responsibilities of libraries and museums, and the data curation community has been active in establishing and promoting best practices and standards for many kinds of digital data to ensure that assets can be accessed and reused in perpetuity. Some of this work is applicable to digital 3D data, but attributes of this data type limit applicability. Libraries and museums require consistent standards to curate and preserve data to ensure stewardship expectations are met.

The Community Standards for 3D Data Preservation (CS3DP) project was conceived to aid in the organization of nationally shared resources for the preservation and management of 3D digital research outputs. For this effort, the Washington University Libraries in collaboration with the University of Iowa Libraries and the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology partnered to hold a set of community forums to work toward establishing standards, practices, and technologies for 3D data preservation, documentation, and dissemination. The forums not only brought together and formalized a community of practice, but also resulted in a report on emerging preservation and curation practice.

In 2017, the original project team, Jennifer Moore (Washington University in St. Louis), Adam Rountrey (University of Michigan) and Hannah Scates Kettler (University of Iowa) surveyed an international community including individuals involved in digital curation and 3D data acquisition and research, primarily at universities and museums. Of 104 respondents 70% said that they did not use best practices or standards for preservation, documentation, and dissemination of 3D data. Of those not using standards/best practices, 69% said that they did not use them because they were unaware of such standards. Respondents who are using standards largely developed them in-house. The vast majority (82%) of all respondents said they would like to collaboratively develop standards and best practices as a community.

The People:

  • Francesca Albrezzi
  • Andrea d’Andrea
  • Kari Allen
  • Jon Blundell
  • Justin Bonfiglio
  • John Bonnett
  • Susan Borda
  • Doug Boyer
  • Katie Chapman
  • Jasmine L. Clark.
  • Perry Collins
  • Michael Conyers
  • Kyle Courtney
  • Katherine E. DeVet
  • Kristina Golubiewski-Davis
  • Rachel Fernandez
  • Emily Finch
  • Tassie Gniady
  • Stephanie Grimes
  • Juliet L. Hardesty
  • Monique Lassere
  • Melissa Levine
  • Brandon Locke
  • Jessica Maisano
  • Marcia McIntosh
  • Frank Pierce-McManamon
  • Katie Pierce Meyer
  • Jennifer Moore
  • Ashley Morhardt
  • Gary Motz
  • Angel David Nieves
  • Kieron Niven
  • Heather Richards-Rissetto
  • Nelson Rios
  • Adam Rountrey
  • Will Rourk
  • Albert Rozo
  • Hannah Scates Kettler
  • Carla Schroer
  • Lisa M. Snyder
  • Rebecca Snyder
  • Stuart Snydman
  • Todd P Swanson
  • Andrea Thomer
  • Kate Webbink
  • Ann Whiteside
  • Yuanxiao Xu

National Need:

To further assess whether this need of consistent guidance was indeed common for the 3D community, the organizing team decided to survey members of the community to better understand what resources, if any, were in use. The results were striking. We circulated the survey to 3D practitioners, data curators, librarians, museum managers, and researchers, and we received well over 100 responses from individuals who worked with 3D in various ways or had responsibility for taking care of data. Notably, 72% of all respondents said that they do not use documented best practices or standards for preservation, documentation, and dissemination of 3D data. Of this group, 69% said that they did not use them because they were unaware of such standards. Respondents who said they were using standards largely developed them in-house. Most importantly, the vast majority (85%) of all respondents said they would like to collaboratively develop standards and best practices as a community.

Although there is great interest in 3D applications in research, there is currently little available guidance regarding the preservation of digital objects and associated information in perpetuity. The preservation and sharing of research data is a necessary, invaluable responsibility of libraries and museums, and although standards and best practices have been developed for many kinds of digital data to ensure assets can be accessed and reused in perpetuity, the applicability of these standards to 3D data is limited, as evidenced by our survey results.

The Proposal:

Because the survey reinforced the need to pull a community together to address standards, we began building an effort that we hoped would inspire investment from the various stakeholders. The organizing team developed a proposal for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to explore issues around digital 3D preservation. Just as the CS3DP project proposal was successfully funded by the IMLS, other complementary projects were also funded in the same cycle, such as IMLS NLG National Forum proposal, “Developing Library Strategy for 3D and Virtual Reality Collection Development and Re-Use” (LIB3DVR, http://lib3dvr.org), focussing on 3D/VR library services with the purpose of informing library administrative support, and also “Building for Tomorrow: Collaborative Development of Sustainable Infrastructure for Architectural and Design Documentation” (https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/buildingtomorrow/home), seeking to a national/international collaborative infrastructure to support long‐term preservation of digital design data fields architectura/design domain.


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