The University of Virginia Library has been building digital collections
since 1992. The Library has amassed a large collection that includes
a variety of SGML encoded etexts, digital still images, video and audio
files, and social science and geographic data sets that are being served
to the public from a collection of independent web sites that have very
little cross-integration. By 1999 it became clear that the Library's
future involved very large-scale collections in all media and content
In the summer of 1999, early in the design process, the Library's research
and development group discovered a paper about Fedora written by Sandra
Payette and Carl Lagoze of Cornell's Digital Library Research Group.
Fedora was designed on the principle that interoperability and extensibility
is best achieved by architecting a clean and modular separation of data,
interfaces, and mechanisms (i.e., executable programs). With Cornell's
help, the Virginia team installed the research software version of Fedora
and began experimenting with some of Virginia's digital collections.
Convinced that Fedora was exactly the framework they were seeking, the
Virginia team reinterpreted the implementation and developed a prototype
that used a relational database backend and a Java servlet that provided
the repository access functionality. The prototype provided strong evidence
that the Fedora architecture could indeed be the foundation for a practical,
scalable digital library system.
In September of 2001 The University of Virginia received a grant of
$1,000,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to enable the Library,
in collaboration with Cornell University, to build a sophisticated digital
object repository system based on the Flexible Extensible Digital Object
and Repository Architecture (Fedora).
The Mellon grant was based on the success of the Virginia prototype,
and the vision of a new open-source version of Fedora that exploits
the latest web technologies. Virginia and Cornell have joined forces
to build this robust implementation of the Fedora architecture with
a full array of management utilities necessary to support it. A deployment
group, representing seven institutions in the US and the UK, will evaluate
the system by applying it to testbeds of their own collections. The
experiences of the deployment group will be used to fine-tune the software
in later phases of the project.