Yale University Library digital archivist Euan Cochrane leads one of the most ambitious software archiving programs in United States research libraries. Currently accessible to Yale faculty and students, the Yale software collection relies on open source software called bwFLA that enables the creation, management, and distribution of “virtual machines” which can simulate the hardware of an older computer on a newer computer and then run older software on the simulated machine. In practice this means that if you have the right credentials, you can go to the Yale Library website, click a link, and suddenly be running Windows 3.1, the original MacOS, or any other operating system and software, right in your browser.
This grant supports efforts by Cochrane and his team at Yale to further develop this infrastructure and, working with the Software Preservation Network, to cultivate this capability at other institutions. The grant will support focused work on four use cases: scientific software, CD-ROM archiving, restricted-access reading rooms, and a “Universal Virtual Interactor” that would automatically launch the correct software and version to open any given digital file. Other supported activities include technical refinements to the bwFLA platform and the archiving of the National Software Reference Library currently held by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology.