May 17, 2022

Northwestern University and Indiana University Libraries Awarded $1 Million Grant to Expand Open Source AV Repository System

From Northwestern U. Libraries:

A $967,000 federal grant will allow Northwestern University Libraries and Indiana University Libraries to enhance their jointly developed audiovisual repository system, further improving the ability of archival institutions to manage and make accessible large digital collections of video and audio.

2017-06-12_17-33-44The National Leadership Grant, LG-70-17-0042-17, from the Institute of Museum and Library Services focuses on the functionality and sustainability of this open source tool, called the Avalon Media System. Avalon is designed to help institutions manage and deliver audio/video materials to faculty, students, and researcher.


At present, Avalon is fully implemented at five institutions — Northwestern University, Indiana University, University of Virginia, Washington University, University of Alberta, and Calvin College —with a number of other institutions are in various stages of implementation. Avalon now delivers digital material from sources as diverse as 16mm World War II propaganda films and reel-to-reel tapes of clarinet master classes.

The two-year project funded by the grant focuses on four areas:

  • Integration of Avalon into the Samvera (Hydra) codebase. Samvera, until recently known as Hydra, is a large open source project focused on digital repositories; Avalon is based upon the Samvera code and is already an application in use within the community. Because Avalon, as it currently exists, is “monolithic” — meaning it is independent of other software applications — better integration fosters better support and development from the wider community of Samvera participants.

Over the last few years, and in this most recent round of grants from the IMLS, a number of awards were granted to projects related to the Samvera community, which is significant because, as [Eviva] Weinraub [Associate University Librarian for Digital Strategies at Northwestern University Libraries] explained, “it shows how libraries are committed to community-developed, open-source software.”

  • A cloud-based version of Avalon. Making the Avalon platform easy to install and run in cloud-based infrastructure will make it easier for vendors to offer Avalon as a service, and for institutions of all sizes to make easier use of the tool. For example, a public library without a dedicated IT staff might not be able to implement Avalon in its current form. A cloud version would be easier to implement, as it would allow institutions to use Avalon much like a traditional off-the-shelf solution.
  • Improved media preservation. Though Avalon is a repository meant for long-term storage of digital files, it does not yet act as a digital preservation system. Such storage requires more robust safeguards for the storage of data over time, including “fixity checking,” which regularly scans for corrupt or missing data. The grant will allow developers to address these challenges, ensuring digital files will remain available for generations.
  • Achieving a standardized delivery format. For diverse digital platforms to interact with one another, they require a standardized ability to communicate. The Avalon technical team will take a leadership role with the organization tasked with ensuring that ability. The team will contribute to the creation of an AV interoperability specification through the International Image Interoperability Framework and provide a “demonstration implementation” that establishes the way forward.

Combined, achieving these four goals will make Avalon the most robust solution for accessing AV materials, ensuring that archival institutions large and small can contribute to the preservation and study of cultural heritage.

Read the Complete Announcement

Direct to Avalon Media System Website


About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.