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Digital Design Data

Project Update, October 2007

Developing DAArch (Digital Archive for Architecture) was a research project focused on the challenge of organizing and preserving digital design data and documentation files held by the Art Institute of Chicago. The 2-1/2 year project was initiated and generously supported by the Schiff Foundation with additional funding from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Collaborating with the Architecture and Design Department of the AIC, Kristine Fallon & Associates provided lead program developer and project management expertise. The project’s objective, which was successfully accomplished by Spring 2007, was to produce a working prototype system for the ingest, cataloguing and archiving of electronics works, and support for the Museum’s accessioning process and legal documentation appropriate for digital collections. Additionally, the project’s deliverables included recommendations toward developing methods for long-term preservation of digital documentation, guidance for the creation and maintenance of digital design data within architectural practices, and a pilot collection of catalogued digital architecture materials—mainly used for testing the prototype’s capabilities. The original announcement and description of the project entitled: Collecting, Archiving and Exhibiting Digital Design Data, can be found below this project summary.

At the conclusion of the prototype development project, the AIC decided to make the system available to the public as open source software and hopes that by so doing, it will be used and extended by others confronting similar challenges. To this end, the DAArch software version 1.0 has been added to the growing number of projects organized and supported by the DSpace Foundation. In this fertile environment, it is expected that the already proven viability of the initial code will be enhanced and made widely available under the BSD license.

Installing DAArch requires a bit of computer expertise. If you are interested in setting it up for your institution, you may want to talk to a system administrator about helping you install DSpace, DAArch, and their other required components. If you don't already have access to a DSpace installation, your first step will be to set up DSpace, which can be downloaded at Thereafter, download DAArch and follow the install instructions that come with the distribution for setting up DAArch.

Based on the AIC’s experience of the complexity and resource-intensive nature of archiving digital materials, broadly-based institutional collaboration is strongly recommended as the best means of successfully implementing a sustainable repository for this purpose.

Project History

In early 2003 the Department of Architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago initiated a major study designed to make an original contribution to the understanding of the collection, archiving, and uses of digital design data produced by architects and industrial designers. Kristine Fallon Associates, Inc., of Chicago authored the study.

It has become increasingly apparent that the nature of the professional architectural practice is dynamic. Design professionals are relying more and more on the computer as an integral part of the design process. This is having, and will have, a profound impact upon the nature of collecting at museums and other archives in the future. As architects move from pencil and paper to electronic design, old guidelines no longer respond to the current situation making new procedures, parameters, and capabilities necessary.

The results of this study will help to redefine the collection parameters of the Art Institute's Department of Architecture and pave the way for other museums and archives to replicate or adapt this model as they grapple with the inevitable impact of new techniques and technology.

A detailed description of the study and the key participants in preparing and funding the study can be found below under general information. The entire report is available as 25 separate PDF files. You will need Adobe's Acrobat Reader 6 to view all the contents of the PDF documents. See below for system requirements. Copyright of the entire study is held by the Art Institute of Chicago, and publication permission is administered by the Department of Architecture.

General Information

With funding from the Schiff Foundation and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Kristine K. Fallon, FAIA, was commissioned to head the study. The study's advisory committee consisted of senior representatives of leading archival institutions, universities with advanced programs in computer-aided design, technology vendors, and architects and industrial designers, many whose work is already included in the Art Institute's collection.

The study's final recommendations cover the life cycle of a digital work of art, including: types and classification of data appropriate for collection; museum registration and accession; indexing and metadata; data formats (archival, native, and derivative); format registration; color management; storage; long-term maintenance; periodic migration; format updates and disaster recovery provisions for digital originals; and techniques for and opportunities to provide digital archive access to a broader community.

In addition to extensive technical research and input from the advisory committee members, the study utilized survey and case study techniques and developed a methodology for documenting the use of digital design tools in practice. The final report reflects a comprehensive compilation of research on the above topics. It contains the survey and case study findings as well as technical recommendations for the digitization of nondigital drawings.

System Requirements for Downloading and Viewing the Report

The entire report is more than 300 MB, so it has been divided it into 25 separate sections to make downloading easier. This report is presented in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. In order to view all of the contents, it is necessary to use the free Adobe Reader 6. This version of Adobe Reader will run under Microsoft Windows 98SE, NT, ME, 2000, and XP and under Macintosh OS X 10.2.2 and 10.3. If you have older versions of Adobe Reader, you should be able to view the majority of this report, which is in text format. You will not be able to view the embedded animations and movie clips.

Microsoft Windows: Default installations of Adobe Reader 6 and Windows should be able to play the embedded AVI animations without additional software. If you attempt to play the animations and receive a message that no player is available, you can download and install the free Microsoft Windows Media Player. This report also includes QuickTime VR animations. In order to view this content under Adobe Reader and Windows, it is necessary to have the QuickTime player for Windows installed.

Macintosh OS X: Default installations of Adobe Reader 6 and OS X also should be able to play the embedded AVI animations without additional software. If you attempt to play the animations and receive a message that no player is available, you can download and install the free QuickTime player. The embedded QuickTime VR animations should be readable without additional software.

The entire study is copyrighted solely to the Art Institute of Chicago. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right of publication, are reserved to the Department of Architecture of the Art Institute of Chicago. No part of the manuscript may be reproduced without the written permission of the Department of Architecture of the Art Institute of Chicago. To request copyright permission please write to the Department of Architecture, Art Institute of Chicago 111 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60603.

Download the Report

To download the content of this report, visit the resource page for Document: Collecting, Archiving, and Exhibiting Digital Design Data.