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What is a Repository?

We’ve been talking a lot about the Repository of late, so I thought it might be time to come full circle and make sure we’re all on the same page here…. What exactly is a Repository?

A Repository is essentially a digital shelf.  A really, really smart shelf!

It’s the place to safely and securely store digital assets of a wide variety of types for preservation, discovery, and use, though not all materials in the repository may be discoverable or accessible by everyone.  So, it’s like a shelf.  Except that this shelf is designed to help us preserve these materials and try to ensure they’ll be usable for decades.  


This shelf tells us if the materials on it have changed in any way.  They tell us when the materials don’t conform to the format specification that describes exactly how a file format is to be represented.  These shelves have very specific permissions, a well thought out backup procedure to several corners of the country, a built-in versioning system to allow us to migrate endangered or extinct formats to new, shiny formats, and a bunch of other neat stuff.

The repository is the manifestation of a conviction about the importance of an enduring scholarly record and open and free access to Duke scholarship.  It is where we do our best to carve our knowledge in stone for future generations.  

Why? is perhaps the most important question of all.  There are several approaches to Why?  National funding agencies (NIH, NSF, NEH, etc) recognize that science is precariously balanced on shoddy data management practices and increasingly require researchers to deposit their data with a reputable repository.  Scholars would like to preserve their work, make it accessible to everyone (not just those who can afford outrageously priced journal subscriptions), and want to increase the reach and impact of their work by providing stable and citable DOIs.  

Students want to be able to cite their own thesis, dissertations, and capstone papers and to have others discover and cite them.  The Library wants to safeguard its investment in digitization of Special Collections.  Archives needs a place to securely store university records.


A Repository, specifically our Duke Digital Repository, is the place to preserve our valuable scholarly output for many years to come.  It ensures disaster recovery, facilitates access to knowledge, and connects you with an ecosystem of knowledge.

Pretty cool, huh?!