Imperial War Museums

Imperial War Museums digitally preserve the history of modern war indefinitely with Spectra Digital Archive

Spectra StorCycle


IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War. IWM’s five branches attract over 2.5 million visitors each year and house a collection of over 10 million objects. The branches are IWM London, IWM North, the world-renowned aviation museum IWM Duxford, Churchill War Rooms and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.

When we set out on our search to find a storage solution capable of preserving Imperial War Museums’ substantial digital archive, there were specific criteria on which we were not willing to compromise. Spectra met all of our requirements and then some, and now continues to deliver with its Spectra Digital Archive solution.

— Ian Crawford, Chief Information Officer, Imperial War Museums

The Challenge

IWM is home to hundreds of thousands of films, videotapes, audio recordings and photographs that must be preserved forever but won’t last on their original media. They currently store an archive of around 750,000 digital assets, which amass a total of 1.5PB as uncompressed files. Their digital asset collection includes 5,000 film and video scan masters, 100,000 audio masters dating back to the 1930s, nearly 500,00 image masters and thousands of lower resolution versions (access versions for commercial and web use) of the above assets. New scans in their film collection generate an additional 10TB of data per month, and the videotape scanning project is expected to create another 900TB over four years.

The Solution

A long-time Spectra Logic customer, IWM had previously installed a Spectra solution at their Duxford data center, where it reliably preserves their historical content, a total of around 5PB. IWM decided to leverage their investment in existing Spectra hardware and deployed a complete Spectra Digital Archive, as well as extending the solution to their London data center. Their Spectra Digital Archive solution includes Spectra StorCycle enterprise software for digital preservation, two Spectra BlackPearl Nearline Gateway systems, BlackPearl Object Storage Disk, two BlackPearl NAS systems, and Spectra Tape Libraries. They run five workflows in this environment. First, two copies of master film scans are written to tape, one to each T950 Tape Library on different tape media via BlackPearl Nearline Gateway. Second, audio masters, image masters and access versions are stored on BlackPearl NAS, accessible to end users by way of their digital asset management (DAM) system. Additionally, all of their files are backed up to tape. Their primary backup uses an automated Java CLI script to send data to BlackPearl Nearline Gateway, which writes data to both tape libraries. This data can later be accessed via BlackPearl Eon Browser. A secondary backup with BackupExec sends master film data to a library partition. Finally, StorCycle helps IWM’s audiovisual and exhibitions departments offload primary storage of inactive data outside of their DAM applications. StorCycle identifies media file types older than two years and with more than 1GB in size and moves them automatically to tape via BlackPearl Nearline Gateway. Spectra Digital Archive offers IWM the capacity, reliability and product longevity they sought for an extremely affordable price, and is backed by Spectra’s efficient, award-winning support services.

Environment Snapshot

  • Spectra StorCycle® Enterprise Software for Digital Preservation
  • Spectra® BlackPearl® Nearline Gateway with Object Storage Disk
  • BlackPearl® NAS
  • BlackPearl® Eon Browser
  • Spectra® T950 Tape Library with LTO-7 tape drives
  • Spectra® T950 Tape Library with IBM® TS1150 tape drives
  • Java CLI
  • Veritas BackupExec

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