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IU receives grant to create software system for video and audio collections


Variations on Video

The Indiana University Libraries, in partnership with Northwestern University Library, recently received a $947,963 grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to create a freely available open source software system to enable academic libraries and archives to easily provide online access to their video and audio collections.


This project, known as Variations on Video, will be based in IU’s Digital Library Program and continues a planning project supported by a previous IMLS grant to IU. It builds on IU’s past success in developing the open source Variations digital music library system, now in use at over 20 colleges and universities beyond IU, and on Northwestern’s long history of expertise in video digitization and delivery.


Participants from several additional institutions will collaborate and advise on the project, including Stanford University, University of Virginia, New York University, Harvard University, University of Connecticut, University of Miami, University of York (U.K.), WGBH/Boston, University of California Berkeley, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Representatives from the Hydra Project and Opencast Matterhorn, two higher education open source initiatives focused on digital library and media content management, will also participate.


“Our users have ever-increasing expectations for online access to information, including audio and video. We hope that this project will help libraries and archives to make their media collections more accessible to students, researchers, and the public,” said Jon Dunn, Director of Library Technologies and Digital Libraries at IU and project director for the new grant. “I look forward to working with our colleagues at Northwestern and our other partners to develop software that we hope will be generally applicable.”


“Northwestern is very excited to have the opportunity to work with a great group of like-minded institutions and organizations to design and build this new system” said Stu Baker, Associate University Librarian for Library Technologies at Northwestern. “The partnership with the Hydra Project and Opencast Matterhorn open source communities insures that we will build something that meets the needs of academic libraries, archives, and the higher education enterprise to manage and provide access to streamed video and audio collections.”


In addition to the participants noted above, to refine technical requirements, the planning group will work with media collection managers in the IU Libraries, partners in the IU Bloomington Media Preservation Initiative, and groups in IU’s University Information Technology Services.


Brenda Johnson, Ruth Lilly Dean of University Libraries at IU, underscores the importance of this collaborative effort. "This phase of the Variations project will leverage the mutual strengths of Indiana University and Northwestern University to address evolving needs for digital media management. The impressive number of participating institutions demonstrates the growing interest in Variations both within and beyond higher education.”


The IU Digital Library Program is a collaborative effort of the IU Libraries, University Information Technology Services, and the university research faculty with leadership from the School of Library and Information Science and the School of Informatics and Computing.


The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit


For more information on the project, please visit For more information on IU’s open source Variations digital music library software, visit