Open-access data associated with research efforts depend upon managing, packaging, and pre- serving data for sharing with collaborators and the public. The U.S. Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Net- work, established in 1980, provides an early example of embedded data management supporting long-term, place-based research and contributes to our understanding of the enactment of open data access within scien- tific research arenas. Here, we examine collective data activities enabled by embedding data management within the Shortgrass Steppe (SGS) research site. Study of the SGS LTER, a member of the U.S. LTER Network for more than three decades, provided a unique opportunity to investigate data management practices and chal- lenges during the life cycle of a long-term project. It illustrates how a continuous, uninterrupted focus on data management positioned in dynamic interaction with researchers at a site as well as with an active net- work-wide data management committee can stimulate the growth of both data expertise and data infras- tructure. We report on an ethnographic study by a collaborative team of researchers, all having been involved with the LTER network and well-positioned for investigating data management challenges faced during the periods of activation, maturation, and decommissioning of a project at a research site. Termina- tion of the SGS site’s membership in the U.S. LTER Network prompted rethinking about long-term data management. During the decommissioning phase, we document how views on temporality and data man- agement strategies shift from planning for a longitudinal, ongoing site to wrapping up a long-term project. Striving to ensure “long live the data” at the end, novel data arrangements, such as development of a digi- tal legacy project collection, contribute to data stewardship. Lastly, from this study of a long-term research site, we offer five recommendations about data management and describe strategies pertinent to planning for data management and open access for other research projects.