10e journées des archives de l’Université de Louvain

Organisées à Louvain-la-Neuve les 25 et 26 mars 2010, les Journées des archives traiteront cette année de la valorisation.

“La valorisation des archives : une mission, des motivations, des modalités, des collaborations. Enjeux et pratiques actuels”.

Programme : 10e journées des archives
Informations : www.archives.uclouvain.be/archives
Inscription : www.uclouvain.be/archives

CITRA 2009 Malta


41st CITRA goes on in Malta this year.
The Flying Reporters are there : you can read them and participate to the works about archival education and training

La 41e Conférence de la Table Ronde des Archives se tient cette année à Malte.
Les Reporters Volants sont présents et alimentent un blog spécifique : retrouvez-les, et participez à distance à cet événement, qui porte sur l’enseignement et la formation continue des archivistes.

Mercosur 2009 Montevideo

The 7th Mercosur Conference is going on in Montevideo.
The Flying Reporters are there. Read them :

La 7e Conférence du Mercosur se tient en ce moment à Montévidéo.
Les Reporters Volants sont présents et alimentent un blog spécifique : retrouvez-les


European Commission provisions on Electronic Documents

By Alfonso Casanueva, from Spain, former Policy Officer at the European Commission’s Secretariat-General, Document Management Policy unit, Belgium

The European Commission started a records management project called e-Domec (electronic document management in European Commission) in 2002, with the aim to rationalise the production and management of records, and to adapt it to the electronic environment, in the line of similar initiatives of e-government carried out in some European countries.

In this framework, several provisions were adopted, setting out the basic rules that all Commission officials should respect when dealing with their records. One of this provisions is the Commission Decision 2004/563/CE, EURATOM, on electronic and digitised documents, which was completed with the Implementing Rules SEC (2005) 1578.

With these provisions, the Commission aims to set the conditions for the validity and the legal value of electronic records, whether they are born digitally (Word documents, e-mails…) or scanned, and also ensure the authenticity, integrity and readability thereof, and the preservation of the records and their metadata during the whole lifecycle of the document. The link between these two texts and the rest of the provisions on records management written for the e-Domec project is obvious, as it is in these other texts where the lifecycle of the document is defined and where the metadata describing the document are set. It is important to mention that according to Commission Provisions, lifecycle and metadata for records are independent of the support of the record, paper or electronic, therefore the Decision 2004/563 does not cover these questions.

We will see how this text deals with the management of electronic records, not being very audacious in pushing towards the electronic environment, but taking, on the contrary, a very safe approach.

The provisions are organised, as usually, in two different texts, each of one of a different level of importance. On the top, we have the Commission Decision 2004/563, which sets the basic principles to be followed and it was approved by the College of Commissioners. Then, we have the Implementing Rules SEC (2005) 1578 that details those principles. The second one is a text approved by the Secretary General of the Commission. Both texts cover four basic questions regarding electronic documents:

Their validity

Their transmission

Their preservation

Their security.

Validity of electronic documents:

Regarding this question, the Commission distinguishes on one side, the validity of the document itself, and on the other side, the validity of an electronic process that may lead to the production of an electronic document (in other words: an electronic workflow)

For the first question, the legal text looks into the question of the unambiguous identification of the author. A precondition is established: if there is, somewhere, any regulation, any legal basis that requests a hand written signature on the (paper) document for its validity, like it is the case of many contracts, for instance then an electronic document would be valid only if it is born digital and signed with an advanced electronic signature. If there is not a legal text demanding for a handwritten signature as a condition for the validity of a document, scanned versions or electronic born documents are considered legal provided that their author is identified unambiguously.

Regarding the validity of electronic workflows, the texts request that every actor and the steps they perform are duly identified by the workflow system. Then, a difference is made among those workflows completely internal to the Commission and those where external actors may take part; for the internal ones, it is just said that the Commission Directorate for IT will ensure that the systems fulfil that conditions; for the second type, the workflow system shall be agreed among all parts performing any task in that given system.

Transmission of electronic documents:

The texts are pretty weak in this point. They just list the different existing forms of transmission at the moment (e-mail, fax…) and suggest that any form is accepted, as long as there is no any legal basis establishing a particular form of transmission. We notice again that the attitude of the text is “when nothing else is said, electronic transmission is accepted”

Preservation of electronic documents:

The provisions describe in detail the conditions for the preservation of electronic records, covering the question of format, time, and inalterability of the content.

Regarding the time and format, the provisions indicate that the electronic documents must be preserved during their complete lifecycle in the original format (i.e., the format in which they were created or scanned) and in a second format that facilitates its preservation for the long term. The text suggest (but does not establish) some of those so called “preservation formats”: PDF/A or Tiff. Together with the document, the provisions indicate that their metadata must be also preserved, and so with the electronic signature and the information regarding its transmission and production in a workflow (if any).

Concerning the inalterability of the content, the Commission is requested to have an electronic repository for its electronic records and keep an electronic “hash” code for each of the records in the repository. This hash code is an algorithm that will allow knowing if the document has been changed since its inclusion in the repository. The repository itself must include some functionalities about the safety of the records hold (back ups, etc.)

Security of electronic documents:

These provisions just indicate that the electronic records must comply with the general provisions on security (applicable also for paper records) and just add that any new electronic program must have the agreement of the Security Directorate to guarantee that it complies with the security rules.


The position that the Commission would take towards electronic management of records has been expected very long both within and outside the institution, as it could have set a trend or a path towards the e-government for other bodies and for the institution itself. However, it has got critics for being too conservative and cautious. It has been said that the position the Commission took in these texts does not change any practice, any proceeding or any legal basis in order to impulse the electronic management (and production) of records. This conservative attitude is more relevant in comparison to banks, travel agencies, vendors, or even some other public administrations that have change the ways their customers and citizens communicate, pay or interact with them.

The Commission has just put on writing the practices already in place in the Institution, adding only the creation of a repository for the preservation of the records, and opens the possibility of implementing a system for the advanced electronic signature.

It could be said that for these, more technical, decisions, a regulatory text won’t be necessary.

Basically, the texts say that, when paper is not needed, an electronic record can be accepted.

Another proof of this, maybe excessive, prudency is that the text does not set a format for long term preservation (which would have facilitate the creation of an IT strategy for the future preservation of the chosen format). Another criticism to the Commission states that, 5 years after the approval of the implementing rules, the European Commission still don’t has an advanced electronic signature mechanism.

However, it is worth to note that this text has help a lot for the mind changing in the institution. Not only in the Commission, but in almost every other public body, electronic records management projects have to face the opposition of part of the staff that does not trust electronic records. These legal provisions are a step forward for this mind change.

Recommendations for the production of Digital Preservation Plans (part 2)

By Luis Corujo, from Portugal, Archivist at the General Head Office of Archives (DGARQ), Portugal.

(Portuguese version available by clicking “Keep reading” ; Versão Portuguesa disponível em “Keep reading”)

Before the implementation of any strategy to preserve their DOs, it is necessary to take into account the best practices for document management and the contributions of the entire agency workforce related to the prodution of information.

Due to this, the development of a Digital Preservation Plan is divided into three main stages, namely:

1) Organizational Appraisal, in terms of the:

  1. Organizations Intermediate System (hardware and software used);
  2. Rules and standards by which the institution is governed and must comply;
  3. Administrative practices of the organization;
  4. Business and Document  Management System of the institution;

2) Identification of the requirements of the electronic record documents and information available in the electronic information system of the organization. These include only those that are produced in the institution, considered as institutional ownership, have a retention period of more than 5 / 7 years, according to the disposal and retention schedule, and are of recognized (vital) importance to the organization.

3) Planning the strategy of preservation, which includes:

  1. Definition of preservation strategies, which should take into account:
  • The characteristics of the DOs, in term of appearance, content, structure and behaviour.
  • The technical characteristics of electronic record documents and information systems, as the context, the storage medium, inter-relationships between different records, files, and metadata;
  • The characteristics of the process of preservation, related to usability, scalability and complexity;
  • The costs, which have a high importance on the choice of preservation solutions, and can be divided into technical and personnel costs.
  1. Definition of formats for preservation, before the creation of the digital object to be preserved, in order to avoid additional costs in its conversion to the final format. The use of standard formats and applications with open specifications ensures a continuity of use and support when compared with proprietary formats and applications.
  2. Choice of software, where, due to the choices defined in the Plan of Digital Preservation is necessary to adapt, change or replace the software. It is advisable to use, where possible, software with open specifications, non-proprietary and well documented, and should allow to execute all the necessary operations defined within the Digital Preservation Plan, be robust, easy to use and include an intuitive interface.
  3. Choice of storage solutions, you should consider the costs and available infrastructure support. This choice has to be designed for long term use, where an option that can prove to be less accurate, may require a shift of the entire plan devised.
  4. Definition of metadata (MI), which allows better management of DOs, intermediate systems, users and the features available. It is advisable to use different MI schemas, to be used in various layers, such as Descriptive MI, Structural MI, Preservation MI, Technical MI …

Before the implementation of the Digital Preservation Plan, the workforce of the agency should test the technical procedures. These tests must be performed on duplicates of electronic record documents and the relevant electronic information systems. The integrity, functionality, structure, content and metadata associated with the preserved digital information, should be periodically monitored after the implementation of the preservation strategy, to ensure its stability and to identify schedules for subsequent applications of preservation measures. Must be taken into account and specify the elements, such as human resources, calendar, etc.., which will be part of the monitoring effort of the entire Plan of Digital Preservation project implementation (manage, implement, test, evaluate, redesign , etc.).

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Recommendations for the production of Digital Preservation Plans (part 1)

By Luis Corujo, from Portugal, Archivist at the General Head Office of Archives (DGARQ), Portugal.

(Portuguese version available by clicking “Keep reading” ; Versão Portuguesa disponível em “Keep reading”)

The General Head Office of Archives (DGARQ), being the coordinator of the archival and records policy in Portugal, has since 2006, defined digital preservation as a strategic priority for action. This concern stems from the problems of digital material related to the short to medium term obsolescence, the loss of evidence value, and even the loss of information, and that ultimately have an effect on all the information that must be stored for more than 7 / 10 years, being it information for permanent keeping or disposal. In practice, these problems affect all organizations producing digital information, if not all organizations!

This is in fact a difficult problem to address in Public Administration (PA), which, because of the determinations from the Electronic Government initiative, must base their activities in electronic business processes, to facilitate those same business processes, ensuring a faster, complete and transparent service to citizens. This means that public institutions are producing larger amounts of electronic information, in many cases without any specific preservation operations due to the estimated obsolescence horizon of 7 / 10 years. The absence of any commercial software for this purpose has further aggravated this situation, since the initiative and responsibility for safeguarding the electronic information belongs to the producing organizations.

Against this background, the DGARQ has developed resources, processes and tools in order to address the need to preserve electronic information produced by AP, and that their continued preservation is regarded as necessary. Being said, there have been devised three lines of action, which includes the construction of a digital national archive – RODA – that allows the integration, management and dissemination of digital objects produced by the AP, counselling and technical support about the electronic document management and digital preservation, and, finally, the preparation of technical documents. The publication of the document Recommendations for the Production of Digital Preservation Plans (PDF in Portuguese) is part of this last line of action, being a technical document that aims to help public institutions to understand, manage and develop tools that allow for preservation of their digital objects. As the name indicates, it is a set of recommendations, a guide to developing a plan for digital preservation, not an attempt to provide an instant ready-to-use solution. It is the organization that must define its strategy, formalizing all procedures and their timing to preserve digital information in a document that will be the Plan of Digital Preservation of the institution. The Digital Preservation Plan is, therefore, a strategic document which contains policies and procedures geared towards the creation of a technical and organizational structure that will allow the continuous preservation of the electronic information through actions on digital objects (DOs) that are part of it. The Digital Preservation Plan should therefore be the result of a collaborative effort between the organizational units of the institution such as archival/record management and IT.

(Part 2 available soon)

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Arquivo Distrital do Porto: global ‘n’ virtual

By Maria João Pires de Lima, Director of the Porto Regional Archive, Porto, Portugal

(Portuguese version available by clicking “Keep reading” ; Versão Portuguesa disponível em “Keep reading”)

At the beginning of the millennium, the vision of Porto Regional Archive management for the relationship with the different publics/clients/users, envisaged the globalization of its presence using the information and communication technology. In the absence of the adequate resources, this global project could only be materialized through various projects, two of which – Digitarq and CRAV – with specific relevance, either for the financing obtained, or for the innovating nature and “contribution for the development of the Information Society” as recognized by the prize Fernandes Costa – Agência para a Sociedade do Conhecimento (Agency for Knowledge Society), awarded in year 2004.

DigitArq project (2003-2004) allowed that, as from April 2004, the user could search through the Internet on a database of archival descriptions and view digital images of documents whenever available. The project had two fundamental areas:

1) Conversion of all description/research tools of the almost 700 fonds in our custody, produced along the years, from their analogical supports and formats (paper) and digital (Arquebase, Word, Excel, Access, Filemaker) to one standardized from the archival point of view (EAD, ISAD, ISAAR; EAC) and computing (DTD-EAD e XML) tool.

2) Design and development of a structure to receive/integrate and manage digital objects (DO) limited to digitised images of documents.

We developed applications to manage the descriptive and technical meta-information and the search by user. This information system of archival description (DigitArq) keeps under different levels the description of documents that are being produced, the technical information of digital objects reproducing the documents and the images produced for Internet.

Since the beginning of 2008 that Porto Regional Archive allows the online access to the whole of services provided to users of reference and reading, including in this area, besides the search and reading/consultation of documents (since 2004), the supply of reproductions in digital format and the access to functionalities as the electronic payment of services (credit card and ATM). The system will allow, as soon as legally possible, the remote download of digital certified copies by users everywhere in the World.

This second project, CRAV – Consulta Real em Ambiente Virtual (“real reading in virtual environment”) – gave the user access online not only to the information in our custody but also to the services provided concerning the documents: the research, reproduction and certification.

The projects developed allowed the acquisition of knowledge relevant also to the consulting area and technical assistance. On the other hand, aiming to promote the preservation and access to national archival heritage, under the permit of the Directorate General of the Portuguese Archives (DGARQ) – and, previously, of Institute of National Archives/Torre do Tombo – , Porto Regional Archive allowed the use of the application developed by the DigitArq project to more than two dozens of other entities.

Presently these applications are provided by DGARQ “open source and no charge”. This is a significant step in the direct support to the archival community and to the national institutions extended to the international community.

The recognition of the work developed comprises still the adoption by DGARQ of the set of applications DigitArq for its archives network: remaining Regional Archives, Arquivo Nacional Torre do Tombo (National Archive) and Centro Português de Fotografia (Portuguese Centre of Photography, a national archive for photography).

For further information about Digitarq, please consult the following web pages:

1. “Digitarq project” document http://www.adporto.pt/ficheiros_a_descarregar/1-5_digitarq_project.pdf

2. Porto Regional Archive (CRAV) http://www.adporto.pt/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=17&Itemid=41&limit=1&limitstart=2

Porto Regional Archive can be contacted at info@adporto.pt

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