By Annemieke Vanlaer, from Belgium, Assistant Policy Officer, European Commission, Secretariat-General, Document Management Policy unit, Belgium
Recently I have seen the name Euronomos pop up in a number of archives blogs. The project is for example mentioned over at Archivalia and the news was picked up by Het Archiefforum and ArchivesBlogs. If you check out these postings, you will quickly discover that they have one thing in common: they won’t make you any wiser.
This made me realise that information on this database, even though it was presented and discussed at European archives experts meetings and international professional forums such as the ICA meeting in Kuala Lumpur, hasn’t made it through into the archivists’ world (yet).
I would say it is high time to give the ‘mysterious’ Euronomos project the PR campaign it deserves and turn you into ‘early adopters’ in this information cascade.
What is Euronomos?
Euronomos is a freely accessible multilingual international database with all relevant archives and records legislation for each member of the EU, Switzerland and the European institutions and organisations. The database is built in such a way that other interested parties can join the project and add their information.
The project partners all have a work space at their disposal within the database to insert their information. This work space is cut up in sections that further develop a specific aspect relating to the archives and records legislation of the country or organisation in question.
The first section in a country or organisation’s space gives a short explanation on the political and administrative context in which the archives-related legislation exists. Another section focuses on the legal context the legislation exists in. In the third section the actual legal texts can be found. There is also a section with relevant publications treating the project partner’s archival and records legislation and finally a section with names of national experts in the field.
So, how can you get the most out of this database?
For us archivists, it is important to keep track of what is going on in the various legal fields which affect archival work. With this database you have an overview of the legislation within a multi-cultural and multi-lingual context.
If you browse the database by country or by European organisation you get all relevant information: the legal texts as well as the general framework, bibliography, etc…
With the database’s search system you can compare across the borders since it searches across all the resources of the database published by various contributors. There are two search modes available: simple search (or plain text search), and keyword search.
You can start a free text search at the top right of the screen and it works just as you would expect, including on non-Latin characters (Greek and Cyrillic alphabets), making it possible to search for specific words in the legal texts of e.g. the Bulgarian contributors. To search for one or several words or expressions you combine them with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT always spell this way: in English and in capital).
All the texts presenting the context of archival and related legislation regarding a specific contributor are available in French or/and English; the legal texts themselves are provided in the original language of the country, possibly translated, in part or in whole, either into French or English, but systematically accompanied by a summary in these two languages.
Even if you don’t master all languages, you can still compare legislation by using the keyword search. All contributors have indexed the documents in sections 4 (Legal texts) and 5 (Bibliography) of their work space using fixed keyword values in French and English. This way you can find the relevant bits in the original language versions.
To use the keyword search, click on the « keyword search » button which is at the top right of the screen. This brings you to the keyword options screen where you have two groups of search criteria you can use to limit your search: via the subjects’ keywords list (with possibility to refine to a further level of detail) and via the list of countries and European organisations.
You can create your specific search by selecting the required value(s) from each list and clicking on « add » to validate them (one by one). Then click on « search ».
Your result list is then displayed on the screen in alphabetical order.
To consult a document, click on a line to access the complete form.
The little back arrow icon which is located in the red banner at the top right of the screen allows going back to the result list and selecting another result.
There is also an icon located in the banner allows you to print the search result.
Keep in mind that, when you do a new keyword search during the same session, your previously selected values will still be taken into account as well: to delete and replace them with others, click on the sign « – » before each selected value line.
How it all started
Contrary to the impression you might have from the introduction to this post, the database on European archival and records legislation didn’t just suddenly appear out of nowhere at the end of 2008.
ICA Committee on Legal Matters
The whole project started years ago in the context of the ICA Committee on Legal Matters, which existed from 1992 until 2004.
This committee discussed several of the most important legal issues regarding archival work, such as copyright, authenticity, access, data protection and privacy, legal grounds for settlement of international archival claims and has undertaken various studies into the general principles that can be found in the archives and records legislation in various countries, in line with and continuation of e.g. Eric Ketelaar’s Archival and records management legislation and regulations: a RAMP study with guidelines dating from 1985.
The committee envisioned a tool capable of continuously updating the information regarding archives-related legislation and thought this could be achieved by developing an internet database with all European legislation related to records and archives. Via the database the various national legislations in the domain could then be compared with each others, so that likenesses and differences would stand out.
Since the committee’s initial idea had been to focus on the existing archives-related legislation in the European countries, in 2001 this idea was picked up by EURBICA, the European branch of the ICA, as a viable project to work on.
In 2004 the planning work was done and a prototype existed. However, the main difficulty was finding the finances to effectively build the database.
Within the context of the EU
Through the work on cooperation in archives discussed at European level in the European Council, the project turned up on the radar screen of the Council and ended up as recommendation 4 in the Council Recommendation of 14 November 2005 on priority actions to increase cooperation in the field of archives in Europe
This was a good evolution because this way the project got a solid anchoring and could be realised with the help of EU funding.
What makes this project so special?
With this database it has become possible to compare specific points across languages and countries of different archival laws by using the index which was created to this purpose: by choosing the keyword ‘definition of records/archives’ in combination with the geographical scope one is interested in, one can find how these concepts are defined in the various laws.
It’s a nice example of what can be done when forces are combined: partnership model.
The preparatory work has been done via both formal and informal forums (EURBICA and EAG) and the implementation is done by experts within the countries and organisations through use of collaborative work space.
Where are we now?
The first contributions are in, but the database is definitely still a work in progress.
The initial investment by the correspondents in the contributing countries is a big one, since all the information of the various sections has to be fed into the database. It is prepared by the correspondents and then submitted for publication: each partner is responsible for his sections describing the legal context, the political and administrative context and then providing the texts themselves, both in the original language(s) and with a translation or summary in EN or FR.
The views expressed are purely those of the writer and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission.