vulnerable to new forms of loss, such as tampering, storage failures, obsolescence of data types, and failure to archive all the data required to reconstitute a record. Finally, researchers—especially in the future—will use electronic records quite differently from paper records. The design and operation of the ERA must anticipate the differences between paper and electronic records but also be prepared to change as the requirements of an electronic records archive become clearer.

NARA’s current systems for electronic records archiving are limited in capability and ad hoc in nature. NARA does have some useful foundations to build on. The Open Archival Information System (OAIS) reference model2 offers a good conceptual design, including a very-high-level modularity. But design and implementation must go well beyond the generalities of an OAIS model. NARA has also gained some experience in the application of digital archiving tools through its work with the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). NARA-sponsored work at SDSC resulted in the development of a system and set of tools that were used to conduct a series of archiving demonstrations.3 Some useful lessons can be drawn from this work (see Chapter 3). The primary design challenges facing NARA relate not to the development of fundamental technologies but to addressing a number of engineering issues surrounding the building of these systems (Chapters 4 and 5) and an evolvable system architecture and strategy for managing the ongoing evolution of the ERA (Chapter 7). Other challenges relate to the IT expertise required for the ERA’s design and operation and cultural changes associated with the growing importance of digital records in both NARA and federal agencies (see Chapter 6).

The committee strongly endorses the concept of an ERA. Such a system can and should be designed and implemented. Building such a system is critical to NARA’s mission, and NARA should move forward as quickly as possible to start developing these capabilities. But, as the committee shows in the chapters that follow, many areas will need attention if the program is to be successful.


Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS). 2002. Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS). CCSDS 650.0-B-1 (Blue Book). CCSDS Secretariat, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C. January. Available online at <>.


A detailed description of this work is provided in Reagan Moore, 2001, Final Report for the Research Project on Application of Distributed Object Computation Testbed Technologies to Archival Preservation and Access Requirements, San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) Technical Report TR-2001-8, SDSC, San Diego, Calif., available online at <>. A number of additional technical reports on this work are available at the project Web site <>. Briefer descriptions can be found in Reagan Moore et al., 2000, “Collection-Based Persistent Digital Archives - Part 1,” D-Lib Magazine 6(2), March, available online at <> and Reagan Moore et al., 2000, “Collection-Based Persistent Digital Archives - Part 2,” D-Lib Magazine 6(4), April, available online at <>.

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