E-ARK (European Archival Records and Knowledge Preservation) is a multinational big data research project that aims to improve the methods and technologies of digital archiving, in order to achieve consistency on a Europe-wide scale.
Tackling a range of problems associated with independent record-keeping technologies, systems and practices, E-ARK aims to impact the development of internationally accessible archives through: the provision of technical specifications and tools, the development of an integrated archiving infrastructure, the demonstration of improved availability, access and use, and the rigorous analysis of aggregated sets of archival data.
Running from 1st February 2014 to 31st January 2017 it is co-funded by the European Commission under its ICT Policy Support Programme (PSP) within its Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP).
Follow E-ARK through the E-ARK project website and Linkedin Group
Archives provide an indispensable component of the digital ecosystem by safeguarding information and enabling access to it. Harmonisation of currently fragmented archival approaches is required. When looking at the levels of standardisation in the field of electronic document and records management we can see that standards exist, but are not universally applied. There is no single, widely understood and accepted approach across Europe on how 'records' should be preserved and accessed.
A solution requires an agreed approach to the relevant standards that exist as well as adoption of a shared architecture, and relevant archival technologies, tools and services. This approach has to provide the technical, business and operational means of achieving interoperability between archives, but also offers the economies of scale necessary for widespread adoption across Europe.
There is a critical need for an overarching methodology that addresses all of these issues. Existing standards, such as MoReq, cannot by themselves ensure a high degree of inter-operability and seamless accessibility to records within and between European organisations. What is required is an overall methodology covering technical, operational and business aspects, which is augmented by appropriate tools.
Activities and objectives
The objective of E-ARK is to provide a single, scalable, robust approach capable of meeting the needs of diverse organisations, public and private, large and small, and able to support complex data types.
In co-operation with commercial systems providers, E-ARK is creating and piloting a pan-European methodology for electronic document archiving, synthesising existing national and international best practices. This tackles a range of problems caused by inconsistencies in archival methods and the range of technologies. The results will keep records and databases authentic and usable over time and by an international community.
E-ARK is demonstrating the potential benefits for public administrations, public agencies, public services, citizens and business by providing simple, efficient access to the workflows for the three main activities of an archive – acquiring, preserving and enabling re-use of information.
The research is providing a single, scalable, robust approach capable of meeting the needs of diverse organisations, public and private, large and small, and able to support complex data types such as databases, Electronic Records Management Systems (ERMS) data, and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) data. E-ARK is demonstrating the potential benefits for public administrations, public agencies, public services, citizens and business by providing simple, efficient access to the workflows for the three main activities of an archive – acquiring, preserving and enabling re-use of information.
The project is public facing, providing a fully operational archival service, and access to information for its users. The project also actively solicits feedback from a wide variety of user communities via the website, and also the three project Advisory Boards: Archival, Commercial / Technical and Data Provider.
As part of this, E-ARK will pilot an end-to-end OAIS-compliant e-archival service covering ingest, vendor-neutral archiving, and reuse of structured and unstructured data, thus covering both databases and records, addressing the needs of data subjects, owners and users.
The E-ARK project is providing:
- Guidelines on pan-European e-archiving system as part of EC e-infrastructure
- Open Archival Products (tools, services, framework, metadata specifications)
- Open Technical Products (tools, services, metadata specifications)
- Open Operational Products (ingest and access tools, services, metadata specifications)
- Open Access tools, services, metadata specifications, including data mining tools for business intelligence
- Open interfaces from tools, services, metadata specifications to existing Systems Products
- Outcomes of legal study.
- Outcomes of pilots, especially where similar archival material to that under consideration was processed.
- Project papers on details of integration work undertaken.
Outcomes and impact
E-ARK is aiming to:
- produce a single industry-wide methodology, incorporating data formats and extended metadata sets, and covering ingest, vendor-neutral archiving and access processes
- establish replicable and scalable technical specifications and tools, as demonstrated by the seven pilot sites that provide a number of specific challenges in terms of interoperability, scalability and widespread applicability
- demonstrate improved availability, access and use, by creating an open access knowledge base containing benchmarking data for all of the pilot components
- provide integration of different document / records management and archiving systems within public service process/workflows
- provide new types of access for business and academic users and allow analysis of aggregated sets of archival data to identify new patterns of activity in consumer, business and systems behaviour. This ability to analyse activity, rather than survey, sample or observe, is transformational, in that genuine patterns of behaviour can be identified – thus providing a basis for new product and service offerings.
- facilitate the creation and maintenance of a European archiving infrastructure that will integrate tools currently in use in partner organisations and provide a framework for providers of these and similar tools to ensure compatibility and interoperability.
- improve understanding of legislative organisational and operational issues
- reduce the risk of information loss due to unsuitable approaches to keeping and archiving of records
- guarantee results that are generic and scalable in order to build an archival infrastructure across the EU and in environments where different legal systems and records management traditions apply
- share information on integration, operation and interoperability issues throughout the EU via the DLM Forum, the DPC, national and pan-European e-government initiatives
- allow analysis of aggregated sets of archival data to identify new patterns of activity in consumer, business and systems behaviour. This ability to analyse activity, rather than survey, sample or observe, is transformational, in that genuine patterns of behaviour can be identified – thus providing a basis for new product and service offerings.
- promote the re-use of archival data by facilitating a common pan-European approach / method for providing simple and advanced queries to researchers from the public and private sectors, and from citizens.
- promote uptake of the methodology especially for sharing specialised metadata sets to promote re-use and greater accessibility, using metadata specifications to properly address data authenticity, provenance, integrity, and preservation.
- promote widespread uptake in order to promote consistent, open approaches to the preservation of archival material through adoption by Archival Institutions and adoption by Systems Suppliers
Further to this, from the perspective of the Project, there are two metrics of economic success:
- The extent to which project outputs are adopted by suppliers, manufacturers and their customers, thus preserving and promoting the project’s work, and so justifying EC funding by demonstrating a positive impact on the economies of the EC through a positive Return on Invested Capital in the form of sales and increased economic activity derived from the use of the products developed.
- The extent to which investment in the project’s outputs continues to be made by project partners and other organisations over the subsequent years.
From the interest expressed by the commercial organisations participating or associating themselves with E-ARK, it is apparent that there is a substantial, proven need for the tools, standards and guidelines which this project will produce.