Reality and Chimeras in the Preservation of Electronic Records

(Notes and References)

  1. Jeff Rothenberg, Avoiding Technological Quicksand: Finding a Viable Technical Foundation for Digital Preservation, A Report to the Council on Library and Information Resources (Washington DC, CLIR, 1999) 35p. Available also at < >. Back to text of story.
  2. For detailed analysis of the functional requirements for evidence, see < >. Back to text of story.
  3. Most relevant to this discussion is the background to my 1994 proposal of a Reference Model for Business Acceptable Communications -- see < >. Early in 1995, this model was more fully developed with Ken Sochats in a paper on "Metadata Requirements for Evidence" < >. Back to text of story.
  4. This special case of executables involves only a very small percentage of electronic records or documents, and even here the case for emulation as a practical strategy versus other methods of documentation is a hard one to make even if we accept the theoretical possibility of emulation. To answer questions of how software was actually used, film is a better documentation approach than emulating software. Back to text of story.
  5. For background see, David Bearman, "The Implications of Armstrong vs. Executive Office of the President for the Archival Management of Electronic Records", American Archivist, 56, 1993, p.150-160. Back to text of story.
  6. Universal Preservation Format, see < >. This proposal could be addressed in a separate paper, but it shares Rothenberg's hope that systems can be emulated, fails like Rothenberg to make a concrete case for what metadata is required to maintain records over time, and adds to the problem by assuming that its standard will somehow survive forever. Back to text of story.
  7. David Bearman, "Collecting Software: A New Challenge for Archives & Museums", Archival Informatics Technical Reports vol. 1, #2, Summer 1987, 80pp. Back to text of story.
  8. Douglas Hofstadter's recent discussion of these issues in Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language (New York: Basic Books, 1997) is intriguing and recommended reading. But Rothenberg's dismissal of migration as requiring us to translate Homer through every vernacular that has existed since his time, ignores the fact that the Latin source was a working tongue for the Renaissance church, and French in its near modern form was available as a target by then. Similar issues of strategy are crucial in our choices of what translations we should make for existing documents (and the problems and consequences of migration choices should not be underestimated). Nevertheless, rtf has been working reasonably well for word processing documents since 1992, when the first generations of word processor software was becoming hard to support and can reasonably be expected to be viable for several more years. Back to text of story.
  9. See David Bearman and Jennifer Trant "Electronic Records Research Working Meeting, May 28-30, 1997: A Report from the Archives Community", D-Lib Magazine, July/August 1997. < >. See also ASIS Bulletin, December 1997. Full Proceedings of the meeting and all its background papers on CD-ROM have been available from Archives & Museum Informatics since 1998. Selected papers were published as "Proceedings from the Working Meeting on Electronic Records Research, Pittsburgh, PA, May 1997", Archives and Museum Informatics, Vol. 11, no. 3-4, 1997, pp. 223-231. Back to text of story.
  10. I have agreed in principle to write such a piece for the Council on Library and Information Resources series. Back to text of story.
  11. For an early explanation if the application architecture and issues see "Item Level Control and Electronic Recordkeeping", Archives and Museum Informatics, vol.10, no. 3, 1996, p.195-245. A pre-publication draft, differing in some respects, was web-published in 1995 as < >. Back to text of story.
  12. Significantly, the effort in the BAC model to define six layers of metadata with different functions vis-a-vis the end-user encounter with the object, which (by the time of its 1995 iteration) took into account the Warwick framework, DOI and handles, and requirements of commerce, privacy and proprietary information. It tried to address these and other requirements that go beyond the retention of evidence or records by proposing infrastructures which support the the socio-economic activity required for metadata creation and exploitation. More recently, I've pointed towards these socio-economic requirements in co-authored D-Lib contributions on authenticity (June 1998) and on requirements of discovery in rights management processes (Jan 1999). Back to text of story.
  13. An excellent example of the kind of process that needs to be undertaken in developing these metadata standards, and of the results we can expect, has recently been proposed as a "Recordkeeping Metadata Standard for Commonwealth Agencies" by the National Archives of Australia. The Web publication is exected in early May. For pre-publication versions, contact Adrian Cunningham via email at < >. Back to text of story.

Back to story