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D-Lib Magazine
September 2005

Volume 11 Number 9

ISSN 1082-9873

A Digital Information Management Milestone

Early this month, the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announced the award of a $308 million, six-year contract to Lockheed Martin, Inc. to build NARA's Electronic Records Archives (ERA) [1]. It was a significant event. The press release issued by NARA states that the ERA goal is "clear and simple: a system that accepts, preserves, and makes accessible – far into the future – any type of electronic document."

Dr. Kenneth Thibodeau, ERA's Director, described the award as a milestone for NARA, and it certainly is. Ten years ago, research in the area of digital information management had not yet answered the question of whether or not large-scale, long-term preservation of electronic records was even possible. Research efforts to find solutions to the challenges of dealing with a rapidly growing and changing digital information environment had already begun, of course, but NARA wasn't convinced until research it funded resulted, in 1999, in a proof-of-concept that determined electronic records preservation on the scale needed by NARA was indeed possible.

Professor Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States, cautioned that NARA's announcement "does not mean we have solved for the duration the problem of how best to manage and preserve the Federal Government's electronic records." (The system is not expected to become operational until 2007.) He added, "It is a good start, a beginning, a major first step – and it comes at a critical time in our history."

Building the operational ERA is a process that promises to inform and benefit many organizations and institutions both within and outside of government that are dealing with the technical and policy issues of digital information preservation and access. Development of the ERA repository will be of interest to the readers of D-Lib Magazine, and we will continue to report on it in future issues.

Bonita Wilson


[1] National Archives Names Lockheed Martin to Build Archives of the Future, U.S. National Archives. September 8, 2005. Available at <>. See also: <> for links to press conference remarks and a video of the proceedings.

Copyright© 2005 Corporation for National Research Initiatives

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