National Archives Announces Successful Completion of Major Milestone of Electronic Records Archives System

Jun 27, 2008, 01:00 ET from National Archives

    WASHINGTON, June 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Archivist of the United
 States Allen Weinstein announced today the launch of a major initiative
 which lays the foundation for preserving electronic and all other records
 generated by the government and providing public access to them. The
 Initial Operating Capability of the National Archives Electronic Records
 Archives (ERA) is the beginning of far-reaching changes in the management
 of U.S. government records.
     In its initial stage, the new system will support the basic process of
 determining how long federal agencies need to keep records and whether the
 records should be preserved in the National Archives afterwards. ERA will
 support this process for all federal records, whether they are paper, film,
 electronic, or other media. In July, the National Archives will start
 moving approximately three and a half million computer files into ERA.
 These historically-valuable electronic records range from databases about
 World War II soldiers to the State Department's central files on foreign
 affairs. The records eventually will be accessible online in ERA.
     ERA is a multi-year project spearheaded by the National Archives and
 Lockheed Martin, the development contractor, to create a 'permanent'
 solution for the ever-changing challenge of preserving electronic records.
 Because new formats of electronic records are constantly being created and
 older formats become obsolete quickly, the 'permanent' solution cannot be a
 one-time fix. It has to be a dynamic system which can grow to accommodate
 ever-increasing volumes, be extended to deal with new formats, and evolve
 to enable records on obsolete formats to be accessed on new computers. The
 goal is to enable researchers 50 or 100 years from now to find and retrieve
 electronic records using the best technology available to them, regardless
 of what hardware or software was used to create them. ERA will also move
 record keeping out of filing cabinets and into cyberspace. It provides a
 foundation for the National Archives and all other federal agencies to
 perform business transactions online to improve the way government records
 are organized, stored, and retrieved. Besides the direct benefit to
 government, these capabilities will make it easier for citizens to discover
 what records the government has and to access them.
     In making the announcement, Professor Weinstein said, "There has been a
 race against technology as we watch software become obsolete almost as soon
 as it is installed in our computers. All of us have stored personal
 memories or favorite music on 8-track tapes, floppy disks, or 8 mm film. In
 many cases, these technologies are now relics and we have no way to access
 the stored information. Imagine this problem multiplied millions and
 millions of times -- that's what the federal government is facing today.
 But thanks to ERA," he continued, "the technology for preserving electronic
 records is finally beginning to catch up with the technology for creating
 them. This Initial Operating Capability is a crucial step in ensuring that
 our recent history will be saved."
     The ERA development has been shaped by extensive dialogue with
 stakeholders both inside the federal government and around the world. Four
 federal partners, who have been instrumental in testing the system, will
 start using ERA in September: the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the
 National Oceanographic Office, the National Nuclear Security
 Administration, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Valuable input from
 these partners has been used to fine-tune the system.
     The National Archives also has received ongoing counsel from the
 Advisory Committee on ERA which is chartered under the Federal Advisory
 Committee Act to advise the Archivist of the United States on technical,
 mission, and service issues related to ERA. Its members include experts in
 archives, records management, libraries, computer science, history, and the
 law, including representatives of other federal agencies and of state
     Chairman of the Advisory Committee on ERA and co-inventor of the
 Internet Dr. Robert Kahn said, "The Internet has made it possible for
 people using a computer to instantly communicate across continents and
 around the world. When the full system is deployed, ERA will make it
 possible for people to access U.S. government information across
     Andrew Patrichuk, Lockheed Martin Vice President for Civil Mission
 Solutions, said, "The Electronic Records Archives system being developed by
 the National Archives and Lockheed Martin is enormously important to this
 nation. In the future, corporations, other governments and institutions
 around the world will benefit from the foundation that ERA sets today."
     In the next stage, already under development, ERA will provide the
 capability to absorb massive quantities of Presidential electronic files
 from the Bush Administration when the President leaves office in January,
     In 2010, the National Archives intends to make the system available to
 the public. Ultimately, the Archives expects the system to be able to
 preserve and provide access to ever-increasing volumes of important
 electronic records of the federal government, even long after the hardware
 and software used to create them has become obsolete.
     For media information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs
 Staff at 202-357-5300.

SOURCE National Archives