eArchiving, in search of European interoperability
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Friday, 26 November 2021 13:41

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A few weeks ago, we closed another stage in the development of eArchiving and we had to reflect on the achievements and future challenges of this project. In this post, I share our thoughts on this.

In these last two years, we have taken part of the European consortium (E-ARK3) that has maintained and managed eArchiving. This consortium was made up of 16 organizations of all sorts (national and regional archives, universities and research institutes, foundations and associations, software providers and consulting companies) from 11 European countries.

Throughout this time eArchiving has matured, both in the development of its components, as in the definition of its vision and the potential benefits of its adoption. Today, eArchiving is strongly established in the OAIS model (ISO 14721- Open archival information systems) and in facilitating that the information packages that are sent to an electronic or digital archive for their long-term preservation are structured in a standardized way that enables interoperability.

These are the main reasons why this interoperability is desirable for an electronic or digital archive:


  • The ability to perform joint searches in more than one digital archive and to build applications or information retrieval layers that take advantage of a standardized information structuring.
  • The ease that a standardized structured information supposes in the application of artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives based on the information found in a file or several digital files.
  • The independence of IT solution providers. If for some reason I want to change my provider of electronic archiving solutions, the standardized information packages can easily be transferred to another solution.
  • Compatibility over time, standardized information packages ensure easy transitions in technological as well as organizational changes.
  • The possibility of exchanging standardized information between a digital archive and other organizations, such as the justice system or another archive.


And even assuming all these benefits, why eArchiving and not national standardization or the one offered by the providers of digital archiving solutions (all promise compliance with OAIS, PREMIS and METS as a minimum).

The first answer is easy, European integration is a difficult road, but unstoppable. The eIDAS regulation and its possible successor, the EUid regulation, are already on the way to harmonize identification and signature systems. eArchiving is not yet mandatory, but it is the recommended solution for the European institutions themselves and a clear bet on the horizon.

The second is a bit more complex, because each provider of electronic or digital archiving solutions offers its own functionalities, which have nothing to do with standardized structuring and which may better or worse fit the requirements of each situation. In any case, what is important to understand is any solution based on OAIS, it has created its own way of structuring information packages. In most cases based on the same starting standards as the E-ARK specifications (the main component of eArchiving), but with slightly or moderately different results which does not promote interoperability. From a digital archiving point of view, the temptation to have a solution that can be implemented quickly can outweigh the benefits of standardization. For this reason, eArchiving has worked closely with all IT solution providers (not only those that participate in the Consortium) so that they too see the benefits of adopting eArchiving, at least in the European market.

Last but not least, for us as a consulting company, participation in the Consortium has reaffirmed our belief that cooperation is an spectacularly fruitful way of working. The necessary empathy required by working side by side with people from different cultures, languages and situations, makes you broaden your perspective and sometimes find solutions applicable to other cases, which you would not have otherwise known. This participation has made us grow in knowledge and points of view that we hope will be very useful to our present and future clients.