National Archives of the Netherlands (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science)

Digital R&D projects

The State Archives Service is legally obliged to preserve digital archival material in its care in a ‘proper, organised and accessible’ manner. A core concept in this is authenticity: it is not acceptable for a migration from one format to another to result in the loss or destruction of essential characteristics of a record. The starting point for our activities is to maximise sustainable access for the end user of digital materials, preferably without requiring assistance from technicians.

The knowledge required to support our work is gained through years of participation in international digital preservation research projects. This includes work in a range of different areas, from international records management standards, metadata and applications, to projects that research and formulate theoretical bases to support digital longevity.

The knowledge acquired on these projects supports the State Archives Service in the construction of a digital depot to preserve digital material in a ‘proper, organised, and accessible’ manner. Numerous and diverse services will be developed around the digital depot. Projects will also be established to develop the infrastructure required to continue to improve access to the information stored in the depot.

In order to provide the desired functionality for the digital depot both now and in the future, external applications and tools are necessary. An ongoing programme of activities has been established to ensure that such tools will be available for use and implementation in the digital depot. Consider, for example, the aspect of the depot that supports preservation (or sustained access) for the stored materials. Migration or emulation tools will be needed, for example to convert a file from Word to PDF/A. Tools to support generation of a collection profile are also important, so that we can monitor which aspects of the collection are in danger due to impending file format obsolescence.

A number of tools are already commercially or widely available, though the suitability of these tools for archival material is mostly untested. For certain ‘problem areas’ (such as emulation, databases, GIS information, etc), no commercial or standard tools yet exist. In some cases, such tools will need to be specifically developed, often through international collaborations with other institutions that manage digital materials.

The State Archives Service is participating in a range of different international projects and provides more information about these on the following pages.