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Friday, June 27, 2008

National Archives Announces Major Milestone of Electronic Records Archives System

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.

The National Archives 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 governments.

Chairman of the Advisory Committee on ERA and co-inventor of the Internet Robert Kahn says, "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 generations."

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