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Documente Electonice Permanente in Finlanda

Documente Electonice Permanente in Finlanda

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Published by: RA on Jun 14, 2012
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49
STRUCTURAL COMPLEXITY OF ELECTRONIC RECORDS AS AFACTOR GUIDING DECISIONS ON PERMANENT RETENTION
Eljas Orrman
 Director of the Provincial Archives of Vaasa, Finland 
During the latter half of the 1990s the international archival scene has been characterised byan increasing emphasis on electronic records and record-keeping systems. Considerable intel-lectual effort has been invested in different projects with the aim of defining the functionalrequirements for record-keeping systems. The goal of these projects has been to safeguard thecompleteness, authenticity and reliability of the electronic records and to ensure that theinformation retains its usability and evidential character not only during the current and semi-current stages of the records’ life cycle but also after they have become non-current.
1
I believethat most of you present here are very familiar with these projects. However, no consensusseems to have been reached about the means to arrive at the goals mentioned above.
2
These questions have also been dealt with in the context of the DLM-Forum. Most papers of the first DLM-Forum concerning the long-term retention of records have been characterised by the lack of explicit statements with regard to the character of the time perspective that isused. The terminological variety in some of the presentations of the first DLM-Forum, for example, is an indication of this.
3
The following terms, at least, were used in these presenta-tions:
 permanent preservation
and
 permanent storage
(Michael Wettengel, p. 190, GudrunFiedler, p. 200),
historical archiving 
and
historical conservation
(Michèle Conchon, pp. 146,147)
long-term preservation
(Huib Vissers, p. 153),
long term data maintenance
(introductorynote to section "Costs of Preservation", p. 168). The Guidelines produced within the frame-work of the DLM-Forum use, for their part, the terms
long-term preservation
and
long-term storage
.
4
In the presentations mentioned above, the terms that were used are taken as given withoutcloser discussion of the real content attached to them. When the expression
 permanent preser-vation
is used, one can assume that it contains the idea of an indefinite period of preservation,i.e. for many centuries. In the first DLM-Forum, however, Michèle Conchon seems to have been the only one who concretely expressed what kind of time perspective she had in mind.According to her 
historical archiving 
means preserving electronic materials for centuries.
 Long-term preservation
, for its part, contains the idea of a limited period of preservation alsowith regard to non-current records. No specification on the possible duration of this period,decades or centuries, seems to have been presented, however.At the beginning of the 1990s Charles Dollar presented views on the prerequisites of the preservation of electronic materials. He maintained that the costs that are needed to safeguardthe permanent preservation of electronic information become, due to their cumulative nature,so high that we should abandon the concepts of permanent preservation and permanent valuein connection with electronic records and adopt the concept of 
continuing value
instead. Thiscontains the idea that the question of preservation will be assessed anew in the future, consi-dering all the costs and benefits.
5
In Dollar’s view, then, the high cumulative costs constitute a serious, perhaps the most serious
 
50 problem of the long-term preservation of electronic records. To solve the future problems of cost, he proposes that long-term preservation should be left as a responsibility of the recordscreating organizations that maintain, for their own operative use, electronic record-keepingsystems and that specific rules should be developed for this kind of preservation.
6
The ideathat the permanent/continuing preservation of electronic materials should be left to the crea-ting organizations does not seem to have gained any larger understanding. Accordingly, theUBC-MAS project, for example, has come to the conclusion that electronic records meant for indefinite preservation should be transferred to a competent archival body in order to guaran-tee their authenticity.
7
The importance of the cost, however, as a factor that sets limits to the permanent/long-term preservation of records in electronic form can hardly be denied.When the factors connected with the long-term preservation of electronic information have been analysed, the main emphasis seems to have been on technical questions while the questi-on of costs has attracted much less attention. It seems, however, that this question has not lostits relevance and actuality with regard to the permanent/long-term preservation of electronicrecords because the views that Charles Dollar presented in his book almost a decade ago canstill be regarded as valid.To keep electronic information continuously in an accessible and readable form means, in asecular perspective, cumulative costs which will get higher and higher with the increase in thevolume of materials that are to be preserved. It is not insignificant, with regard to the costfactor, what are the technical characteristics of the electronic systems that have produced therecords or other information that will be preserved permanently/for long periods in electronicform. The cost factor is also of great relevance if the goal is to preserve all the functionalqualities of the original record-keeping systems.When we deal with permanent/long-term preservation, it could be generally said, that themore complicated and individual the electronic systems are, the more expensive it is to preser-ve the information originating from them both in the short and in the long-term perspective.This situation can be illustrated with figure 1.
 
51Although it is difficult to predict future developments, I think it may be possible to makesome assumptions about the future costs of the preservation of information in electronic form by taking into consideration the degree of complexity of the electronic record keeping systemsand other electronic information systems. The more material with a very complex structuralform is taken into permanent/long-term preservation, the faster will the cumulative costsgrow. It may, however be possible to influence the development of the future total costs of electronic permanent/long-term preservation by determining in advance the formats that will be accepted for use in permanent electronic preservation. This approach can be illustrated by acouple of diagrams.Here it is first assumed that all the electronic information that is found worthy of permanent preservation will be preserved in formats which retain the original operative functions of thesystems as intact as possible. In other words, this preservation policy does not take into consi-deration the structural qualities of the information or record-keeping systems and their effectson the future preservation costs. Since it is to be expected that the materials taken into per-manent retention will also include information that originates from very complex systems, it islikely that the cumulative costs of preservation and maintenance grow considerably faster thanthe volume of information taken into permanent preservation. Figure 2 will illustrate thesituation.

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