Close this search box.
Close this search box.

4.1 Electronic Resource Preservation and Access NETwork

The Electronic Resource Preservation and Access NETwork (ERPANET) project was launched in November 2001 and will run initially for 36 months.

The European Commission funds 75 percent of this 1.2-million euro project. The following four partners manage the project:

  • The Humanities Technology and Information Institute, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom
  • Rijksarchiefdienst, the Netherlands
  • Institute for Archival and Library Science, Università degli Studi di Urbino, Italy
  • Schweizerisches Bundesarchiv, Switzerland

This new initiative is just establishing itself. The following information is taken from its Web site.

ERPANET aims to establish an expandable and self-sustaining European Initiative that will serve as a virtual clearinghouse and knowledge base in the area of preservation of cultural heritage and scientific digital objects.

The dominant activities of ERPANET will be the exchange of knowledge on state-of-the-art developments in digital preservation and the transfer of expertise among individuals and institutions. More specifically, ERPANET will deliver a range of services (for example, content creation, advisory service, training, and thematic workshops and forums), both to information-creation and user communities. It will make accessible tools, knowledge, and experience. ERPANET will not directly carry out new research to develop such tools, but it will create a coherent platform for collaboration, exchange, and dissemination of research results and experience in the preservation of digital objects. It will bring together research institutions, memory organizations, the information and communication technology industry, and entertainment and creative (for example, broadcasting) industries, and provide an effective multidisciplinary knowledge- and resource-sharing infrastructure.

ERPANET will enhance the preservation of cultural heritage and scientific objects through nine core objectives. It will

  1. identify and raise awareness of information about the preservation of digital objects;
  2. appraise and evaluate information sources and developments in digital preservation and make available results of research, including ongoing EU-supported projects;
  3. provide an inquiry and advisory service on preservation issues, practice, and technology;
  4. implement six development workshops to bring together experts to tackle key preservation issues;
  5. hold a suite of eight training seminars based on best practice reflecting the needs of the community;
  6. develop a suite of tools, guidelines, templates, and 60 case studies;
  7. stimulate research and encourage the development of standards in the areas of digitization and digital preservation from within existing EU-supported projects and within Europe;
  8. build an online community; and
  9. stimulate awareness among software producers of the preservation needs of the user community.

4.2 Networked European Deposit Library

The NEDLIB project was launched on January 1, 1998, and ended on January 31, 2001. Funded by the European Commission, the project explored the technical and managerial issues involved in developing digital deposit libraries for electronic publications.

The project partners were eight national libraries, a national archive, two IT organizations, and three publishers. The KB led the project, and Johan Steenbakkers was its director.


The project resulted in the following:

  • the addition to the OAIS standard of a function for long-term preservation planning
  • a model for a deposit system supporting the capture, storage, access, and long-term preservation of electronic publications
  • guidelines to best practices, technical standards and solutions, and methods and procedures for practical implementation
  • small-scale development and testing of software tools used to build deposit systems
  • a proof-of-concept demonstrator of a deposit system for electronic publications

The following seven reports were produced by the project:

  • An Experiment in Using Emulation to Preserve Digital Publications (Rothenberg 2000)
  • Metadata for Long-Term Preservation (Lupovici and Masanès 2000)
  • Standards for Electronic Publishing: An Overview (Bide & Associates 2000)
  • Standards for a DSEP: Standards for the Implementation of a Deposit System for Electronic Publications (DSEP) (Feenstra 2000)
  • The NEDLIB Guidelines: Setting Up a Deposit System for Electronic Publications (Steenbakkers 2000)
  • A Process Model: The Deposit System for Electronic Publications (van der Werf 2000)
  • List of NEDLIB Terms (Clavel-Merrin 2000)

IBM-Netherlands has taken the NEDLIB work forward in implementing DNEP, the KB’s new deposit system. The preservation metadata have also been adopted for use within the BnF and in its planning for a database of preservation metadata. A report of the situation in each national library partner was published in July 2000 (Borbinha and Cardoso 2000).

NEDLIB also provided small-scale development and testing of software tools used to build deposit systems including the following:

  • NEDLIB Harvester. A freeware application for harvesting and archiving Web resources. Helsinki University Library and the Center for Scientific Computing jointly maintain the application. The harvester, its pilot use within NEDLIB, and its subsequent use by the national libraries of Iceland and Finland have been described by Juha Hakala (2001). The Nordic Web Archive is undertaking further collaborative development of access tools for Web archives.
  • MMB System for Multimedia Access. MMB is an integrated client/server environment to support the workflow for electronic publications. Since October 1999, the MMB system has been used at Die Deutsche Bibliothek in Frankfurt, Leipzig, and Berlin.


According to the project partners, NEDLIB provides a forum for the exchange of best practices in developing digital deposit systems. It helps build consensus and spread research costs. It serves at an intermediary level between global initiatives in digital preservation and local efforts from project participants. It directs those efforts toward converging solutions and thereby contributes to an emerging infrastructure for digital deposit libraries. For national libraries worldwide, NEDLIB delivers guidelines and a toolbox for local implementation of deposit systems.

4.3 Open Archival Information System Standard

In 1995, the International Standards Organization (ISO) asked Panel 2 of the Consultative Committee on Space Data Systems (CCSDS) to coordinate the development of standards to support the long-term preservation of digital information obtained from observations of the terrestrial and space environments. CCSDS began by developing a reference model to establish common terms and concepts for long-term digital preservation. Although this work was rooted in the space and earth observation communities, other communities, including NARA, became involved in the early development of this model. This involvement has grown as other initiatives have become aware of the draft standard and contributed to its development. In 2001, the draft reference model (CCSDS 2001) was submitted for adoption as a formal ISO standard and will probably be formally adopted in 2002.

The reference model sets out to

  • provide a framework for understanding and increasing awareness of archival concepts needed for long-term digital information preservation and access;
  • provide the concepts nonarchival organizations need to be effective participants in the preservation process;
  • provide a framework, including terminology and concepts, for describing and comparing architectures and operations of existing and future archives;
  • provide a framework for describing and comparing different long-term preservation strategies and techniques;
  • provide a basis for comparing the data models of digital information preserved by archives and for discussing how data models and the underlying information may change over time;
  • provide a foundation that may be expanded by other efforts to cover long-term preservation of information that is not in digital form (for example, physical media and physical samples);
  • reach a broader consensus on the elements and processes for long-term digital information preservation and access, and promote a larger market which vendors can support; and
  • guide the identification and production of OAIS-related standards.

The model has been developed in a series of international workshops, augmented with e-mail exchanges and occasional teleconferences. National workshops in the United Kingdom, United States, and France have taken place between the international meetings. The national workshops have focused on developing national positions and input for the international efforts. The development of the reference model can be seen by surveying the reports and papers from past U.S., French, British, and international workshops.

Adoption and Implementation of the OAIS Reference Model

Development of the draft OAIS reference model has been an open process, with drafts available online. Although the process was protracted, this openness allowed the draft model to be reviewed, critiqued, and adapted by a wide range of organizations. It now has broad acceptance and influence. Sectors and initiatives that have adopted the model as a basis for their digital preservation efforts include the following:

  • deposit libraries, such as the BL and the KB, which are specifying conformance with OAIS in their system development
  • national archives, such as NARA
  • scientific data centers, such as the U.S. National Space Science Data Center
  • commercial organizations, such as the U.S. Aerospace Industries Association
  • NEDLIB project
  • CEDARS project
  • Système d’Information, de Préservation et d’Accès aux Données (SIPAD) [System for Preservation and Access to Data and Information], the French space agency plasma physics archive
  • OCLC/RLG Working Group on Preservation Metadata
  • RLG/OCLC Working Group on Digital Archive Attributes

Future Developments

With the growing maturity and acceptance of the draft OAIS standard, attention has turned to identifying and starting additional archival standardization efforts. This is reflected in the Digital Archive Directions (DADs) workshop held in 1998 and the Archival Workshop on Ingest, Identification, and Certification Standards (AWIICS) held in October 1999.

The DADs workshop identified the three most urgent areas requiring additional work as being ingest, identification, and certification of archives. AWIICS explored these three areas in greater detail. Further work is now ongoing within CCSDS Panel 2 on ingest, under the leadership of CNES in France, and on archive certification, led by NARA in the United States.

There is also increasing interest among implementers of the standard in sharing experiences of implementation. In this context, it is interesting to note the RLG is implementing an OAIS resources Web site and mailing list as part of the RLG Long-term Retention Initiative.

Achievements and Constraints

Much intellectual effort has gone into developing the reference model over the past seven years. It has been an open process that has benefited from input from many sectors. It provides a common language and concepts for different professional groups involved in digital preservation and developing archiving systems. The outcome has been a reference model that has won widespread acceptance as a basis for digital preservation effort in all sectors that have reviewed it.

It is a good example of the advantages of a formal standards process in terms of intellectual rigor, consensus development, and use of a wide range of expertise and experience. It also illustrates the disadvantages of the process, in terms of time to reach widespread consensus and delays before a standard becomes official. The language of a formal standard can be off-putting for the uninitiated, and there can be a need for “vernacular” and accessible versions for a wider audience.

The reference model is a high-level model for describing digital archives. It does not mandate any implementation of the model. As such, the model has to be supplemented with additional standards and guidelines to achieve any implementation of the concepts. However, the OAIS reference model has already proved to be a critical foundation for digital preservation efforts internationally and seems likely to be the starting point for most, if not all, future initiatives in the field.

4.4 Preservation Technology for European Broadcast Archives

PRESTO is a 21-month, 4.8-million euro EU project to develop broadcast archive preservation technology. The BBC leads the project; two additional partners are the INA in France and Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI) in Italy. Each partner leads with technology partners on a specific area of audiovisual material in the work packages: RAI for audio, INA for video, and the BBC for film.

Although not focused on digital preservation specifically (it is primarily concerned with the preservation of analog material), PRESTO addresses questions that are relevant to the issue. Audiovisual material is one of the few areas where digitization is considered to be the main option for preservation, because the originals are unstable or locked into obsolete technology. Resolving digital preservation issues has a major bearing on the long-term preservation of these materials.

Broadcasting technology was never meant to be a mechanism to create and hold permanent audiovisual history. The content of European public service broadcast archives is the social and cultural history of twentieth-century Europe, and a major part of this material is now at risk.

PRESTO consists of two major components: a survey of broadcast archives and efforts to develop new technology to reduce preservation project costs.

The Survey

A detailed survey (Wright 2001) was conducted of the archives of the three partners and other national broadcast archives in the user group. The purposes of the survey were to establish the scale of the problem, identify the solutions required, and help individual archives construct a business case for investment in preservation.

Key findings from this survey were as follows:

  • Some 75 percent of the holdings surveyed are now at risk or inaccessible.
  • Collections are growing at roughly four times the rate of current preservation work.
  • An estimated 10 million hours of broadcast material of national and European significance are at risk.
  • The cost of preserving broadcast material is about 100 euros per hour for audio and videotapes and 2,000 euros per hour for film.
  • The total cost of preserving this material using current methods and technology is well over 1 billion euros.
  • Unless new, more cost-effective preservation methods and technology can be found, the price of preservation may simply be too high, and we will lose significant portions of the audiovisual memory of the twentieth century.
  • Digitization and mass storage is about 50 percent more expensive than copying to other formats, but is expected to double the usage of an asset.
  • The aim of preservation is to retain for the future, as cost-effectively as possible, that portion of existing broadcast archives that will contribute most to future usage.
  • The conclusion from current archive usage figures is that the value of an item must be more than four times the cost of preservation to justify preservation on a commercial basis.
  • For most broadcast archive material, this condition can easily be met, because one minute of sold or reused archive material will pay for preservation of one hour of archive material.
  • For material that cannot pass the “commercial economics” criterion outlined above, there should be a safety net of assessment for cultural and historical value and a separate funding mechanism.

Preservation Technology

The final phases of the project consist of a program of technology development to assist mass digitization and preservation activities in the archives. This starts with surveying and documenting current methods of preservation work; documenting the factors of time, cost, and quality; and identifying key areas of high cost or time and areas of low quality. It also involves surveying the opportunities offered by new technology (for example, digital mass storage). The same factors of time, cost, and quality are to be specified, but new business opportunities and their potential costs and benefits are also being documented. On the basis of the preceding analysis, the project is identifying key technology gaps with regard to archive preservation and specifying in detail the requirements of the technology. The overall objective of the development phase is to produce new links in the preservation workflow that substantially reduce the cost of archive preservation.


The survey has been completed and already has demonstrated its value in quantifying the scale of the challenges that broadcast archives face and in identifying cost elements of preservation and potential benefits of investment. Collecting the information was laborious, but the sharing of information on costs and potential savings is seen as immensely valuable.

The technology development is aimed at establishing “preservation factories” with throughput on a massive scale. Any bottlenecks are being identified and opportunities for automation and development of new tools are being explored. It is too early to say how successful this part of the program will be.

Audiovisual archives with very heterogeneous collections may have limited scope for mass preservation processes. Nonetheless, it is believed this approach will be essential for broadcast archives. It was also noted that cost models are a major and complex issue. Accounting practices may be critical to the process used. In organizations with few technical staff, it may be easier to fit preservation work into small-scale activity as part of existing programs and absorb the costs in ongoing staff budgets rather than to establish specific preservation programs. Where activity-costed accounting practices are applied, this will not be the case.


Skip to content