Archivist puts price on e-records
- By William Matthews
- Mar 28, 2000
It will cost about $130 million and take about five years to build, but
a national electronic records archive is technically feasible, U.S. Archivist
John Carlin told Congress Tuesday.
With help from the Advanced Research Projects Agency and the San Diego
Supercomputer Center, the National Archives and Records Administration has
shown it is possible to overcome the biggest problem with archiving electronic
records — that computer hardware and software become obsolete, leaving records
A records storage system developed by the supercomputer center shows
that it is possible "to preserve any kind of electronic record, free it
from the format in which it was created, retain it indefinitely" and then
make it readable on computer systems that exist now and those that will
exist in the future, Carlin told a House appropriations subcommittee.
The task remains to build a system able to handle the enormous volume
of electronic records produced by the federal government.
Hardware and software is changing so fast that some electronic records
created a decade ago are unusable today, Carlin said. The electronic archive
system described by Carlin solves that problem by "encasing" electronic
records in a digital wrapper that permits the storage system to "unwrap
it and present it in a readable format," he explained.
Besides solving the format problem, the electronic archive has shown
it can handle the volume problem. In one demonstration, the system converted
more than a million e-mail messages from their original format to a storable
one, archived them and provided access to them from a different technology,
all in less than two days, Carlin said.
Carlin is asking Congress for $902,000 to continue development work
on the electronic archive in 2001, but he said the price will rise after
that. Initial cost estimates are "as high as $130 million," he said.