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GCN : April 2014
CASE STUDY DIGITAL PRESERVATION TOOLS Since 1974, archivists in Michigan have been looking for ways to preserve the state's electronic records in such a way that they could last for hundreds of years and always be easily searchable by government of- ficials and the public at large. But until recently, there wasn't any system that could deliver on that wish list. Michigan Archivist Mark Harvey said that over the years the state discovered piecemeal ways to preserve data, such as storing files on network drives, CDs, DVDs and other portable media. "Saving to portable me- dia worked, but how useful it was depended on the type of data," Harvey said. "Without access to some of the legacy programs that created the data, it really didn't do much." In 1996 the state began to tackle its electronic records management in earnest. It needed a solution that would not only preserve the records, but ensure that they would be searchable and accessible, even as file and media formats evolved. As part of that effort, Michi- gan hired Caryn Wojcik as a government records archivist, and she soon encountered ob- stacles that would define the solution's scope. First, there was no computer system or data center that could handle the re- quired storage --- and no budget for one. Second, the state didn't want to hire programmers to build-out an expensive custom solution. Armed with that knowledge, Wojcik participated in several grant-funded research proj- ects to develop software to suit the state's needs. Eventually, she found a commercial-off- the-shelf program called Pre- servica that was being used by governments in Europe, library systems around the world and smaller government organiza- tions whose requirements were similar to Michigan's. "Because we put so much ef- fort into defining our needs and goals, we were confident that Preservica was the program we needed once we saw it," Wojcik said. THE ROLE OF THE CLOUD Preservica was developed by Tessella, a digital preservation technology, consulting and re- search company. It is a Web- based application that ingests and curates content of all types How state archivists tackled electronic records management, searching for a solution that not only preserves records but ensures they would be accessible even as file and formats evolved Michigan chases archiving's Holy Grail BY JOHN BREEDEN II 30 GCN APRIL 2014 • GCN.COM "Because we put so much effort into defining our needs and goals, we were confident that Preservica was the program we needed once we saw it." -- CARYN WOJCIK, MICHIGAN PUBLIC RECORDS ARCHIVIST