The Digital Preservation department at The National Archives was set up in July 2001 and charged with developing a method of storing, preserving and providing access to electronic government records.

Following an intensive development period, the digital archive was launched in 2003. For the first time a digital repository, successfully storing and making available electronic records of government held here at The National Archives, was available to users. Our work on this digital repository (in partnership with private company Tessella) led to us winning the prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise: Innovation, for developing a system for preserving digital information. This system, Safety Deposit Box, has since been adopted by archives and libraries around the world.

The digital archive's holdings include the records of high-profile public inquiries, parliamentary committees and royal commissions. Electronic records exist in an enormous variety of formats, including email and other office documents, applications, virtual-reality models and audio-visual material.

Our presentation system, Electronic Records Online, was launched in 2005 and makes digital records available on the internet, allowing access to our readers around the world.

Digital archive

The National Archives is in the process of building a new digital archive on the foundations of the current digital repository. The new Digital Records Infrastructure (DRI) will come into service in 2013 and take our long-term storage capacity from the terabyte to the petabyte scale, and beyond. The DRI incorporates many new technologies which will allow researchers and members of the public to locate and retrieve records quickly, including a new internal catalogue which uses Semantic Web technologies, as envisioned by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. This catalogue is discussed in the paper below, presented at XML London on Sunday 16 June 2013.

First steps to creating a semantic digital archive (PDF, 0.39Mb)

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