There are data that need to be kept available for very long periods of time. These may include contracts, reports, plans, project documents or photographs, covering various types of documents depending on the institution. For public institutions, archiving laws prescribe that certain documents must be archived. For private companies, many data are so valuable that access to these is wished for long after the statutory retention periods.
The challenge of digital archiving is keeping data available for very long periods of time and in particular also being able to prove their authenticity:
- Long periods of time means that data can still be found, accessed and reused even after several changes of generations of hardware, operating systems, software and file formats. This covers periods of several decades and it is assumed that the producers of the data can no longer be asked about the used formats and software products.
- Authentic means that the archived documents are actually what they purport to be. For instance, it must be able to be shown that a contract has been concluded in the present version and not subsequently amended. The most important measure to support authenticity is documentation of the context of origin, referred to as proof of evidence in technical terminology.
To address the challenge of digital archiving, the OAIS, the Open Archival Information System standard (ISO 14721:2012) has prevailed globally. This standard is a reference model that takes into account the archive’s technical structure and complete organisation. The OAIS defines the digital archive’s central remits and responsibilities, contains functional and information models and defines the most important terms. As it is neutral with respect to data types, data formats, system architectures and institution types, the OAIS model provides a key basis for digital archiving exchange beyond divisional boundaries.
The OAIS reference model (2012 version).