[Fsfe-ie] MS, digital preservation and Irish National Archives
tmh1 at eircom.net
Fri Jul 13 15:06:29 CEST 2007
There was a piece on the mid-morning Derek Davis show on RTE1 on
Wednesday, 11 July about digital preservation. OOXML was not mentioned
but this was clearly the backdrop to the discussion because the lead-in
to the story was the British Library/UK National Archives (TNA) "digital
dark age" story from last week.
You can listen here, it starts at 1 hr 27 mins
Two people from the Irish National Archives were interviewed along with
Nick McGrath, Microsoft Director of Platform Development.
The two archivists welcomed the MS/TNA initiative and said it was
encouraging that one software developer was attempting to meet the
challanges in cooperation with public archives. They were resassured by
the MS arrangement with TNA. One archivist pointed out that MS was not
the only software used in the Irish public service.
Nick McGrath explained that MS were offering TNA two different
approaches to fixing the digital dark age problem.
1. They were enabling translation of documents from the older versions
to bring them up to latest file formats. TNA have a comprehensive search
and retrieval system that achieves this very purpose.
2. When people look at the documents, they may want to look at them in
the format and application which they were originally created in. MS has
been providing applications like Word, Excel, etc. for 20+ years. They
decided to go back into their archives within MS and to collect old
versions e.g. win3.1, office 4.2, and to create a "virtual pc"
environment for every single older version. Now TNA have 2 different
ways of retaining the information.
They can either convert it to the latest versions of MS products which
now comform to open standards, or they can allow the person to view in
the original application, old versions of MS products.
The presenter asked about the point made by the archivist, that many
other computer systems are used beyond MS and does the system accomodate
the work of other producers.
McGrath responded that 15 years ago the market place was very
fragmented. This meant that MS had to have incredibly good
interoperability or translators to the other packages that were
available e.g. Lotus 123, WordPerfect or WordStar.
Now TNA have got old verions of MS Word which correspondingly allow them
to open up those other older legacy products as well. So it doesn't just
protect them on the MS format themselves, but it also protects them for
the competitor formats that were in the marketplace 10-15 years ago.
The presenter asked that if you use this system, are you no longer under
control of MS, that you no longer have to get at the stuff through MS if
you get the system.
McGrath said yes. MS has listened to archivists around the world, and
has engaged with the PLANETS consortium of European national archives
[http://www.planets-project.eu/]. In response to their feedback and that
of public sector organsations and customers, MS has now opened up their
file formats in the latest version of Office 2007. This means that any
document that is created in those formats is created in open standard
i.e. it is fully documented. Archivists in 100 or 1000 years have all
the documentation that will explain exactly how to open up that file and
how to preserve that data.
More information about the FSFE-IE