Alexandre Angers

Alexandre Angers

Last updated on 19 July 2021

Alexandre Angers is Head of Sector for Long term preservation at the EU Publications Office.

I moved to the Publications Office about a year ago, joining the wonderful long-term preservation team. 

This was my first foray into the world of digital archiving.  I remember, for lack of a better reference, that in my mind came the image of a ‘time capsule’, probably from watching too many movies or television shows.  I knew I was probably off, but had no idea how far off I was.  First, of course, is maintenance – digital preservation is more akin to keeping a life form alive and healthy than storing objects away from the inclement weather.  But more important, even, is how differently time capsules and digital preservation ‘successfully end’.  I put both words in brackets because they deserve a reflection.

A time capsule ‘ends’ and is ‘successful’ the day it is opened, often at a date written on it from the moment it is sealed.  In the last year I had a few discussions to understand what ‘long-term’ in ‘long-term preservation’ means, and of course the answers varied quite a lot. Ultimately, though, this variation is moot, since no matter the time frame - 25 years? 50 years? 100 years? let's call this value  ‘n’ - if today we aim to preserve until today + n, tomorrow this will become tomorrow + n.  And in a year,  A year + n.  Set the distance to the finish line to anything you want, every new day is a new, ever-shifting start line.  And I may exaggerate, but I did ask myself: can a long-term preservation activity ‘successfully’ ‘end’, or does it have to be one or the other?

I do have a point I am trying to get to: because of this, more than in any other activity I have been involved in until now, there is a crucial importance in long-term preservation for Milestones.  Moments need to be created, flags need to be planted on the calendar to reflect on and celebrate the hard work of the team.  For the Publications Office digital preservation team, 2021 is a year of important Milestones.

In 2016, a switch was made in the way the Publication Office implemented its digital preservation service, from a large repository of files to a newly developed, OAIS-compliant digital repository.  Since then, the content of the collections have been painstakingly migrated, enriching the documents with the necessary metadata.  The hard work and challenges involved, as well as the institutional reorganization made to support the activity, are described in this blog post from my predecessor. 

Now, in 2021:

  1. The migration of the content will officially be completed, with the successful transfer of the quasi-totality of the more than half a million publications that were present on the drive system.  A final, large-scale checksum comparison will confirm the integrity of the transferred files.

  2. The contract that focused on the setup of the repository and the transfer of the existing information will end, to be replaced in the autumn with a new, 6-year contract whose specifications focus on improving the maturity of the system.  Automated workflows will be deployed to automatically feed to the repository the hundreds of documents published every week by the EU institutions.

  3. As we are also responsible for the long-term preservation of the Official Journal of the European Union, we will make our first concrete step towards obtaining an ISO 16363 (trustworthy digital repository) certification for our archive, focusing in a first phase on this collection.  We have engaged a digital preservation consultant to understand the matrix of responsibilities, between us and our contractor, for the different aspects of the ISO 16363 requirements.

Together with all these milestones, we are planning to publish, later this year, our Digital Preservation Plan.  Once it is available, I will update this blog post with the link to the document.  The DPP, until now, was drafted as an internal document, as our first requirements for the ISO 16363 certification. This publication will be a way for our team to share with the community, and the citizens at large, our strategy and vision for our long-term preservation service.  It will also be, for us, a moment of celebration, a moment to reflect on the hard work done by all our colleagues in this long, arduous journey to our starting line.


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