Els Breedstraet

Els Breedstraet

Last updated on 16 April 2019

Els Breedstraet is teamleader for archives and long-term preservation at the Publications Office of the European Union

Dear diary

16th of April – Today, the archives and long-term preservation team at the Publications Office of the EU (OP) celebrates its first birthday. Exactly a year ago, OP was reorganised and for the first time the four services linked to archiving were grouped together into one team. I got entrusted the exiting, but also very challenging, task of heading the team. Some of my colleagues are working already a long time in the field, others are completely new to the trade.

Together, we take care of:

  • OP’s physical archiving service. It’s our mission to save a copy from every single Official Journal of the European Union (OJ) and of every EU publication, published since 1952. The four colleagues who manage the physical archives brought along experiences of between 20 and 30 years to the team. Vital and not to be lost! Just as the archives they have under their wings.
  • The digital long-term preservation service. Initially, its mission was similar to the one of the physical archives: safeguarding the OJ and other EU publications. Nowadays, the archive is gradually enriched with extra collections, such as the web archive. OP set up its first digital archive in 1987. This means we can benefit from the lessons learned and from the mistakes made in the past. This knowledge base is now documented in our Digital Preservation Plan, used on a daily basis and extended by the four ladies taking care of our current long-term digital archival repository.
  • The digitisation service. OP facilitates digitisation projects for all EU institutions. This is run by one experienced colleague. OP undertook the first digitisation projects in the 1980s and through the years, have acquired a wealth of knowledge on the topic.
  • The web preservation service, our “new kid on the block”. Our web-archiving expert manages this service from A-Z: from seed selection, over harvesting and quality control, to access and long-term preservation. This way, she’s building the EU web archive* stone by stone (or better WARC by WARC) on a daily basis.

We are only a few people, so luckily we can count on the help of, amongst others, colleagues from other OP teams and external service providers.

It has been an intense, but very interesting year. During the last 365 days, the new team evolved from a new “block in the organigram” into a real team. A team sharing knowledge, supporting each other, searching tirelessly for solutions and juggling priorities. Together we experienced some memorable moments, amongst others during our away day. Personally, I learned a lot. I learned to understand (at least a bit) what OAIS is, what’s hidden in PREMIS and what the use of an archival retention plan is. I discovered that working with external service providers can be extremely enriching, but also very challenging. I started to understand that digitisation entails more than just putting pages under a scanner. I also found out how important it can be to have a physical archive in order to make sure the information in the digital archive is correct. And that’s just to give a few examples … I didn’t only learn a lot, I laughed a lot and yes, sometimes also cried a bit. More importantly, it has been a year in which I encountered amazing colleagues and peers. And last but not least, the year during which we became a member of the DPC.

For the next year (and beyond), we have many challenges on our plate: further migrating collections from our old archival repository to the current one, enriching metadata, enhancing documentation, taking new web preservation initiatives, concluding new contracts for digitisation and for consultancy on digital preservation, completing the holes in our physical archives, and much more.

On this anniversary day, I’d like to say a big thank you to my team. But also to other colleagues and peers: colleagues within other OP teams, the European Commission’s historical archives, the DPC, the Luxembourgish and other national libraries and archives, etc. Without the support of all of you, I would look back very differently at the last year.


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