Alistair Goodall

Alistair Goodall

Last updated on 24 October 2019

Alistair Goodall is Head of IT for Crossrail Ltd in the UK

Last year we were the proud winners of a Digital Preservation Award for our Crossrail archive and I was lucky enough to experience the passion and enthusiasm for digital preservation at the awards ceremony.

Since then we have successfully closed down some of the applications associated with the early stages of our 10 year project (such as land acquisition and property access requests) and these are now available through our Crossrail archive.  The Crossrail project itself has, however, been delayed beyond December 2018 and we are in our most information intensive stage with testing, commissioning and certification underway.

As the team responsible for creating, populating and then handing over the archive we are confident in the product and can already demonstrate that it has search capabilities and performance times which are significantly better than the legacy applications from which the data is being archived.

With the project moving into its final stages there is a big focus on our assurance data and our operational data.  

  • The operational data is prepared in our project systems and then transferred into operational systems to be worked on and used for the running of the railway
  • The assurance data is also prepared in our project systems and is needed to ensure/assure that we have built a safe railway

In addition, we have our project data which describes how, as a project, we have gone about creating these digital/physical assets.

Our challenge now is probably the same as professional archivists face every day which is how to convince a very broad audience that ‘our’ archive is an appropriate single point of reference for the assurance and project information currently held in the individual applications, file shares and websites which they know and love (!). 

The challenge is made all the more interesting because of our adoption of BIM which has, in effect, created a very tightly linked set of information across our systems.  This works well while all the systems are up and running but as systems are decommissioned the individual datasets become significantly impaired.  Living in the now however our audience can see their current processes and information stores all working and can’t see a working archive because their current information is not yet closed and available for archiving (a true catch 22).

The Crossrail archive was, is and will be a very successful product to hold 10 years’ worth of project data from multiple applications in a fully searchable, cross indexed single platform.  Using JSON, non-relational databases and cloud services has proved to be an incredibly cost efficient and highly performing solution but, as ever, we have to bring our audience along with us and convince them that an archive should be the one place to go to for the context and history behind our end product.

Luckily, I have a very talented and creative team of people within Crossrail IT so our plan to get our audience on board is to allow them to get hands on with ‘temporary’ archive data (possibly a heresy for professional archivists!). 

Because our archive is modular we can create a dummy dataset for our larger BIM applications which will be replaced at the end of the project with the final snapshot of data.  Our plan is that once our audience can see and touch the archive then we can reduce the natural urge to create their own ‘just in case’ stores of information.

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