Hopefully your business case or bid for resources to enable you to preserve the records has been successful and you are now in a position to start putting your plans into action. This is the biggest and most challenging step in the process, but all the groundwork you have laid up until this point will stand you in good stead.

As this is a substantial piece of work it is recommended that detailed planning is carried out and project management techniques are used to manage and keep track of timelines, goals and resources. Ensure that you tap into support and guidance that is available in your organization.

“Good and thorough planning are essential and it is never too early to be planning the transfer from one system to another - every system is a legacy system waiting to happen.” 

Rachel MacGregor, University of Warwick


Kyle Browness from Library and Archives Canada gave a talk at the DPC’s Connecting the Bits unconference event in June 2020 entitled ‘The challenges and lessons of processing records from an EDRMS‘. He describes Library and Archive Canada’s approach to the project and gives an example of phases and deliverables.

The steps you will take will vary depending on the preservation approach that has been selected. For example, if the selected preservation approach is to export or transfer records to a digital archive the following steps will need to be carried out. Specifics will vary depending on the organizational context and the technologies in use.

  • Identify the records to be transferred - note it may not be everything. In an ideal world, the records to be transferred will already be flagged up within the system. If this is not the case, establish how you will carry out selection and appraisal. Identify a mechanism to determine the number of records to be transferred.

  • Identify the metadata to be transferred. The metadata guide included within this resource may help you to consider which fields should be retained [link to metadata work]. Work may also be required to map these metadata fields to the schema in use within your digital archive. 

  • Establish whether the transfer of records from record keeping system to digital preservation system can be automated. Do APIs exist to facilitate this? Can a bespoke solution be developed?

  • Investigate export (and import) options for records and metadata. In what format and structure will records and metadata be exported from the record keeping system? What format can your digital preservation system accept a Submission Information Package? What metadata formats and/or schema can it work with?

  • Establish where records and metadata will be securely stored after export and prior to ingest into the digital preservation system.

  • Are any pre-ingest steps required to prepare the export from the record keeping system for ingest - for example enhancing or restructuring the metadata? Establish what these steps are and which tools will be used.

  • Liaise with system users and other stakeholders about timing of transfer. The transfer may have an impact upon the performance of a live system and availability of records and may have to be performed outside of normal hours.

  • Once the export and transfer has been carried out, check and validate the transfer. Are the right number of records in the system? Is the metadata complete? Can checksums be used to validate it has been successful?

  • Initiate agreed access mechanism to preserved records (if appropriate).

  • Decide what actions need to be enacted on original records in the record keeping system. Will they be removed from the system? Will a signpost to the new location in the digital archive be available? How will users be able to locate and access them?


As the steps listed above are very generic, it may be most helpful to you to find out in more detail how others have tackled this challenge. Some case studies are provided below but note you may find it most helpful to find someone who is using the same record keeping and/or preservation system as you and gather more details from them as to how they approached the exercise.

  • Elvis Valdes Ramirez from the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals describes in this case study how they established an export and transfer workflow for records held within their EDRMS and an application that was developed to automate the packaging and structuring of metadata and associated objects for ingest.

  • James Doig from the National Archives of Australia provides an overview of work that has been carried out to transfer records from their EDRMS to the digital preservation system. This case study discusses some of the stages in the process of establishing a transfer methodology and some of the specific challenges that were encountered.

  • Kyle Browness from Library and Archives Canada gave a talk at the DPC’s Connecting the Bits unconference event in June 2020 entitled ‘The challenges and lessons of processing records from an EDRMS‘. He provides details of some of the decisions that were made in order to establish a transfer workflow, including those that relate to the metadata that will be exported alongside the records.

  • In a talk at the EDRMS Preservation Briefing Day, Zsuzsanna Tözsér Milam from the European Central Bank described their semi-automated workflows for the transfer of records from an EDRMS at ECB and the rationale for the approach they have taken. ‘Preserving records at the ECB’ a presentation at Unbroken records: A briefing day on Digital Preservation and EDRMS, 20th May 2021

As can be seen from the selection of case studies presented, there is no one way of tackling this challenge and no one export tool or standard in use. It should be noted that work is currently underway by the DILCIS Board to create a Content Information Type Specification for ERMS (Electronic Records Management System) and an export tool to go alongside this. A talk by Karin Bredenberg (Kommunalförbundet Sydarkivera) at the 2021 Briefing Day on EDRMS preservation can be viewed for further background on this initiative.

The winding road to a CITS ERMS  - Karin Bredenberg (Kommunalförbundet Sydarkivera)

Remember that whichever approach you have taken, you will also need to establish what to do with any documentation and information you have gathered to inform your work. Consider which information should be preserved alongside the records and metadata to provide further context for future users.

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