Electronic Records Archives (ERA)

About ERA

NARA has been at the forefront of archival practice and theory relating to electronic records ever since the first “flat” database and ASCII records were accessioned in 1970.  Today, our Research Services Electronic Records Division holds over 1,000 series from over 100 federal agencies; over 800 million unique files with 16 billion logical data records and over 400 terabytes; and we have electronic records from every White House starting with President Ronald Reagan.

Since 2008, we have been using our Electronic Records Archives (ERA) system to take in and store electronic records from the White House, Congress, and agencies across the Federal government - over 500 terabytes of electronic records. Today ERA has more than 200 NARA users and close to 800 agency users.  In addition, since 2012, NARA has required all Federal agencies to use ERA to submit records schedules to NARA for approval by the Archivist electronically within the system. Additionally, ERA manages the transfer of all permanent records, in all formats and media, transferred to NARA through the Annual Move or by direct offer. In FY 2016, the Annual Move includes over 12,000 Transfer Requests for textual records alone that will be processed through ERA.

We’ve learned a lot about how to manage electronic records over the years.  We’ve moved beyond our late 1990s approach to ERA – one big system to do everything. ERA is adapting and improving to meet today’s needs and take advantage of new technology.  ERA 2.0 is a modernization of our existing system - updated functionality, modular design, and a cloud-based architecture.  ERA 2.0 will ultimately provide end-to-end lifecycle coverage for electronic records, from upload by a producing Federal agency, processing of the uploaded records, preservation of the records, and finally, production of access versions for the National Archives Catalog.  The development process is much faster, iterative, and user driven. A team of NARA subject matter experts has been having a lot of success using the Agile process to build the first ERA 2.0 update, which will be available in early 2018.

What We Have Accomplished

NARA has completed the production Data Center and Systems Operations Center and has deployed three instances of ERA. One of NARA's primary challenges was to preserve different types of records along with the processes and documentation required for each type. ERA accomplished this by designing separate subsystems, or instances, for each category of records governed by different rules, with shared access to universal services, such as public access and preservation.

Stay tuned for more information as this important work continues.