NARA has been at the forefront of archival practice and theory relating to electronic records ever since the agency first accessioned “flat-file” database and ASCII records in 1970. Today, our Research Services Electronic Records Division holds over 2,000 series of electronic records from over 100 federal agencies, comprised of over 800 million unique files with a total volume of over 400 terabytes; and we have electronic records from every White House starting with President Ronald Reagan.
Since 2008, we have been using the systems of our Electronic Records Archives (ERA) program to take in and store all types of electronic records from the White House, Congress, and agencies across the Federal government - over 900 terabytes of electronic records. Since 2012, NARA has required all Federal agencies to use ERA to submit records schedules to NARA for approval by the Archivist. 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.
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 scheduling, obtaining approvals for transfers, uploading into the system by a producing Federal agency, processing of uploaded records, preservation of the records, to, finally, production of access versions for the National Archives Catalog.
ERA 2.0 system consists of three major components - a processing environment, the digital repository, and forms/workflows to support the scheduling of Federal records as well as the transfer of permanent Federal records into NARA’s custody.
The processing environment allows the upload of born-digital records and digital surrogates; provides a variety of software tools for verification, technical processing, and working with metadata; and allows NARA users to submit packages of processed digital materials to the repository for long-term storage preservation. At the present time the upload features of ERA 2.0 are available only for NARA use. In the future, when NARA makes direct transfer by agencies into ERA 2.0 possible, we will provide more guidance on its use. For more information on NARA’s current policies and practices regarding transferring electronic records please visit Accessioning Electronic Records.
The digital repository of ERA 2.0 receives digital materials from the processing environment and provides safe archival storage. NARA staff use the repository’s search and discovery capabilities to identify and retrieve digital materials back to the processing environment for further processing for preservation, to respond to requests for records, and to provide copies to the National Archives Catalog for public access.
ERA 2.0’s cloud-based architecture allows NARA to store its digital holdings across numerous physical locations with a diverse and growing set of measures that meet our requirements for file integrity, security, and availability. While our system provides appropriate long-term storage we are still in the early stages of implementing true digital preservation capabilities in our system. For more information on our digital preservation strategy and approaches to digital preservation, please visit Digital Preservation Guidance.
We have completed initial development on updated forms and capabilities for records scheduling and transfer requests but we have not yet made these forms available for agency use. In order to deploy these new capabilities to agencies, we need to complete a complex and extensive migration of all existing records scheduling and transfer forms from ERA to ERA 2.0. We will have much more information to share on these new capabilities and how agencies can use them in the near future. For further information, please review the presentation or recording from the February 16, 2021 Bimonthly Records and Information Discussion Group (BRIDG) meeting.
ERA Executive Office of the President (EOP)
The Executive Office of the President Instance of ERA was originally deployed in 2008 and designed to provide rapid ingest, search, and retrieval of electronic records from each Presidential Administration. Each administration has its own instance of EOP ERA.
For further information on Presidential electronic records, please visit these library websites.
ERA Congressional Records Instance (CRI)
The Congressional Records Instance of ERA was deployed in 2009 and designed for the unique requirements of Congressional records with dedicated ERA storage. It was developed for the use of the Center for Legislative Archives at NARA, the Office of the Clerk of the House, and the Office of the Secretary of the Senate. The system has the ability to ingest and preserve Congressional e-records, regardless of format.
For further information on congressional records, please visit the Legislative Archives site.