The Collaborative Electronic Records Project

Of Note

CERP has concluded its work. While the team has officially disbanded, the website will be available indefinitely and updated when necessary.


◊ November 2008
CERP held a symposium that brought together experts that included the National Archives and Records Administration, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources & EMCAP Project, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill/RENCI, and Senate staff. The group discussed experiences in email and digital preservation and future directions. See some of the presentations and proceedings.

◊ August 2008
Society of American Archivists Research Forum. Digital Dilemmas: Archiving E-Mail was presented in the Format Foundations portion of this year's forum in San Francisco, Calif, as a talk and poster.

◊ Panel session at the Society of American Archivists 2008 conference. Capturing the E-Tiger - New Tools for Email Preservation. Panelists were CERP, NC State Archives, and the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

Australian Society of Archivists 2008 conference, Perth, Australia.
Rockefeller Archive Center Executive Director Emeritus Dr. Darwin Stapleton discussed Making a Way Out of No Way: The Collaborative Electronic Records Project of the Rockefeller Archive Center and the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

◊ June 2008
Pre-conference workshop at the Association of Canadian Archivists 2008 annual conference. Digital Dilemmas: Archiving E-Mail in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The day-long workshop covered all aspects of the project, from record discovery and appraisal through preservation and finally archival storage. Participants had hands-on use of the CERP email preservation tools.

◊ April 2008
Panel Session at the Midwest Archives Conference 2008. More than one way to meet the challenge: Systematic approaches to the capture and preservation of complex digital artifacts in Louisville, Ky. Panelists: CERP, University of Maryland, and the NHPRC project EMCAP.


New Content

◊ SIA developed a Java-based script that automates analyses of the attachments using JHOVE and DROID. Read more about it.
CERP overview summarizes the three phases of the project and lessons learned.

◊ The Email Account XML Schema is now available. The schema was co-developed by the CERP and EMCAP project teams during the course of their separate grant projects to preserve historic email messages. We are pleased to make the schema, a brief introduction, and an RDDL diagram of the schema available. Please note that the current documentation for the schema is quite technical and will be most meaningful for those familiar with creating or evaluating schema code.

We encourage interested organizations to contact CERP Project Manager Ricc Ferrante (ferranter@si.edu; 202-633-5906) or EMCAP Project Manager Kelly Eubank (kelly.eubank@ncdcr.gov; 919-807-7350) for further information about the schema and its application in the archival organizations participating in the two projects.

Friends of CERP, Winter 2009
Tools used by CERP - November 2008
Record Retention and Disposition Guidelines, Version 3 - November 2008


The Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA) and the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) were engaged in a collaborative three-year project to develop, test, and share the technology to preserve digital documents with other non-profit organizations. SIA and RAC developed and tested electronic records preservation, focusing on email, that drew on the SIA’s more established framework for developing methodologies, and that drew on the RAC’s network of donor institutions for testing the preservation system and strategies.

Archival institutions, which provide permanent access to information deemed vital to understanding the history of individuals and organizations, are encountering the loss of digitally-created information before it even crosses their thresholds. Given modern digital forms of information, the long-term preservation of electronic records, particularly email, will be critically important for scholars looking at the first decade of the 21st century, as well as for organizational accountability.

Yet few institutions have taken significant steps toward preservation, in part because there are few accepted standards for such preservation in the archival world. Much of the electronic information created by institutions now becomes inaccessible or is intentionally destroyed within a few months or a few years of creation. This is true for the offices and organizations for which the Rockefeller Archive Center and the Smithsonian Institution Archives have archival responsibilities, as well as for virtually all other nonprofit institutions.

A Focus on Email

The complexity of email records poses a special preservation challenge. The basic functionality of email "threads" was at the heart of this challenge. An email can contain several emails either in the body of the uppermost email or as attachments.