Electronic Records Research 1997: Resource Materials


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Electronic Records Research 1997: Resource Materials

Compilation Copyright, Archives & Museum Informatics 1998

Article Copyright, Author

EROS : CASE STUDIES : FCO : MINERVA PROJECT
by Ian Soutar, Richard Blake and Ian Macfarlane
1. Introduction / Background

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had installed in 1992 an office automation system for the registration and transmission of documents called the Automation and Electronic Registry System (ARAMIS) and it is now used by the vast majority of FCO departments in the UK and many overseas posts as well It is a character-based system that runs on RS6000 hardware under IBM AIX, and employs Uniplex, BRS-Search and Informix software. All registration of files now takes place on ARAMIS within those departments that have it. Documents created within ARAMIS are registered and held in a purely electronic form. The Library and Records Department (LRD) which is responsible for the maintenance of the FCO Official Record and for ensuring that the FCO fulfils its obligations under the Public Records Acts had to prepare to accept an intake of records in electronic form. To address this need it developed a procurement requirement for an electronic archival system capable of holding registered documents and associated data originating in ARAMIS in a secure central repository. This system is to be known as the Multiple Information Evaluation and Retrieval System (MINERVA) and its purpose is to hold the FCO’s official record, which will be transferred to the Public Record Office after 30 years. All the data must be readable, accessible and secure. It will form a central component of the FCO’s records management operations, and is expected to receive some 15 million documents in the first 10 years of its life. The system will support the records retrieval and enquiry service provided by the Archives and Retrieval Services to the FCO and other Government Departments and, when the files are 27 years old, will also support the processes of the Selection Review and Declassification Services that sift, prepare and transfer records to the PRO.
2. Aims of the System

The aims of MINERVA are:
a) Archiving - which includes the import of ARAMIS documents and data into MINERVA and associated records management activities, and tracking the movements and storage locations of paper files.
b) Retrieval Services - this includes document searching and retrieval, responding to enquiries under the Data Protection Act (which may include blocking out text on documents which are to be printed), updating of the document subject classification and other index data, document annotation, file and/or document cross-referencing, enquiry logging and tracking, document and file printing, and production of statistics and reports.
c) Routine housekeeping and system administration functions including the provision of facilities to delete ephemeral material.
d) Selection Review - the process whereby records which are not selected for permanent preservation are sifted out and destroyed.
e) Declassification Review - the process by which records selected for preservation are examined to identify sensitive information and its removal from the version available for public inspection. Parts of documents, whole documents, index details of documents or whole files may be withheld. Such information is re-reviewed at regular intervals and is reinstated in the version available for public inspection when it is no longer considered sensitive.
f) Transfer - the transfer to the PRO, in a suitable electronic format, of documents and data which have been selected for preservation and have been cleared through the Declassification Review process for inspection by the public
Items (a) to (c) are mandatory functions required from the inception of the project. Items (d) to (f) are required as end cycle functions and will not be required for at least 23 years after the system goes live. However, if there is a decision to release documents for public inspection earlier in the life cycle these functions will be required sooner. It is essential therefore that these functions can eventually be supported by the chosen supplier. Suppliers will be invited to indicate whether and how their products could provide the end cycle facilities described in items (d) to (f) above. However, the initial procurement is for the hardware, software and support services associated with only those functions that will be required at the outset of MINERVA’s operational life.

Future developments include the need for electronic data capture, including scanning and OCR facilities within MINERVA. This would allow the Library and Records Department to reduce and eventually eliminate the paper component of its records.

3. Major Requirements

Under the current version of ARAMIS, documents will be exported from ARAMIS in Uniplex format, and associated records management data will be exported in ASCII. Documents imported from ARAMIS must be incorporated into MINERVA correctly and without loss into whatever format(s) MINERVA uses. The operating system must be UNIX system V and POSIX compliant. Data entering MINERVA will originate from different FCO Departments but within MINERVA it must be possible to search across Departments. MINERVA must be able to accept data on the ARAMIS transfer medium, which is currently 8mm EXABYTE magnetic tape, with files in CPIO format. MINERVA must be able to accommodate ongoing developments in ARAMIS software, such as changes to the file types used. All files must be identifiable by each of the following conventions:
1) Department code (General file reference first element)
2) Subject code (General file reference second element)
3) Optional country/region code (General file reference third element)
4) File serial number (General file reference fourth element)
5) File year (General file reference fifth element)
The system must allow the user to add or amend the following details associated with a document header:
a) Document status
b) Document status date and time
c) From individual surname / initial / title
d) To individual surname / initial / title
e) From organisation
f) To organisation
g) Security classification
h) Security descriptor
i) Security caveat
j) Document title
k) Document type
l) Document date
m) Originators reference
n) Telegram number
o) Draft indicator
p) Folio number
It is anticipated that the data from the calendar year three years previous to the current year will be exported to MINERVA from approximately five different departments each month. On transferring a document header to MINERVA, the system must automatically record the date of transfer. Whilst importing data from ARAMIS, word processing formatting characteristics must be preserved as must non-English characters. The system must allow the user to assign and de-assign subject classifiers to document headers. These are key words or phrases that are not part of the document text. The system must be able to distinguish between classifiers added by ARAMIS users and those added by MINERVA users. It must also allow the user to add comments to file identifiers, document headers and text within a document. However the original text must not be in any way amenable to alteration within MINERVA.

When retrieving information it must be possible for the user to search on any combination of data items including subject classifiers, the originating departments, date ranges and a variety of word/phrase criteria.
4. System Structure / Architecture
Currently being proposed by potential suppliers.
5. Controls / Rules / Standards
The responsibility for the management of MINERVA rests with the System Manager and System Administrator under the aegis of the Head of Records Management. The System Manager and System Administrator will receive the standard 14 days training provided by the supplier plus a further 3 days additional training on systems management and administration. The supplier must provide each user with a copy of a comprehensive user manual covering all the initial day to day functionality of the system plus an additional manual covering system management and system administration for the managers of the system.

Documents must be accessible for authorised users for as long as the documents remain on the system and there must be no restrictions on the letters, words or phrases that the user can search by. The user must also have the option of employing “sounds-like” (i.e. “fuzzy” searching) word searching (i.e. “fuzzy” searching). When printed all documents must have a banner in the header and footer indicating that they are a MINERVA document and that they are not to be re-registered. To prevent misuse, a document printed out with text missing must contain a warning to that effect in its header and footer. The system will allow users to add comments to file identifiers, document headers and registered documents however, when a comment is associated with document text, the original text must not be altered in any way.

In selecting data for inspection by an external user, an authorised user must be able to retrieve document headers by security classification. The system must restrict an external user to their own work area, into which a copy of certain parts of the database has been made by an authorised user. Under no circumstances will an external user be allowed to have unrestricted access to the MINERVA database nor will they be permitted access to another external user’s work area.
6. Information / Records Structure and Rules / Definitions
Internally generated files stored but also shadow paper files, linked to MINERVA files, which will hold some documents with signatures and externally originated documents. It is intended that all these will increasingly be scanned and included in the MINERVA files to provide complete electronic records.

October 1996

p. .

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