On Jan. 12, 2005, Washington Gov. Gary Locke left office after serving two terms, but the virtual face of his administration, stored in the Digital Archives, will remain an accessible part of history.

The Digital Archives, touted as the first of its kind in the nation, is maintained by the Washington State Archives Division, part of the Secretary of State's Office.

"Salvaging Gov. Locke's Web site is an important step in the right direction," said Secretary of State Sam Reed. "We learn from those who have gone before us, and it is our responsibility to preserve our records for future generations."

Locke's Web site has survived in its entirety. The 1,235 Web pages -- Web pages containing valuable insight into his administration, including 1,605 press releases, 536 speeches and 162 media events -- are now available through the Digital Archives.

Historical Interest

Previously records-management systems were designed to accommodate paper records, but with the rapid onslaught of electronic records production and no means to effectively archive those records, vital information was being lost.

In addition, electronic records that were preserved were stored on media that has become inaccessible with modern technology, falling prey to the ever-evolving world of technological advancement. Left in the dust of obsolete legacy technology, digital records can become frustratingly unavailable.

As the first in the nation to attempt a statewide digital archiving system, devising a strategy for retaining and preserving electronic records became a challenge for Reed and his staff, who, after extensive research, came up with the proposal for a content management system proffering an efficient means to access digital records with an easy-to-use Web interface as well as a successful search method for finding those records.

On Oct. 4, 2004, Reed's proposal came to fruition at the 48,000 square-foot facility for Digital Archives located in the Belle Reeves Building on the campus of Eastern Washington University in Cheney.

Filling the Archives

The facility for digital archives provides a standardized central location for state archives, as well as a uniform means to store and access pertinent state records. Making this possible is a highly redundant storage area network (SAN) with the current storage capacity of 5 terabytes (approximately 20 billion sheets of paper) and the capability to conform to the latest technological advancements.

The SAN consists of a high-speed, redundant hardware/software solution from Cisco Systems and EMC. The front end contains a Web content application system utilizing hardware and software from Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, providing accessibility to indexed and searchable data via the Web.

Data stored on the network will not only be preserved in tape form, but electronic records also will be converted to open file format, such as XML (Extensible Markup Language), and automatically migrated to media compatible with the most recent digital methods for presentation.

Electronic records transferred to the facility's SAN include e-mail folders, directories, databases, documents and Web pages, said Adam Jansen, digital archivist for Washington's State Archives Division.

Remote agencies transfer files via file transfer protocol through an automated process using Microsoft BizTalk Server 2004. Files are sent to a specific location on a server based upon certain parameters such as who's sending them, what office they're sent from, what agency is sending them, and the type of records they are, Jansen said, and additional metadata is added to transferred files when they're received by the BizTalk Server.

"If it's a TIFF image of a photograph, we also create a more Web-friendly version, such as PDF or DjVu by LizardTech, so that we can present the information in a more universal format," said Jansen.

The benefit is that by converting files created by proprietary software, such as Word and Excel, to PDF format, users attempting to access them can do so without being required

Sherry Watkins  |  Contributing Writer