– Filing and archiving e-mail /33
being introduced. An ad hoc workgroup makes a draft design for the electronic
classification system and provides feedback to the users. The archivist serves in an
Since successful electronic records management stands or falls with a well-
organised classification system, it is important to allot the necessary time for this.
From a technical point of view, this is the easiest step in electronic records
management, but for records management in general, this is the most difficult step.
The creation of electronic series and files requires a change in the way most users
deal with electronic records and electronic documents in general. That being said,
experience also teaches that the planning stage may not drag on endlessly. The
ultimate test of the electronic classification system comes when it is put into
service. Only after placement into service, it will actually be clear whether the user
can find his way around easily when filing and looking up electronic records. This
can be monitored, for example, by keeping track of the growth in volume. If this
volume does not increase systematically, adjustments or adaptations will be
Monitoring the quality of the electronic classification system and making
adjustments is a continual process. In specific parts of the organisation, people are
appointed to be responsible for certain folders.
When the electronic classification system is placed into service, and the filing of e-
mails and attachments is first put into practice, it is best to allot the necessary time
to the training and instruction of the e-mail users. They continue working within the
familiar IT environment (MS Outlook and Windows Explorer), but they need to learn
the new functionalities of the Outlook customisations. As they are responsible for
the management of their files, learning the basic principles for setting up a good
filing system and for good file creation is just as important.
The training and instruction provided by the city of Antwerp consists of three parts.
In the first part the users learn which (electronic) documents are records and which
are not. The filing of (electronic) documents does, after all, require an effort on the
part of the employees, and this effort only needs to be done for documents that
belong in the electronic classification system. Next, the basic principles of
(electronic) filing are explained: How do you structure the classification system?
What is a functional classification? How do you structure series, dossiers and
folders? When are files closed or opened? During the third part of the instruction
programme, a deeper study is made of e-mail filing and working with the plug-in.
A training session usually lasts half a day. The instruction includes:
outlining the importance of archiving in general and of e-mail archiving in
particular: this is important for the motivation and the carefulness of the e-mail
teaching the basic principles of filing electronic documents: arrangement of
the classification structure, rubrication, assigning folder names and file names
distinguishing e-mails with record status from e-mails without record status:
Which e-mails are preserved? Which e-mails may be deleted immediately?
functionalities of the plug-in
filing of e-mails and attachments
assigning clear and semantic folder and file names
– Filing and archiving e-mail /34
using e-mail efficiently and composing e-mails that can be easily archived:
– efficient use of the e-mail system:
■ do not mail internal documents which are available on shared server
disks, but only send a link to those documents.
■ fill in the subject field meaningfully.
■ do not add attachments to an e-mail when their content can be included
in the message field.
■ do not reply between the lines in the message of the sender.
– do not send e-mails with an RTF body
; use plain text or HTML instead.
– structure the message by means of white space, and not by means of
layout. E-mails do not have a fixed appearance because this is dependent
on the client e-mail software used. Not everyone sees the layout.
– as identification data, insert a signature in the message field of the e-mail
– when using distribution lists: keep an up-to-date copy of the lists of
– keep the printing of e-mails to a minimum. Delete paper copies as much as
possible from the paper dossier.
In the folders, electronic documents are identified by a computer file name. The file
name indicates which record is saved in the computer file. When exporting e-mails
and attachments, one must be careful that the computer files are given unique file
names so existing documents will not be overwritten. Digital ArchiVing: guIdeline &
contains guidelines and recommendations for the assignment of
computer file names:
give the documents a clear and meaningful name. This prevents having to
open documents during searches
– indicate clearly for each document:
■ e- mail: sender/addressee, subject, date (YYYYMMDD)
■ attachments: kind of document, subject, date (YYYYMMDD)
– if possible include the status or the version number in the computer file
do not repeat folder names in the computer file name
co-ordinate computer file names and titles of documents with each other
take into consideration the writing of CD’s in conformity with the ISO-9660
– assign computer file names of maximum 30 characters
– do not use spaces but underscores or write words together as one word
– only use the characters: A-Z, 0-9, _
retain the original extension of the computer file format in which the document
Concurrent with the training and instruction sessions for the end users, the
customisations of MS Outlook are deployed and installed on the client PC’s. Ideally,
RTF-formatting is a specific feature of MS Outlook. The use of RTF might cause changes in
the look and feel of an e-mail as RTF is not always supported by other client programmes
than MS Outlook. From a technical and ‘filing’ perspective it’s also not advisable to use RTF
formatted bodies as MS Outlook does not exposes file handles for pasted images in RTF
– Filing and archiving e-mail /35
the users should be able to start working with the new instruments immediately
after the instruction session.
Although manual installation of the plug-in by the end user is a possibility,
automated installation possibilities were sought for the various parts of the
organisation of the city of Antwerp. This can be accomplished by means of an
automatic distribution tool or automatic installation via the login script.
4. ARCHIVING ELECTRONIC RECORDS
The archiving procedure includes: selection of the electronic records with archival
value, migration to preservation formats, encapsulation in AIP’s, transfer to the
repository, and making the information accessible.
4.1 Selection of the files with archival value
To keep the volume of electronic records manageble, the electronic classification
system needs to be cleaned out regularly. Organising all electronic records centrally
will entail a transfer of electronic documents from the e-mail system to the
classification filing system.
This selection process is based on the records schedules that are applicable for
both paper and electronic records. Usually it will be decided at the series or file
level which folders will be deleted or archived after the expiration of their
administrative retention period. The actual selection process can occur more or
less automatically when preservation periods and destinations are recorded as
metadata at the series and file level.
The electronic files without archival value can be deleted, subject to the necessary
approvals. This disposition is logged in an XML audit trail of this operation. The
electronic files with archival value are extracted from the active electronic
classification system. If needed, consultation copies can be left behind (for
example, for closed files that are still frequently consulted). These consultation
copies should be given the status ‘
’ and it’s recommended to avoid that they
are subject of modifications or alterations is best if it is no longer possible for them
to be edited. Extraction for archiving involves moving or copying the electronic
folders from the active classification system to a location where preparations are
made for transfer to the repository.
4.2 Archiving metadata
When the electronic files are taken away from the classification system, it is
important that the necessary contextual information is archived as well. The
electronic classification structure reflects the context within which series or files are
created. Just moving the selected folder is not sufficient for archiving the context as
well. The selected folder and names of the parent folders indicate the work process
in which the series and files were created and the context in which the files and
electronic records must be interpretable in the future.
The need for
Selection on the
basis of records
The need for
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– Filing and archiving e-mail /36
The explicit registration of this contextual information is not only an archival
necessity, but it is also a precautionary measure against possible disasters. Loss,
for example, as a consequence of transformations is always possible. The folder
structure is completely external in relation to the archived records, because they are
only preserved at the level of the file system. Except for the filed e-mails (with the
embedded metadata), the electronic records themselves do not contain references
to the folder structure. Since the electronic records can only retain their function as
a record by means of the folder structure, one must in one way or another provide
for the registration of the folder structure so it can be reconstructed if necessary.
At the latest, this contextual information must be registered at the time when series
and files with archival value are moved. There are various possibilities for this.
A first possibility for archiving the contextual information presented by the folder
structure and the location of the records within the folder structure in an explicit
way, is the creation of a metadata file, called dossierlists. These dossierlists are
composed in XML. In this XML document, a structured and explicit statement is
made as to how the electronic classification system and its contents was
constructed. An XML dossierlist provides a hierarchical overview of the series, files
and their records. The nesting of the XML elements reflects the structure and the
relationship among the various folders and subfolders. An example of an XML
dossierlist is available on the DAVID website
The compilation of such an XML dossierlist occurs completely automatically. A tool
developed specific for the city administration of Antwerp is used for this.
Another possibility, when electronic series or files are moved, is the replication of
the electronic classification structure from the root down to the level of the selected
folder. In that way, the branch of the tree structure of which the selected folder is a
part is reconstructed at the temporary location where the transfer to the repository
is prepared. In this way, names of functions, series and files are communicated.
For this operation, an extension to the Windows explorer was programmed (a Shell
Com extension). With this integration, a selected folder can be copied or moved,
including the selected parent folder names.
Illustration 11: Tool for moving / copying selected folders from the classification system,
including the parent foldernames reflecting the context.
– Filing and archiving e-mail /37
Other archived metadata are the file metadata preserved in the electronic
classification system. These metadata are saved in a hidden XML file and serve as
a basis for the description of files that are preserved in the metadata system of the
Options available when folders are moved from the electronic classification system
are an automatic up-dating of these file metadata (with their contents) or the
generation of metadata for any file for which they have not yet been generated.
4.3 Migration to preservation formats
In the electronic classification system, electronic records are saved in their native
application file format. These application file formats are seldom suitable as
preservation formats. There is therefore the danger of having a readability problem
later when the associated application software is no longer available. As a solution
for this digital permanence problem, the DAVID preservation strategy is applied
This strategy is based on migration to suitable preservation formats in combination
with the preservation of the records in their original application format. By doing so,
various migration and/or emulation options remain open in the future.
The Antwerp city archives uses XML as preservation file format for e-mails. The
selection of XML is justified by the all-round advantages of XML as a preservation
format for electronic records in general. XML is internationally accepted as the most
suitable preservation format for e-mails
. XML also fits perfectly within the general
electronic record-keeping strategy of the city archives, which is based on a minimal
IT infrastructure in the administration.
For the XML preservation of e-mails, the XML Schema is applied that has been
developed by Expertisecentrum DAVID
For the DAVID preservation strategy, see: F. B
, B. Preservation strategies, in: F.
, H. D
, Digital archiving: legal and archival issues, Antwerp-
Leuven, 2004. (http://www.expertisecentrumdavid.be/docs/digitalarchiving_manual.pdf)
XML is also designated by the NARA and Testbed Digitale Bewaring as the most suitable
archiving format for e-mails:
, Van digitale vluchtigheid naar digitaal houvast. Bewaren van e-mail, p. 36.
– Filing and archiving e-mail /38
Illustration 11: An e-mail preserved as XML-document conforming the eDAVID XML
Schema. The XML e-mail contains an explicit reference to the context ('email:reference')
and to the filed attachments ('email:attachments').
The migration of the e-mail messages saved as .msg files is done completely
automatically. A migration tool has been developed for this purpose. It converts all
e-mails to XML one by one. The XML representations of the e-mails get the same
file name in the same folder as the .msg files. Only the extension is changed (.xml).
This cooperated with MS Outlook for the migration process.
When the .msg files are migrated, the embedded transmission and contextual
metadata are retrieved and mapped to the corresponding XML elements. This
applies for the e-mail address of the sender, the name and the e-mail address of
the authorised delegate, the file names of the filed attachments, the classification or
registrating reference and the date and time of sending and receipt.
Ideally, the output of the migration process should be subjected to several quality
controls. A systematic and completely automated validation of the XML documents
based on the eDAVID XML Schema for e-mails, checks whether the document
model was applied correctly. In addition, it is also advisable to have several random
The e-mail attachments and the other electronic documents in the folder structure
are not archived as XML documents by definition. The nature of these electronic
documents can be diverse. For each type of electronic record a suitable
preservation format is used. In this way one also has an immediate solution for
electronic records that are not sent as e-mail attachments. It is preferable that the
Migration to XML
– Filing and archiving e-mail /39
preservation formats are official standards and not depending to a manufacturer or
an application. Important criteria are independence from the software application
used to create the documents, and publication of the specifications of the computer
file format. The use of compression should be avoided as much as possible. It is
best for electronic records to be preserved in a suitable preservation format from
the moment of their creation. This is not always possible, however, so some
migrations will always be needed. The standards that the Antwerp city archives
uses for this are established in Digital ArchiVing: guIdeline & aDvice, no. 4:
Standards for file formats
. The Antwerp city archives selected the following
archiving formats from this guideline:
ODT and TIFF
XML and TIFF, ODS
XML and TIFF
WAV (uncompressed PCM)
AAF or MXF
The migration of the electronic records with archival value occurs completely
automatically, as with e-mails. To accomplish this, the migration tool for e-mails has
been expanded with additional modules so other document types can also be
4.4 Encapsulation in AIP’s
Before the records are ingested in the digital repository of the Antwerp city archives,
they are first transformed into Archive Information Packages (AIP’s). AIP’s are the
information packages that are managed in the digital preservation system within the
OAIS reference model. The Antwerp city archives has adopted the AIP
implementation method of eDAVID
In the case of e-mails, this storage method means that the metadata, the message
file and the e-mail that is migrated to XML are encapsulated in one AIP. An
important metadata element included in the AIP is the location of the electronic
This guideline is an application of DAVID guIdelines & aDvice no. 4
Based on the OAIS reference model and on the encapsulation technique, eDAVID
developed a storage method in which the essential metadata and the various
representations of one record are packed in one AIP container. This container forms one
physical entity so the various components of the electronic record are inextricably
transferred in time. When essential metadata is present, the digital object immediately has
the status of record. These metadata accompany the representations of an electronic
record at all times. XML is used here as the encapsulation format. For more information
about this storage method: F. B
, Digital containers fot shipment into the future,
Antwerp, 2005 (http://www.edavid.be).
.msg and .xml
– Filing and archiving e-mail /40
record in the classification system and the name of the series or the file of which it
is a part. By encapsulating these data, the physical folder structure becomes
unnecessary, and it is sufficient to maintain one large collection of AIP’s.
The creation of AIP’s is also a completely automated process. Depending on the
distribution of the responsabilities, this operation can be carried out at the same
time as the migration, or one can postpone the encapsulation until a later time.
Depending on this choice, the encapsulation can be done by the creating agency or
by the archival service. Encapsulation in AIP containers is an optional functionality
of the migration tool developed by the Antwerp city archives.
4.5 Retrieval and dissemination
The last step in the preservation and archiving procedure is making the electronic
records retrievable and accessible. Making records public and accessible is a legal
obligation prescribed by the freedom of information acts
. Actually, this obligation
applies both for records in the custody of the creating agency and records that have
been moved to the digital repository.
For the retrieval of electronic records, various options or combinations of options
browsing the (virtual) folder structure
structured searches in the contextual metadata, possibly in combination with:
The selection of one certain option or even a combination of options depends
mainly on which aggregation level the electronic records must be retrievable.
Retrieval at case file or subject level is clearly the primary retrieval level. The
archivist can accomplish this in various ways: on the basis of XML dossierlists,
transferlists and/or on the basis of the case file metadata in which the content of a
folder is listed. This can be combined with the encapsulated metadata in the AIP’s.
On the basis of these contextual metadata, a virtual folder structure can be
reconstructed on ingestion in the repository.
In the future, the Antwerp city archives will compile an inventory in the form of an
XML Topic Map
for the retrieval of electronic case files and records, so users can
also find electronic documents in some way other than by means of the folder
structure. A Topic Map has the advantage that users can retrieve electronic
documents using all kinds of associations. The XML dossierlists or transferlists can
serve as a basis for the Topic Map(s). Descriptive metadata can supplement these
XML dossierlists so dossiers or folders can also be found on the basis of their
Structured and/or full-text searches in the transmission metadata and in the content
of the e-mails can be used for closer access. Once the appropriate series or case
file has been found, one can start searching in the records themselves on the basis
See also: Omzendbrief betreffende het inzage- en afschriftrecht van de leden van de
gemeenteraden, de politieraden, de provincieraden en de raden voor maatschappelijk
welzijn met betreking tot e-mailberichten en geïnformatiseerde stukken, 28 June 2002. (BS:
For more background information about XTM (XML Topic Maps), see: F. B
Topic Maps voor digitale archivering, Antwerp, 2002
Retrieval: a legal
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