Archives and SharePoint

Is SharePoint (or other flexible cloud-based ERMS software) suitable for digital repositories of archives?

I was looking into some digital repository options where the organisation was looking into using SharePoint as their ERMS. My professional curiosity was piqued. Could it be a digital repository as well?

I asked the archive community.

“Hell no!” was the resounding answer from many archivists and many more showed quite a lot of interest in the responses I received.

I’ve shared them with the archivists and thought I could share it here as well.

The pros and cons of using SharePoint as a digital repository

Pros Cons
Can lock documents against editing Will not serve long-term needs of accessibility or use of records
Tells you when documents were last accessed and by whom Will not support migration requirements of archival records
Similarly, it is highly customisable which complicated platform migration
Will not guarantee integrity of archival records during software updates
Likewise, will not give the metadata required
Does not conform to OAIS model and is hard to manipulate it to do so (Open Archival Information System)
Is not separate server or repository solely for archival records – archival and live are in the same ‘place’
Archive preservation practices are not standard in SP and asking them to do all of the above will be really expensive
There have also been lots of responses that it’s not great or intuitive as an ERMS either

If you have SharePoint as ERMS, the main recommendation is to export those archival documents out of it and into a separate server using an OAIS compliant processes.

Presevica is a company that has been recommended for true digital archiving but there are also some organisations testing out Cloud storage.

Archivematica has also been offered as a free open-source software that processes digital records in an OAIS compliant model.

Many thanks to Peter Bode (Brighton and Hove City Council), Ed Pinset (University of London Computer Centre), Rachael MacGregor (Lancaster University), Clare Cowling (University of London), Sonia Mullett (ITN Source), Anna Sobczak, Shadrack Katuu (International Atomic Energy Agency), Elizabeth Charlton, David Underdown (TNA), William Kilbride (DPC), Jenny Mitcham (University of York).

Really helpful links shared by very kind people are:

From Ed Pinset

From Rachael MacGregor

From Elizabeth Charlton;

From Shadrack Katuu;

Alternatives: Open Source archival repositories

An enormous thanks to Shadrack Katuu and Jenny Mitcham for taking the time to share their expertise and resources.

Archivematica (with AtoM)

Archivematica “processes files for digital preservation and delivery through an OAIS compliant model.”

Pros Cons
Specifically designed for digital preservation of archival records in institutions with little to no resources Doesn’t tell you who last accessed records on AtoM – this can be done through wider management work flow
Free Does not come with storage for archival records – this will have to be provided for by the College
Open source – easy to customise and regularly upgraded Needs specific version of Linux to run
Designed with consultation with archivists
OAIS compliant
Comes with AtoM which is a long-term delivery system for digital objects so you can view them without compromising them
Lots of support – Very helpful wiki, documentation and user forum
Handles wide variety of formats

Archivist’s toolkit

There’s lots of research and advice out there and it’s important to remember that this is a relatively new area of study so please do ask questions of the experts.


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