An Olympic Legacy: managing digital records at Transport for London
Company: Transport for London (TfL)
Impact: Evidence & management information; Innovation
Sponsor: Tamara Thornhill (Corporate Archivist)
Timescale: 2013-2017 (planning and implementation); 2018-2019 (business as usual: processes and procedures)
In October 2012, Corporate Archives took custody of the transportation records from the London 2012 Olympic Games. 70% of this new collection consists of digital files. TfL did not have a system that could accommodate the size of digital records. TfL needed a digital preservation system to manage and store electronic records long-term, including:
- bulk uploads of records (ingests)
- access to and preservation of multiple file formats
- maintaining evidential value in a secure environment including retaining essential file properties or metadata
TfL’s Corporate Archivist consulted internal departments and external organisations about possible solutions. A specification was developed – the best option for TfL’s needs was to purchase specialist software that could offer a Cloud-based digital preservation system.
In 2015, TfL partnered with Preservica, digital archive software provider, because it:
- provides the tools and flexibility TfL requires in a long-term digital preservation system
- conforms to international digital archive standards (ISO 14721:2012)
- is accepted by the UK Government’s Digital Marketplace as an approved supplier of cloud technology.
TfL transferred nearly 3 terabytes of digital content by ingesting records into Preservica’s system. A plan was developed to digitise essential paper records.
By 2018, the digital preservation system was operational. The TfL archive team finalised the processes and procedures for ongoing digital preservation.
Business archives used by the team
- London 2012 Olympic Games transportation records. These have since been requested and used by other cities and transport organisations.
- Secretariat division records including board minutes and papers and other high-level corporate files. These exist as both paper and digital copies. TfL’s archive team were able to use them to test Preservica’s systems without fear of damaging or losing a collection. The new system was demonstrated to TfL employees and trust was built.
Outcomes and business benefit
- Long-term preservation and access to essential company records
- Improved ability to search and access digital records has uncovered a wealth of new information for research
- Increased internal awareness and understanding of digital preservation
- Preservica partnership enabled TfL to promote its work to new audiences in computer technology sector including via Computer Weekly
- The online exhibition feature and publicity have positive boost to public perception of TfL’s value and reputation
- Helped TfL adapt quicker to challenges faced during COVID-19 pandemic and the increased demand for remote yet secure access to digital records
- Capture and take regular backups of digital records, with or without a system.
- A solution for one company does not fit all situations.
- Ensure effective communication across all stakeholders including IT, system managers and users.
- Avoid a strict project timeline: Plans needs to be flexible and scalable. Balance budgets against the amount of storage space and degree of access required.
- Systems need to be able to undertake actions in isolation and in bulk across multiple records.
- Digital records are a relatively new development. Understand that there are many unknowns when it comes to digital archives preservation and approaches are therefore ever changing. Be open to changing track. This can be in line with trial and error, new learning and developments in the digital field.
- Press release (2016) https://preservica.com/resources/press-releases/transport-for-london-tfl-extends-its-use-of-the-cloud-with-new-digital-preservation-platform
- “Tales from the Archive” Podcast (2019) https://preservica.com/blog/tales-from-the-archive-transport-for-london-episode-1
- Other articles