Archival Information System (ARHiNET)

Published on: 05/06/2009
Document

By launching ARHiNET, an archival information system that comprises all processes concerning the activities of archival institutions, the Croatian State Archives took up establishing an information and documentation system of the Croatian archival service. Its goal is to enable the standardisation and control of records in the unique data base and at the same time to rationalise and standardise business processes in Croatian archives.

Impact and benefits

ARHiNET is a network program solution installed on a central network operator, accessible via the Internet from anywhere. As far as the user is concerned, there are no special hardware or software requirements, which minimizes the costs of use and maintenance. As a difference to the majority of similar network systems, ARHiNET not only permits the search and retrieval of data through the Internet, but it also allows access to all program functions used for processing, describing and managing records. This is made possible by a system that administrates user rights and the access rights to particular data.

By the end of 2006 when the system become operational, all archives and a part of records creators and owners under the authority of the state archives were included in the implementation of this system, so that approximately 750 users from more than 150 institutions are now active within the system.

Realisation of this development project of archival service, enabled establishment of unique national integrated system of data exchange among the institutions that keep archival material as well as standardisation and increasing quality of provision and services in archives.  

Lessons learnt

            The implementation and the use of the information system based on defining, designing and implementation on the modular principle ensured for the users of the system to accept the work on a program solution with less difficulty, and the training for the work in the system is accelerated because the basic logic of the work for the users was introduced through the first basic modules that were implemented. Unique database simplifies implementation of standards and best practices.

 

Policy Context

Archival service in Croatia consists of state archives, other heritage institutions (libraries, museums, institutes, documentation centres and other institutions) in which archival material are kept, creators and owners of the archival records and archival service management. Through the state archives network, consisting of the Croatian State Archives (CSA) and 18 regional state archives, the archival service takes care of national archival heritage and ensures its protection and information integrity.

According to legal foundation, the mandate of the archive service as a whole is to collect, preserve and make available all public archival records created in Croatia, as well as those private records that are of public interest, and to support the use of archives. In order to support this all-comprehensive approach, archival institutions are given significant authority with respect to the current records and their creators and owners (inspection, approval of actions considering documentation, mandatory instructions, acquiring lists and description of records).

The CSA is responsible for the records created by central state bodies and public institutions and enterprises whose activity covers the whole or a greater part of the territory, or else, whose activity is of interest to the Republic of Croatia while regional state archives perform archival services with respect to records of regional and local state bodies, corporate bodies vested with public authority and public services. The tasks of the CSA as the central archival institution also include planning of archival activities, coordination of the professional work of the archives and managing archival records information-documentation service on national level.

The Government supports institutional strengthening of the national archive service and the program of the Government for 2008-2011 envisages establishment of new archival institutions in order to harmonize the archive network with the administrative structure of the country. E-Croatia strategy and programs facilitate and support development of electronic content and services in public administration and other public services like archival service, and implementing ARHiNET in all public administration bodies became part of E-Croatia operational plan from 2008. The Ministry of culture supports development of a national archive information system ARHiNET as a tool for improving and standardizing work in archival institutions and to promoting and facilitating wider accessibility and use of archival records. Work processes in archives in ARHiNET are defined in accordance to action plan on increased archival cooperation in Europe stated in Report on Archives in the enlarged European Union.

Freedom of information legislation and the Act on the right of the access to public information, establishing the right of citizens to access and use the information held by public authorities, is in force since 2003. Public authorities are obliged to keep a registry of the information they possess or control, and to enable the access if the information is not secret or classified, and public archival institutions, as a part of public administration, is very important in this process. As stated in Report on Archives in the enlarged European Union, they "provide an interested citizen with the means of checking on the effectiveness of administration, and administration with the means of displaying its achievements." If the goal is to ensure availability (for citizens) and transparency and accountability (for public administration), it is sure that "this has to be based on close co-operation and understanding between administrations and archive services." By proper processing, documenting and making available records in their possession to the public on-line through ARHiNET, archives and other public institutions significantly improved their capacity to fulfil what society expect from them.

 

Description of target users and groups

ARHiNET is open to all for archival institutions and other owners of archival material (museums, libraries, etc), as well as institutions, state authorities and enterprises that are creating archival records.

It is accessible via Internet from anywhere and open to the public so every citizen and institution can search and retrieve information about archival records and their owners and creators.

 

Description of the way to implement the initiative

ARHiNET Project task group consists of archival experts from CSA and the IT specialists from Avicena Software Company. The task group is responsible for the development and planning of further activities; IT specialists provide software development and technical support while CSA provides the professional framework. System administrators (CSA officers) are in charge of organizing and planning implementation and education of users. CSA and other state archives provide education for the records creators under their supervision. Workshops and seminars for old and new system users are regularly organized.

System development began in the second half of 2006 and the first version, containing converted data on archival holdings from various data bases was installed on the server of the CSA in October. Training provided for archivists to learn how to work with the new system was organized first in CSA and after that in regional archives and the sequence of operations was defined.

In October 2007 the online Register of archival fonds and collections of the Republic of Croatia, which is an integral part of the ARHiNET system, was opened to the public and an online access to the data on archival records kept in the archives, as well as other institutions which hold archival material was provided. The Register currently contains data on 14.000 fonds and collections, 50.000 other archival units (series, files and items), 14.000 creators and 6.000 records creators and owners, more than 4.000 finding aids and 3.000 bibliographical units on archival holdings, as well as digital copies of particular documents. Data are being entered and continually updated on the basis of the submissions by records creators and owners under the supervision of the state archives.

Within a period of one year (from October 2006, when the system was installed on the server of the CSA till October 2007, when it was made public) all state archives joined the project, which stimulated the creation of an information-documentation service dealing with archival records on national level. The introduction of ARHiNET for other public and private record owners in October 2007 marked the second phase in its realization and the continuation of activities regarding integration and exchange of data among institutions creating and keeping archival material. Around 750 employees from more than 150 various institutions are currently registered in the system.

Owing to the results achieved so far regarding development and implementation of ARHiNET, this project has gained active support by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, which accepted it as a national project. From 2008 ARHiNET is a part of the Operative plan concerning the implementation of the E-Croatia programme  in a way that all users included in the project contribute not only to the standardization and improvement of service quality in the archives but to a transparent work of government and public administration too.

 

Technology solution

The technical specifications of this information system include web application with MS SQL server 2008 as a base, the program language C#, Visual studio 2008 for application development, NET framework 3.5 and Web 2.0. Technologies used for making the application are: AJAX web, WPF and Silver Light. In application, where necessary and because of large quantity of data which needs to be edited and stored in database, asynchronous operation mode is used. Likewise, because of large number of users using the operating system and because of enhancing of performances and speed, View state function of storage has been implemented in database, so that the Internet transit could be minimised.

The advantage of such solution is the possibility to create the uniform base together with a uniform data protection system at minimal costs. Its main characteristics are availability, reliability, flexibility and exstensivity with general and specific defined functionalities. System is created on modular basis which enables the design and implementation of particular modules as separate projects and their continuous connecting in unique system.

Technology choice: Proprietary technology, Standards-based technology

Main results, benefits and impacts

ARHiNET program solution enables the inclusion of all records owners and creators in Croatia into a unique system of registering, processing and using of archival material, which represents a major turning point in the work of state archives and owners of archival records. For the records creators and the owners under the supervision of archives, ARHiNET facilitates listing of archival units in their possession, that is, to support the documentation management in records offices which are responsible for conducting it in consistence with the archival law and relevant regulations. The system also enables the processing of archival material simplify and automate data delivery to the competent archives. This contributes to the integration of the archival activity, standardization and unification of work of all segments of national archival service.

ARHiNET is a complete solution for the work of the archives since it not only processes  archival records but also supports all types of documentation on archival material, use and digitalization of archival records and other associated with the management of archival records. It enables the integration of data and services of the archives and offers the users full access to information on filed archival records and their owners and creators

Through ARHiNET archival service promote professional standards and best practices in managing archival material. It provides processing the records and on-line publishing of descriptive metadata, based on international standards for archival description, in all archival institutions. This system also facilitates standardization and harmonization of practices and improves the accessibility of records.

All archives, creators and owners under the authority of the state archives are included in the implementation of this system, so that approximately 750 users from more than 150 institutions are now actively working inside the system.

Track record of sharing

The ARHiNET system has great potentials to be implemented in archival institutions, as well as in others institution which create and keep archival material because it enables managing of records and provides earlier availability of data. It is already being used in all archives in Croatia and in over 120 other institutions (administrative, faculties, institutes, business companies, courts of law and other).

This project has gained active support by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia which accepted it as a national archival system, and by the Government which in 2008 included ARHiNET in its strategic plan concerning the implementation of the E-Croatia programme.

At the Microsoft Conference Windays 2008 held in Opatija in April ARHiNET was presented as one of the leading projects in the region.

 Archival community and state administration showed interest in development and implementation of ARHiNET, so at the time it become functional it was presented as good-practice at many conferences in Croatia and abroad (Slovenia, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro) and over 10 articles were published in archival periodicals and conference papers (Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and Romania). Lnks to online texts of three of those articles are attached to this submission. Pilot-projects of this system were adopted by the national archives of neighbouring countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro) and tested by the archives of the Republic of Slovenia. Contracts on using ARHiNET as a pilot-project in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro are also attached to the submission.

Lessons learnt

1. Considering previous experiences regarding the duration of projects, it was decided to start the system development in small steps, always considering the entirety of the information solution in its own complexity. That, practically, meant that the single solutions were defined in a relatively short period of time, and that they were presented and implemented after the testing phase. This strategy ensured a double benefit:

a. Implementation of new technologies and information systems is quite stressful for the users, especially, concerning the computer literacy and former business logic of work. By releasing single solutions into operative use, the users were faced with the use of the information system on the simple level and they managed to overcome the basic logic of the information system.

b. Regardless of its quality, realisation of a project like this depends on users who will work in a system. Listening to the reactions of the users, the task group was gaining, on a daily basis, useful suggestions and observations that were later on implemented into the system. In this way, an optimal interaction of employers, that is, users and of the task group resulted in significant improvements, simplifications and acceleration of the business processes defined in the system.

       2. The implementation and the use of the information system based on defining, designing and implementation on the modular principle ensured for the users of the system to accept the work on a program solution with less difficulty, and the training for the work in the system is accelerated because the basic logic of the work for the users was introduced through the first basic modules that were implemented.

3. Unique database simplifies implementation of standards and best practices, but operating with a large number of users and a considerable amount of data, handling a unique system for describing, processing and management of archival records, as well as developing and maintaining such a complex system implied constant efforts in improving the system, finding new functionalities and solutions to the problems which occurred.

Scope: National