BPS Supports Launch of NARA’s Presidential Libraries

On January 20, 2009 the presidential administration officially changed hands.  In the background, millions of presidential records from the Bush administration were being transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA): documents, email, photographs, and databases of all kinds.  The transfer was performed with little fanfare, because the NARA was ready for this huge onslaught of records, including many times the number of electronic records received from past administrations.

A year earlier, the chances of success did not look so good.  NARA was struggling with implementation of the baseline Electronic Records Archive (ERA), a large and complex system designed for the controlled transfer of records.  It would be perhaps another six months before the system was ready to transfer Federal records and could even begin the modifications needed to support the unique processes and formats associated with presidential records.  The January 20 deadline was clearly unachievable.

NARA engaged with Lockheed Martin to identify an alternate path to success.  Part of the solution would be a novel storage system with embedded search capabilities that would support the presidential library requirements.  That still left, however, development of a full-scale enterprise web application with record management and case management capabilities, which would have to be completed in parallel with (and in less time than) the baseline ERA system.  Working under Lockheed, BPS proposed and prototyped an alternative architecture that leveraged a content management system and an open source application framework to dramatically reduce development time, while providing users a high degree of functionality and flexibility.  The system also exploited XML as a common format to provide uniform access to a wide variety of records.

Working hand-in-hand with a small team of capable Lockheed staff and NARA representatives, initial demonstration capabilities were completed within four months, and production capabilities were achieved a few months later.  BPS staff flew to Texas to provide training to end users, and all was ready by the transition date.  The rest, as they say, is history…well preserved in the Bush 43 Presidential Library.

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