To mark World Digital Preservation Day, we are delighted to announce the release of ePADD Version 9.0. This new release is the work of ePADD+ (otherwise known as Integrating Preservation Functionality into ePADD), a collaborative project between the University of Manchester, Harvard University and Stanford University that aims to enhance the capacity of archives and libraries to acquire, process, preserve, and make available email archive collections by integrating new preservation functionality into Stanford University’s open-source email archiving software program, ePADD. The project began in early 2021, funded generously by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered through the University of Illinois’ Email Archives: Building Capacity and Community (EA:BCC) grant program.
Several email archiving tools have emerged since the beginning of the century. Many have been developed commercially, while others have been created within institutions for their own purposes. Finding a single tool, however, that stewards an email archive through the records lifecycle of acquisition, appraisal, preservation and access is a challenge. Some may focus on only one or two stages of the lifecycle, and for that reason more than one tool may be required. Not all tools are open source, which creates further complications as it may be difficult for one tool to interact with another. The Future of Email Archives, published in 2018 by the US-based Council of Library and Information Resources (CLIR), recommended better alignment and integration of these tools, as closer integration would simplify workflows for archivists.
ePADD, which Stanford has been developing since 2010, already provided tools for the appraisal, processing and accessibility of email archives. Its new preservation features bring us closer to achieving those qualities we expect of all records: authenticity, accessibility, usability and integrity. The new features give archivists the ability to:
- capture complete header information (not just ‘To’, ‘From’, ‘Subject’, ‘Date’) and message formatting;
- import all attachments;
- create and assemble a richer set of preservation metadata, both automatically (e.g. PREMIS ‘events’: actions that modify a digital object) and manually (e.g. standard collection metadata and EAD);
- store metadata in a single place using the PREMIS XML Schema;
- export the email archive in its unmodified form of email as originally received by ePADD as well as the appraised or processed version for deposit in a digital repository.
For this release, our developers also introduced other new features, such as the ability to browse all email messages in a collection, and resolved various long-standing bugs and issues. An earlier version of this release was put through its paces by an experienced group of archivists based in Europe and the US who volunteered as testers and they helped us further improve and refine this latest version of ePADD. The project also benefited greatly from the contributions of attendees at the DCDC, Society of America Archivists and iPRES conferences this summer.
The work of the ePADD+ project complements the work of Palladium, a related project that began at the Rylands in February 2021 and which concluded earlier this year. For Palladium, which stands for Providing Access to Large Literary Archives in a Digital Medium, we explored the difficulties of appraising and managing a substantial email archive – the Carcanet Press email archive – as well as the considerable research potential. Please see our other blogs on this project:
Archivists and records managers agree on the historical, legal and administrative value of emails as records. Despite the recent emergence and widespread use of other means of communication, such as WhatsApp or MS Teams, email remains the dominant, most prevalent form of workplace communication (perhaps too prevalent for some). Three decades into the twenty-first century it remains critical to the functioning of government, academia and business, as well as still being very present in our own personal and professional lives. ePADD+ and Palladium are part of a continuing engagement with email archives and digital records more generally, and a contribution to the development of tools and methods that can be used by all archives and libraries.
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