Over the past five years, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania have worked diligently to address the challenges posed by electronic mail. Each state has worked with a variety of groups to establish best practices and to develop guidelines. Additionally, they have reached out to different constituencies to reinforce the need for ongoing efforts to manage and preserve electronic mail. However, they have used different software clients to manage e-mail in the absence of a federally compliant DoD/NARA 5015.2 system.
In 2004-2005, an NHPRC fellowship awarded to Druscilla Simpson of the North Carolina State Archives provided the genesis for an electronic mail preservation solution. Fellowship funds were used to develop a software application to capture electronic mail and transform it from its native format into an XML "preservation copy," and to push the XML out to HTML for access and viewing purposes. The software is built on hMailServer, an open-source, free software registered on SourceForge. It supports open e-mail standards POP3, SMTP, and IMAP4 and supports both MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server.
The North Carolina State Archives, the Kentucky Department of Library and Archives, and the Pennsylvania State Archives are working in collaboration to test the e-mail preservation software in real time on a larger scale. For this grant, we will work with identified high level offices that produce archival correspondence and have high public interest within each participating state e.g. a constitutional office such as the Governor or the Secretary of State within each state. Additionally, we will conduct a select number of test cases within our own departments. This partnership involves working with content producers, information technology support staff, records analysts, and employees in the agencies.
There are five main goals of the project:
- Continue the development of the e-mail collection and preservation (EMCAP) tool to convert e-mail from its native format into the more stable XML format and complete written documentation for the program.
- Test the tool to determine its scalability, efficiency, and employee compliance, using records retention schedules.
- Produce different types of training methodologies, including web-based training, implementing work under development by Pennsylvania.
- Test ways of providing access to these XML files and the feasibility of doing so, whether through existing online catalogs, a third party vendor, or web interfaces.
- Extract and save attachments in their original, as received, format as a native stand-alone file, which will be wrapped in XML. The association between message and attachment will be kept and will allow navigation from message to attachment back to message.