Blockchain: checking and archiving the documents of The National Archives in complete security
Metadata (title, keywords, dates, etc.) are extracted from the original object and stored in a permissioned Ethereum blockchain platform.
The original object is categorized according to its format thanks DROID (Digital Record Object Identification) software, then run through a hash algorithm that is specific to its format. Hashing is a function that calculates a value that is used to rapidly identify an object.
The original object is stored in a secure archive, and its “hash” is stored in the blockchain platform with the metadata taken previously.
When it becomes necessary, the format of the original document is modified. It is then run through a new hash algorithm and the new hash is compared to the original hash stored in the blockchain platform. If they are identical, this means there weren’t any modifications to the object during the change of format.
In June 2018, The National Archives (TNA) in the United Kingdom launched a research project aiming to use blockchain technology to archive its documents and check their authenticity. Named Archangel, this project is being carried out by the University of Surrey in partnership with the Open Data Institute, thanks to funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). If these stakeholders have embarked upon this adventure, it is to solve the challenge posed by digital archiving, and to ensure that people will continue to trust the national archives. In effect, computer files are continually evolving and end up becoming obsolete. Floppy disks, whose use was widespread in the 1990s, no longer exist today. In order to conserve the archives, it is therefore necessary to change the format of the files, and the difficulty lies in ensuring that no accidental modifications take place during this changeover. Archangel therefore has three main objectives: to check the archived documents’ provenance and ensure their long-term integrity, to sustain the public’s trust in the public archive system, and to create a database that is updated in collaboration with other archive systems across the world. The University of Surrey has given itself 18 months to prototype a blockchain technology capable of achieving this.
A research project aiming to use blockchain technology to archive The National Archives’ documents and check their authenticity.