Records Management at National Archives of the United Arab Emirates

National Archives and IT Technologies

Records management is a vital function for any organization due to the role of data in decision-making. Management of records is tasked to the archives department that runs a given type of records management system. The system includes both digital and hard copy records. The primary function of an archive system is to capture, store, protect, and retrieve records as true version of the saved copies. The processes and functions of records management system can be improved through the adoption of globally accepted standards. The current paper studies the relevance of applying international standards in records management at National Archives of the United Arab Emirates. The standards accessed relate to designs of records management systems and archives management. The studies establish a strong relationship between the implementation of international standards and the ratings of the archive. The National Archives is the best and the sixth in the Middle East and world respectively in adoption of technologies.

Data is an important tool for decision-making as it provides useful backgrounds. As a result, its capture, storage, and retrieval remains an important function for organizations all over the world. To project how to move forward, entities must understand where they have been. Further, all major and minor occurrences must be taken into account. In recent times, such cross-sectional analysis has resulted in a profound data analytics. A simple component must be considered in its relevant system since nothing works in isolation. Thus, successful organizations invest in data management to improve its capture, storage, and retrieval in the records management section. Technology and international standards are critical governing factors in records management. This paper evaluates the application of international standards in records management at the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates.

The study is relevant in providing the significance of applications of international standards in records management. The organization of the study was chosen since it is a specialized entity in records management. Thus, it provides richer information than departmental entities in other organizations. This study relies on information from secondary sources. The sources were verified as factual before being used in the study. The study has five sections. Section 1, the introduction, presents general insights about the study. It also gives the methodology and overall importance of the study. Section 2 introduces the details of the company under discussion. This part is descriptive in nature and gives basic characteristics of the organization. Section 3 outlines and explains five international standards used in records management. Section 4 discusses three applications of three standards used by the company. Finally, section 5, which is the conclusion, provides the summary of outcome of the project. Further, it highlights the possible benefits or relevance of applying the standards to the organization and lessons learnt from this project.

Overview of the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates

The National Archives of the United Arab Emirates was established in 1968. At its inception, it was known as the National Center for Documentation and Research. The institution exists as a single entity with no branches and is located at Abu Dhabi Hotel in Abu Dhabi. The primary function of the organization is to collect information on history, politics, and culture of the Gulf area and Arabian Peninsula. Similarly, it also translates data into various languages. As a government entity, the National Archives falls under the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. The archive contains the best record management systems in the Middle East. Globally, it is the sixth best in the adoption of records management technologies. Today, the archive with a staff of only 500 employees has documented and stored more than 1,000 historical books and 373,000 pages of manuscripts (National Archives, 2016).

The body under study comprises four departments that include maintenance services, organizational and social outreach, information services, and archives departments. The archives department houses the archives team which is tasked with coordinating the primary functions of the national body. Records are collected in the form of documents, books, photographs, and manuscripts. The materials are archived, classified, and preserved according to international standards. The archives department has about 200 employees and is led by Gabrielle BouRached Assaf. The archiving is done under government archives, historical archive, historical periods and oral history. The department also archives government websites, emails, and social media accounts. These documents are stored in the UAE cloud system. The National Archives uses the Web Crawling Technology to retrieve archived documents. Whereas, the software used at National Archives is not explicitly discussed, the archive under the support services department has an information technology section. The section maintains hardware and software systems as well as advises the organization on information and communication technologies (National Archives, 2016).

International Standards Applied in Archiving and Records Management

There are various standards that introduce best practice measures that can be applied in archiving and records management. The standards also address procedures and requirement of records management.

The following are some of the major standards in records management:

  • ISO 15489–1:2001 International Standard for Records Management (RM).
  • ISO 30300:2011 Information and Documentation Management Systems for Records
  • ISO/TR 15801:2009 Document Management – Information Stored Electronically
  • ISO 14721:2003 Space Data and Information Transfer Systems
  • ISO 8601:2004 Information Technology — Security Techniques

ISO 15489–1:2001 International Standard for Records Management (RM)

The ISO 15489–1:2001 is known as the International Standard for Records Management. The standard governs technical schema for the design and methods of implementing record keeping systems. The ISO standard is an international standard governing more than 154 countries. Thus, the standard has a global appeal. It provides a basic foundation for records management. It defines concepts and principles used in the development, capture, and management of records. As such, a good records management system must capture the records and their characteristics. The latter are known as metadata and include the date, origin, creator, and category of the record. Similarly, the standard also provides policy guidelines for training and monitoring effective records management. It also guides the processes of development, capture, and maintenance of records.

Consequently, the standard also provides a basic guideline for designing a good records management system. This is through an outline of an effective records management system. It thus establishes universality in the system. As such, records are accessible to users from various parts of the world. Subsequently, it provides internal best practice requirements that should govern operations of records management. Thus, a records management system is built with minimum requirements for data processing. This is vital in effective supervision and efficient retrieval of records. Within the procedures, the insertion of metadata enables indexing where records can be sorted by data, author, title, or date of creation. Thus, the output justifies the input processes of the system. The ISO 15489–1:2001 is beneficial as it provides background for building a good records management system (Smallwood, 2013).

ISO 30300:2011 Information and Documentation – Management Systems for Records

The ISO 30300:2011is also known as Information and Documentation Management Systems for Records standard. It is an international standard with global coverage. As such, it is respected by virtually every nation on earth. The standard is specifically designed for the managers in an organization with a records management section. Intrinsically, the scope does not include handlers of the records management system. The standard exists in two models, namely (1) Fundamental and Vocabulary and (2) Requirements. The standard generally calls for the creation and management of records in line with mission and vision of an organization. The Fundamental and Vocabulary model explains the importance of a records management system and procedures for successful implementation. The model also includes definitions of terminologies that allow the created system to be compatible with other record management systems. The Requirements model advices managers on the necessities for the development of a records management policy. The model outlines objectives, resource estimates, and benchmarks for developing a system.

The standard is important since it targets the decision-making unit of an organization. The first model enlightens the management of an organization on the relevance of records management.

The impact created by this standard reveals whether a system is accepted, improved, or rejected. Further, it shapes the management’s thinking into building a system that is universally compatible with other record management systems. The second model provides the objectives of an effective records management policy. It is worth noting that policy documents carry implementation and recommendations for any project in an entity. Further, by breaking down the processes, the top management achieves a common worldview of the fine details of the system. Finally, managers are enlightened on the need to streamline records management to the vision and mission of the organization. As such, the standard helps managers to drive the process. The standard counters the bottom-up approach where employees from the records department seek to further the agenda of a sustainable records management (Smallwood, 2013).

ISO/TR 15801:2009 Document Management – Information Stored Electronically – Recommendations for Trustworthiness and Reliability

The ISO/TR15801:2009 is known as Document Management Standard. The standard governs the electronic storage of information in a trustworthy and reliable manner. According to the standard, records must be reliable, original, and readable. The standard verifies the output as retrieved by a user as a true reflection of the original in the records management system. However, this should not be construed that the document itself is original. In other words, the standard does not verify the source or author of the document. As such, the standard comes with measures, expertise and appraisal requirements for the delivery of the desired output. The processes and procedures ensure that the integrity of the electric system is not compromised.

The standard assists in building a reliable records management system. It boosts the user confidence that information retrieved from the system will be reliable. Records management systems built in this era adopt information and communication technologies. Hard copy data must be digitized and then stored with other digital data. Thus, the records require hardware and software to build a management system. Originality and trustworthiness of a system justify the initial investments. The retrieval of the correct document without any alteration indicates that the company obtained the value of its money. Further, it boosts the confidence of users in subsequent retrievals from the system. For instance, if a user retrieves a wrong document using reliable words from a search engine because the system is corrupted, he will switch to another search engine. That search reduces confidence in the search engine. Thus, the standard ensures a critical function of authenticating the output as a true and original copy of the saved version (Smallwood, 2013).

ISO 14721:2003 Space Data and Information Transfer Systems

The ISO 14721:2003 represents the Space Data and Information Transfer Systems Standard. The standard guides long-term preservation of data. In practice, it combines all forms of softcopy and hardcopy data. The standard ensures that the data is protected from changes in hardware and software development. Changes in hardware and software can alter the components and characteristics of records. Thus, the standard ensures that any records management system has a strategy to handle technology obsoleteness. The model assesses all details in records management such as archival storage, absorption, access, and distribution. To prevent interference of records, the standard provides a framework for moving data through new media and formats. It breaks down data protection by stipulating the role of software in data preservation. At the same time, the standard outlines internal and external outlooks for archiving purposes. As the best practice, the ISO standard presents the open archival information system (OAIS) for records management. OAIS defines the minimum requirements for a sustainable records management system.

The standard has international coverage since it is developed by the International Organization for Standardization.

The ISO 14721:2003 is important because it foresees a problem that can disrupt records management. Technological advancements are inevitable. Hardware and software systems must be constantly improved for better efficiency. Similarly, the improvements address vulnerabilities in the system. An example is security concerns. Systems are often breached with time. Therefore, advancement in technology is a noble thing. However, the changes should not disrupt record management. The standard makes new technologies compatible with older ones. This advantage guarantees a smooth transition as systems maintain the primary functions of record management (Smallwood, 2013).

ISO/IEC 27002: 2005 Information Technology — Security Techniques

ISO/IEC 27002: 2005 is an international standard with a global acceptance. It is read as Information Technology — Security Techniques. The standard describes the practice code for archives security. As such, the standard provides guidance to the common information security measures. It also provides procedures for developing the policy of information management security. Further, it advises on systems procurement, repairs, and compliance. In addition, there are risk assessments schedules within the control procedures. The primary function of the standard is to safeguard records and promote inter-organization data sharing. Consequently, there are also procedures for handling human resources as well as physical and environmental issues in relation to information security. The epitome of the standard is how security would be handled in the event of a breach. The incident management techniques ensure the system suffers limited damage. Thus, records are safeguarded in the event or lack of a system breach.

The security of a record management system is important both from within and outside. The standard provides insightful tips for securing the data and investments on the records management system. Data protection maintains its reliability and trustworthiness which gives the system relevance. Further, building a system takes a lot of resources in terms of labor and manpower. Thus, overnight security interferences should not erode the long-term investments. The standard stimulates the need for building a secure information management system. At the same time, the standard is important for developing data protection procedures to shield records in the event of a breach. In this regard, the system can protect the majority of its records. The safety of records is an important function in record management (Smallwood, 2013).

International Standards Employed by National Archives

The National Archive of the United Arab Emirates implements various international standards. The institution collected records from the Arab environment at the same time serving the interests of various researchers all over the world.

Some of the standards implemented in the Archives include:

International Standard for Describing Institutions with Archival Holdings (2008)

The Archival Holdings Standard is a global standard developed by the International Council of Archives. It outlines procedures for describing archives in an organization. Thus, it identifies contacts and documents from entities within archives. In the process, it correspondingly establishes links within the authorities of these organizations after a network of archives is built at regional and international levels. In the end, the standard builds a handbook of archives with homogeneous routines in archive management. The information gathered in the process is shared with the public. The facts required by the standards include the types of documents held and the creators. It defines an archival system as the creation, analysis, and organization of records. As such, the system must have a name, statement of purpose, rules, and data constraints. Further, the archiving body must have an area of operation, physical contacts, the ways how records can be accessed and technical services offered by the organization. The country of origin must be attached to the name of the institution with an archive system (International Council on Archives, 2008).

There can be descriptions in different languages. As a result, different nationalities can be exposed to the operations of an archiving entity. At the same time, it includes the description of other names used or had been used by the institution. This standard is important in providing the key characteristics of an archive and archived records. Finally, the information is hosted at a central place; thus, general enquires lead to specific details of the archive system. The hosting of archive system on an international platform gives a body global exposure. The descriptive details are also similar enabling the comparison from a central point.

International Standard Archival Authority Record – Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families (2004)

The universal standard on authority of archives was developed by the International Council on Archives. It guides the citation of bodies creating and maintaining archival records. The archival authority records are used to describe corporate bodies and people possessing archive description systems. Apart from the description function, the standard also controls the management of access points of archive description systems. Further, the relationship between the creators and the system is also established. The above functions are applicable to digital and physical archives. The rationale of the standard is the contextual variance within the archiving sphere. For instance, there is the description of records architects and the description of the records that may exist in more than one archive system as well as the description of other places where the records are available. For example, a common subject of law has books with the same author in the library system. These books can exist independently in different campuses under different codes like commercial law in a business school or law school (International Council on Archives, 2004).

Moreover, the standard has a universal appeal. It is important in acknowledging the possibilities of various versions of the same document. Thus, the records of the creators of the document and related links to archives enable users to determine the specific record of interest. The standard is a cost-saving measure since search is enabled through a central point. As a result, there are no trial and error techniques in finding a document. Similarly, the authority managing an archive system is also shared with the public. Thus, the managers and type of an archive system are known.

International Standard for Describing Functions (2007)

International Council on Archives also developed this standard. This is a transnational standard governing various countries in the world. It describes functions for entities with archives. These functions include activities and transactions in the archiving process. The rationale behind the formulation of the standard is that functions are more stable than administrative archiving processes. Thus, the functions of an archive include arranging, classifying, appraising, describing, and retrieving records. The descriptions help secure the intent of records creation and use. Thus, an organization realizes its mandate through the roles of archived materials in its system. Alternatively, the functions are depicted as units within the archives management system. In other words, the system is built on these functions. Conversely, the functions secure creation and usage of access points in the system. This influences information sharing between the functions. As such, various data formats are outlined for effective transfer of records. Ideally, the primary function of a corporate body is reflected in the record management system, a phenomenon that must remain constant (International Council on Archives, 2007).

The Standard for Describing Functions establishes that the functions of an archive system remain constant in an organization. This is unlike administrative and logistic functions. For instance, the National Archive has over the years been placed under different ministries such as Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Cultural Foundation. At the same time, the name evolved from National Center for Documentation and Research (NCDR) to Center for Documentation & Research (CDR) and eventually the National Archives. However, archiving functions have remained the same since the institution inception in 1968. Equally, the transfers to different government organs did not disorient the functions of the archiving system. Thus, this stability indicates that the National Archives has a good records management system (National Archives, 2016).


The project outlines various important elements of applying standards to the operations of an archiving system. The International Standard for Records Management develops a layout and methods of implementing procedures. Consequently, the Information and Documentation – Management Systems for Records standard raises awareness on the role of managers in the implementation of a record management system. On the other hand, the Document Management standard ensures that archived records are reliable and trustworthy. The long-term management of the archived materials is guided by the Space Data and Information Transfer Systems. On the other hand, the Security Standard improves the protection of records in a management system. The standards already adopted by the National Archives describes the functions of an archiving body and system. Moreover, they document the sources of records in archiving systems. The application of the standards develops the global image of the National Archives. As a result, the archive is currently the best in the Middle East. Additionally, based on the standards, the National Archive has streamlined its functions to international expectations. Finally, through the linkages provided by the standards, the archives open up unique documents about the Middle East to the world. As a result, it provides numerous academic, economic, cultural, and social benefits to the country.

This project has provided an insightful lesson. The key elements are: the design of an archive system, security measures for records, role of management in archiving, need for reliability and trustworthiness in the output of records, and the relevance of documenting archive systems and records in accordance to international standards. Thus, the project has improved my understanding of records management systems.