April 15, 2011 -- The Model Technological and Social Architecture for the Preservation of State Government Digital Information Project, led by the Minnesota Historical Society and supported by the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, is a multi-year project working with legislatures in multiple states to explore methods to preserve and provide enhanced online access to legislative materials in digital form.
The project is exploring the issue from a variety of angles, and has regularly issued white papers on topics of importance. A recent batch of papers includes a comparison of legislative metadata across different governments; a document that describes best practices for opening up government information; an evaluation of web archiving methods; and the final report from the eXist pilot project to explore proof-of-concept applications for preservation
The project’s XML Schema Working Group (external link) developed a core set of metadata elements that could be used to describe legislative data sets across different government entities. The "Legislative Metadata Comparison" (external link) document describes both the Minnesota legislative metadata set and additional metadata utilized by project partner the Sunlight Foundation (external link) for legislative bills, and then compares the two, noting the similarities and differences.
The second recent paper describes the issues many government agencies are facing as they attempt to become more transparent and accountable. The "Best Practice Principles for Opening Up Government Information" (external link) document (PDF) expands on a list of principles produced by open government advocates including the Sunlight Foundation and provides a lens to evaluate the extent to which government data is open and accessible to the public.
Increasingly, official government records are now being made accessible online, and archivists and librarians are exploring the possibilities of using web archiving technologies to make these records available for long-term access. The "Web Archiving White Paper" (external link) provides a general background of web archiving and introduces some of the topics that archivists and librarians should familiarize themselves with before creating a web archive or working with a web archiving service.
The final recent project white paper is the "eXist Pilot Project Final Report" (external link). Charged to develop a system that could provide enhanced access to legislative information, the project worked with the IT system design and software development company Syntactica to select an appropriate architecture. The project selected the architecturally significant requirements and ranked four different system architectures, with the highest ranking being a native-XML database. Syntactica then developed proof-of-concept applications using eXist, an open-source XML native database.
The Minnesota work runs through the end of 2011, and while they have already released a tremendous amount of guidance, there’s still more to come, including the report on a digital archiving pilot project.
The publication of these white papers should help other state governments as they explore their own responsibilities for preserving and providing enhanced access to digital legislative data, either now or in the near future.