ARCHANGEL Project – Trusted Digital Archives


Many people consider archives to be
about the past. In reality they’re about the future. Archives our lenses through
which future generations will see the events of today. Therefore it’s essential
that archives are trustworthy. There must be authentic and unchanged accounts and be able to prove this in a transparent way. As archives become increasingly
digital there are great challenges with keeping records secure for the future. Whilst people often consider digital
records safer than hard copies, digital data is much more fragile and at risk as digital formats constantly change and need updating as technology advances. There’s a risk that files may be accidentally corrupted and become unusable. Archangel is a collaboration between the UK’s National Archives, open
data Institute, and the University of Surrey. The project combines two new
technologies blockchain and artificial intelligence to safeguard archival data in the digital age. Blockchain powers bitcoin a digital currency used by
millions online. But blockchain has other uses. Archangel proposes blockchain as a
way of safeguarding data against tampering and restoring trust in the
digital record. In medieval times pages of court records were stitched together into a patchwork. An obvious hole would be left if anyone removed a page. Today,
blockchain uses a similar idea to stitch together blocks of data to detect
tampering. Blockchain works as a database that multiple parties maintain. Everyone can check and add to it but no one can change it. As no data can be modified the
integrity of the historical record remains intact. In a pioneering move
Archangel are combining blockchain technology with neural networks to
fingerprint documents. Fingerprints are immutably stored in the blockchain and when the document is released the fingerprint can be verified. it will stay
the same no matter what format changes occur to the file over time. Blockchain relies on multiple independent organizations to maintain its network. Archangel has been deployed for initial trial across the National Archives of
the UK, Australia, Norway, and Estonia. Each archive mutually underwrites the archive of the other. Archives across the globe helped ensure the integrity of other’s
archival data without having to share information. Archangel is ensuring an
accurate past for a better future through digital archives that are
incorruptible. Using this technology archives around the world will be able
to protect each other checking for accidental and deliberate
corruption of data. Archangel will ensure that archives can be trusted forever not just for study and reference but for matters are serious as legal cases official investigations and for holding organisations and governments
accountable.

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