Workbook on Digital Private Papers > Introduction > Introduction to OAIS

Introduction to OAIS


What is the OAIS model and why should I use it?

ISO 14721:2003 defines an OAIS as:
"an archive, consisting of an organization of people and systems, that has accepted the responsibility to preserve information and make it available for a Designated Community."
"The information being maintained is deemed to need Long Term Preservation, even if the OAIS itself is not permanent. Long Term is long enough to be concerned with the impacts of changing technologies, including support for new media and data formats, or with a changing user community".

The Open Archival Information System, usually referred to as the OAIS model, is a reference model that has been widely accepted by the digital preservation community as a key standard for digital repositories. The OAIS model specifies how digital assets should be preserved for a community of users from the moment digital material is ingested into the digital storage area, through subsequent preservation strategies to the creation of a dissemination package for the end user. The OAIS reference model is a high-level reference model, which means it is flexible enough to use in a wide variety of environments. The down side of this flexibility is that in some areas, for example ingest, more detailed steps and workflows will have to be developed by the implementing institution. The OAIS model was adopted as an ISO standard in 2003 (ISO 14721:2003 OAIS).

OAIS: a common language for the information professionals

Although designed by space data curators, the OAIS model aims to be as context-neutral as possible. OAIS deliberately avoids jargon from both the IT and archival professions; this is very useful as it makes both groups speak the same language. Once acquired, the terms and language of the OAIS model enable the digital curator to communicate effectively with other national and international projects. The downside is that the jargon can deter those not yet immersed in 'OAIS speak' and act as a barrier to understanding and cooperation. The complexity of the OAIS reference model has led some practitioners to call for an 'OAIS lite' which would make the model more accessible to smaller and less well funded institutions.

Besides supplying a common framework and vocabulary, the OAIS model serves as a planning tool for designing new digital repositories and a benchmark for evaluating the capabilities of more established digital repositories.