IAN focuses on the world of archives: In the State of Israel there are many hundreds of archives that are of clear public, historical, and national interest, and that contain unique materials describing the history of the State of Israel, its establishment and the organizations and individuals active therein.
The archives vary in size, organization and physical condition. Although there are international standards for arranging and describing archival material, the manner in which the various archives in Israel are managed is not uniform.
Only a small number of archives manage their archived material according to updated standards. Moreover, most archives today are not accessible over the Internet, and the only way to access materials is by an actual visit, which is not always possible. IAN is concerned with intangible materials, with the goal of making archival material accessible via the Internet for the benefit of the public at large.
The IAN Project brings together the National Library of Israel and the State Archives, under the auspices of the Prime Minister's Office, in order to create an infrastructure and unified standards to ensure that the unique material preserved by the various heritage archives in the State of Israel will be properly preserved and broadly accessible to the Israeli public at large in a convenient and uniform format in the near future and for generations to come. Based on an understanding that this is a gradual process, and in light of the obvious practical limitations, a mere few dozen archives were selected by IAN Project. These archives are undergoing digitization and cataloguing according to the ISAD(G) standard, the most current international standard for archives.
The significance of the IAN Project is multi-dimensional. First, it takes material that in the past was difficult and even impossible to access, and makes it accessible to the public in a convenient format. The IAN Project will make it possible for any person to search the archives incorporated in a network created exclusively for this purpose. The search will gather results in a single query response from all of the archives in the project. In addition, implementation of the project will ensure long-term preservation of the digital materials stored in it. Preservation is an urgent need, since many of the archives lack the proper physical conditions to ensure the existence of the materials preserved in them for future generations. Digital preservation includes backup systems at the highest accepted standards.
IAN offers the archives participating in the project the advantages of a package that significantly upgrades the archive and its public exposure. IAN offers a portal and system for archive management, and provides long-term digital preservation for a negligible charge. Moreover, the package is being offered not only to archives that participate in the project during its preliminary stages, a total of 40-50 archives. Every archive that requests to join the project will receive the package benefit, with the provision that the archive digitize and catalogue its materials independently. In return, it will receive its own portal and an archive management system, in addition to long-term preservation.
An additional, separate matter is the cataloguing of the archives. The IAN project is planned so that it can assimilate catalogues and itemization of registration fields from the archives that have participated from the outset. Regarding archives that choose to join the project, if such an archive has standard cataloguing, it will be assimilated into IAN. If there is no cataloguing, the cataloguing will be carried out at the level of the archive file, while the itemized cataloguing will have to be carried out by the archive itself, presumably by the archive's own content experts who are familiar with the content. Moreover, the Israel Archives Network Project, as an Internet and public project that uses current technologies, seeks to offer itself to the public also for the purpose of tagging items from the participating archives. "Crowd sourcing" will greatly enrich the project content: users from all sectors of the public will be able to label items and add relevant information from their own knowledge. A person who identifies an item in a photo or who has additional information about a matter mentioned in a particular document will be able to contribute his or her knowledge to the database, which will be built up and grow organically. The public can even help by correcting errors resulting from automatic identification of scanned text (OCR) as well as help create links between materials of different types from varied sources.
The IAN Project seeks to bring the archival material to a state where it will be preserved for the future, both with the forethought that in five, ten or twenty years, future technologies will make it possible to produce information from the preserved materials that we are unable to produce today, to identify details that are not visible to us through current technological means. Advanced digital preservation greatly increases the chances that future generation will be able not only to enjoy historical archival materials and make use of the information preserved in them, but also that these materials will be available for the deepening and expansion of knowledge, research and insight regarding materials bequeathed by previous generations.