ERCIM News No.48, January 2002 [contents]

Open Archives Forum

by Donatella Castelli

An ‘open archives’ approach is gaining popularity in the cultural heritage, knowledge-based and learning communities. The technology adopted makes it possible to disseminate and access content that is currently ‘hidden’ to the wider public at a very low cost. If the full potential of this approach is fulfilled, it will have a significant impact on the building of new service provisions.

The Open Archives Forum is a new EC 5th Framework Accompanying Measure for supporting the dissemination of information about European activities that adopt an open-archives based approach. OA-Forum will build a framework where European and national initiatives that use this approach can share their experiences and co-ordinate the development of software tools and infrastructures. Special attention will be dedicated to those initiatives which are implementing or using the Open Archives Initiative Metadata Harvesting Protocol (

The main activities of this project will be aimed at:

  • Disseminating the basic concepts underlying the open archives philosophy and of the Open Archives Initiative (OAI). OA-Forum will provide a common vocabulary for OAI implementations in Europe by creating a glossary and defining the history and background of concepts such as harvesting, acceptable use, rights, ownership, identifier resolution, metadata sharing, etc.
  • Promoting the use of the open archives approach in providing access to a broader range of digital resources. Four European workshops will be organised over two years to encourage the sharing of experiences and propagation of good practice in opening-up archives. They will be targeted towards different domains, eg, cultural institutions, research organisations, public sectors, community services and commercial organisations, and towards different classes of users, eg, potential implementors, service and data providers.
  • Validating the European experience in implementing and using the OAI harvesting protocol and other similar approaches to interoperability. Information on the different experiences will be collected and made available to the public. This knowledge will provide useful input for future projects and activities based on open and interoperable archives. The project will also encourage European initiatives to share and reuse software solutions. In order to inform these processes, the project will set up a web-based inventory of software products in use and under development in Europe and elsewhere. Each product in the inventory will be accompanied by a metadata description and, when possible, an evaluation of the product, existing documentation, etc.
  • Reviewing and analysing a variety of possible business models for the implementation of open archives, and exploring the added value that the open archives model might offer in different application communities. This will lead to an understanding of the issues necessary to ensure that European organisations benefit from the potential of open archive technology. Particular attention will be dedicated to the issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights, terms and conditions of use, and quality assurance, within an OAI-based system.


Please contact:
Donatella Castelli, IEI-CNR

Susanne Dobratz, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany

Rachel Heery, UKOLN, United Kingdom