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New Zealand to Improve Main Archive Search System

Archives New Zealand has established a new team to enhance the search system, a positive step towards fixing the system’s problems. The National Archives is the official repository for government records, housing nearly seven million documents.

The move was made after the failure of a US$4 million Swedish system supposed to replace the core search software for the Collections. Instead, it frequently crashed, had security issues, ran behind schedule, and did searches too long.

The Chief Archivist, Anahera Morehu, has said that the new team will collaborate with users to test improvements and is expected to deliver significant benefits such as an enhanced search experience, improved access to information and data, streamlined business processes, and a heightened emphasis on training and change management.

Morehu informed the public that the department is in talks to make the necessary modifications. Still, she did not provide a timeline or say whether additional funds are required. Archives New Zealand has reported eight outages since November.  However, the new team will concentrate on improving internal and external search capabilities for the benefit of all users.

The public’s access to the national archive’s online search tool was temporarily disabled late last year due to a security issue. Whether or if protected files were inadvertently made searchable is currently being investigated. In addition, the agency found that certain private information was accidentally made available online.

Anahera Morehu Archives New Zealand’s Chief Archivist explained that the public couldn’t access the Collections records management system on 11 November because of a potential security and privacy problem.

Archives New Zealand found a group of restricted and inaccessible records, but their brief record titles contained personal information. But this wasn’t the first time the new Collections search system had issues. Since its launch in February 2022, Archives NZ’s Collections Search tool has had performance concerns, which have been reported to the Department of Internal Affairs.

Morehu added that they had noticed data and information about records appearing in unusual places. Due to the incident’s possible security and privacy implications, we temporarily removed access to the Collections.

Archives New Zealand has been experiencing security issues for months, for which the Swedish supplier has issued an apology. Since February, technology failures have exposed at least 9000 sensitive records. For days at a time, they have prevented the public, historians, and researchers from accessing the archive.

Lawyers and the notes of a High Court indicate that court cases dependent on historical records have been delayed due to the Archives’ shutdowns, slowness and incompleteness of searches, and its decision in 2020 to limit opening hours at its reading rooms.

The agency worked together with the vendor to figure out the mechanism it needed, and the two companies were collaborating to prevent future incidents. The Collections system would remain offline until it had further information. The issue on Friday was the latest in a string of problems with records that are neither digitally available nor have they ever been open to the public.

“We still plan to enhance the Collections indexing system. We count on our service provider to collaborate with us to build an archive information management system that streamlines access to our collections for both our staff and our patrons. Unfortunately, this is not the case right now.”

The scope of the agreement with the vendor included preventative care and upkeep. Hence, Archives hosted seminars to collect feedback from users and share recent developments. It considered going back to its old system but was unable to.

Archway had, unfortunately, run its course, and the technology was no longer being updated or supported. That’s why we had to switch to a new system; it posed too significant a threat to our data. Since the launch of the new search tool, Archway has not been updated. Thus, the information it contains is now several months out of date.

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