UK National Archives testing blockchain for record-keeping

14 June, 2018

While it’s easier than ever to store data, being able to preserve information in its original form isn’t always a guarantee. Project ARCHANGEL, a research initiative funded by the National Archives in the United Kingdom and based out of the University of Surrey, is testing blockchain solutions that preserve the long-term integrity of documents saved within digital archives for public institutions.

Tracking originality and modifications

Alex Green, the digital preservation services manager at the National Archives, stated that the ARCHANGEL team “explore[s] how we can know that a digital record has been modified and whether the change was legitimate.” The research team plans to do this by creating immutable copies of records that can be read by blockchain algorithms even decades down the road. Digital signatures are created for each archived document and for each version of the document so that changes are preserved and tracked in real time.

With an 18-month timeline, Project ARCHANGEL is going to test its abilities with funding from the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Ultimately, the project will produce a trustworthy tool for archivists even across national borders because it’s so difficult to falsify information on the blockchain. The technology can completely change the way industries interpret the credibility of archived data. Libraries, legal records, and economic documents are just a few types of information that could be impacted by this emerging tech.

Future use

The ARCHANGEL team hopes to continue supporting this blockchain archive with broader use in the UK and internationally as a way to ensure that no single group can change history. By proving that the state of a record is true, this use of blockchain technology allows both records and archives to serve institutions with the promise of original and untampered documents. In the future, this technology can drastically speed up the credibility process for institutions in both public and private sectors worldwide.








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