I am currently working on a project for Historic England looking at ways of safeguarding the heritage records held by local authorities and Historic England itself.
The “national security copy” project is one of a series of interlinked projects under the Heritage Information Access Strategy (HIAS), which are designed to simplify and improve public access to heritage data held or generated by Historic England, by Local Authority Historic Environment Records and by other bodies.
The Historic Environment Records (HERs) maintained by local authorities in England hold a wealth of information about the archaeology, buildings, sites and the history of an area. They are a primary source of information for planning, development-control work and land management. The information is usually held in a database linked to a Geographic Information System and references.
The aim of the National Security Copy project is to make sure that there is a secure copy of the complete heritage record for England, including all the data held by local HERs and by Historic England. This will be a dispersed resource, with each host organisation being responsible for the security of their part of the data and for safeguarding it in the event that funding is withdrawn for a service. This means that more than eighty different organisations each have a role to play.
The aim of this project is to agree best practices for safeguarding heritage data. Most local authorities have good data backup, security and disaster recovery arrangements in place. But there are differences in practice and one aspect of the project is agreeing best practices and making sure that there is a shared understanding and commitment to a code of practice for the National Security Copy. A key principle in all this is making sure that this important heritage data will continue to be accessible should disaster strike. This might happen in the form of a technical failure, or as a consequence of local authority funding cuts.
Part of my role is to consult HERs on their current policies and practice with regard to the storage and security of their digital and paper-based records, and the principles for the National Security Copy. The result of the project will include recommendations on best practices for data security that can be readily implemented and monitored by HERs and HE, and a draft Code of Practice or protocol for access to the National Security Copy.