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Dar Al-Mahfouzat

Dar Al-Mahfouzat (the National Archives of Egypt) is considered one of the richest archives in the world due to the huge number of documents it contains which date back to the 6th century Hijri/12th century A.D. Since its establishment in 1828, when Mohammed Ali Pasha founded the Egyptian Daftarkhana, or House of Documentation, the National Archives of Egypt has been responsible for preserving the historical documents of institutional and governmental origin, and facilitating their study and dissemination. It includes about 4 million books, 110,000 manuscripts, 160,000 periodical volumes, 39,000 musicals, and 100,000,000 documents related to Egypt’s political, economic and social history from the Fatimid era.

Owing to its exceptional expertise in digitization, and in accordance with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) mission to preserve the heritage for future generations in digital form, the Egyptian Ministry of Finance approached the BA in 2009, in order to digitize a selection of documents at Dar Al-Mahfouzat, and provide online access to the digitized documents based on access levels. This initiative is carried out by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Sector and the Special Projects Department at the BA in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Finance.

The ICT has been working on digital archiving of Dar Al-Mahfouzat documents, since the beginning of the project in July 2010, where more than 2,000,000 pages have been digitized so far. As Dar Al-Mahfouzat represents a huge repository for different types of documents, such as land ownership certificates, governmental correspondences, birth and death records and employees’ files among others, the ICT Sector has been working on different tracks to ensure the integrity and efficiency of the digitization process. To this end, it has supervised furnishing the digitization facility at Dar Al-Mahfouzat premises and has developed the required backend applications for data entry and managing the workflow of the documents using Digital Asset Factory (DAF). In addition, it has shared its technical expertise with the team at Dar Al-Mahfouzat, through giving training and guidelines needed to sustain the production of high quality digitized materials.

Following digital archiving best practices and metadata standards; the digitization workflow at Dar Al-Mahfouzat consists of three main phases; Metadata Collection phase, Digital Asset Factory (DAF) phase, and Matching phase. To guarantee data reliability, each phase includes error handling scenarios inside its flow or back to the previous phase.

Metadata Collection phase; where the physical files and associated documents are described, linked together using keywords and given barcodes. Extracting metadata fields for the different types of documents raised the need for designing and generating a flexible dynamic metadata record for expandable workflow to include further types of documents with new fields that may evolve. This metadata application generates a list of metadata properties according to the document type defined metadata fields. Finally, the metadata is reviewed and approved.

Digital Asset Factory (DAF) phase; where the documents are digitized in a predefined workflow according to their types. DAF is an in-house developed digitization workflow management system applied at the BA Digital Laboratory. It supports different types of both physical and born digital materials including books, journals, manuscripts, audios, and videos. It handles several workflows from scanning through Optical Character Recognition (OCRing), and generating a version suitable for the matching phase, till archiving of the digitized materials. It can be easily integrated with automated and human phases.

Matching phase; where the digitized files and associated documents are displayed with their metadata for further classification as each document may contain one or more sub-documents. The sub-documents metadata are described and reviewed then the file is marked as finished.


Last updated on 30 Dec 2012