GESIS Training Courses

Scientific Coordination

Jonas Recker
Tel: +49 221 47694-493

Administrative Coordination

Loretta Langendörfer M.A.
Tel: +49 221 47694-143

The Open Archival Information System - An Introduction

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Course description

This one-day workshop will provide an introduction to the OAIS reference model, and its terminology and concepts. The Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS) [1] is an important standard for organizations involved in the preservation and dissemination of digital information objects. As a generic model of preservation systems it describes workflows and functions performed by archives and thereby provides important answers to the question of how we can ensure that digital records remain accessible and understandable across technological and cultural change.

As a reference model, OAIS describes elements, functions, and processes of archives in a very abstract manner that is not domain-specific and does not prescribe a particular form of implementation. Thus, OAIS lends itself to the description of traditional analog archives just as much as to the description of digital repositories for publications or for data. This makes it a powerful tool when it comes to planning archives, identifying potential gaps in existing archives, or when a common language is needed to communicate across institutional and disciplinary boundaries.

Yet, while OAIS is immensely helpful in understanding how archives work, its language and concepts are not easily accessible, especially for those new to the field of (digital) preservation. This one-day workshop seeks to address this issue by providing an introduction to the OAIS reference model, and its terminology and concepts. In doing so, we will focus on two core elements of the OAIS standard: the functional model, which captures archival tasks and workflows; and the information model, which describes the information objects preserved by an archive, which are composed of the object to be preserved and different types of descriptive information (metadata). 

[1] CCSDS. (2012). Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS). Recommended Practice (No. CCSDS 650.0-M-2). Retrieved from



This course is free for staff of CESSDA archives. Please select the category Staff when booking the course. For all other participants, the course fee is 50¬.


Learning objectives


After the course, participants will

  • be familiar with the structure of the OAIS standard understand its purpose;
  • understand the terminology and concepts associated with the OAIS functional model;
  • know the different functional entities and understand their role in the OAIS;
  • be able to apply these concepts to their own institutional setting;
  • understand the concept of Information Packages and the characteristics of the different types of Information Packages (IPs) in the OAIS (Submission IP, Archival IP, Dissemination IP)
  • be familiar with important elements of Information Packages, including Reference Information and Preservation Description Information;
  • be able to apply these concepts to the information objects archived by their own organizations; understand the concept of OAIS conformance and how it relates to certification as a trusted archive.

Please note that the course will not focus on the technical architecture of preservation systems or specific software.




The course is intended as a primer for archive and repository staff who are not yet familiar with the standard and its concepts. No prerequisite knowledge of OAIS is required. However, to reap maximum benefit from the course, some practical experience in archiving and disseminating digital objects will be helpful, as exercises will focus on applying the abstract OAIS concepts to real-world scenarios and organisational settings.


Recommended readings

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