Archives, USGS to co-manage geospatial archive

The National Archives and Records Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey have signed an agreement to ensure preservation of and access to Earth imagery and geospatial data currently archived by USGS at its Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Under the agreement, the EROS archive will become an affiliated archive within the NARA system. The agencies will work together to ensure that NARA has legal custody and ultimate responsibility for the preservation of the archived imagery and that USGS meets NARA's stringent preservation and access standards.

The records will remain at the EROS Center under the day-to-day control of USGS, which has already created an advanced information management system that gives the public electronic access to historical Earth observation data.

The EROS archive of satellite imagery and aerial photography is the largest civilian archive of such data in the United States. It occupies more than 40,000 square feet and totals nearly 3 petabytes (3,000 terabytes) of electronic data and millions of film frames, said USGS Director Mark Myers.

Included in the records are aerial photographs dating from the 1930s and satellite images dating from the 1960s. Both are essential for documenting geography and understanding climate change, according to USGS.

Researchers in the public and private sectors use the images to understand natural resources, hazards and long-term changes. For example, imagery of Hurricane Katrina's impact on the south-central coast of the United States in 2005 was provided to researchers and agencies responsible for damage assessment and recovery efforts.

EROS imagery was also used to assess the extent of the damage of the 2004 tsunami in southeastern Asia, and researchers use aerial photography and satellite data to evaluate, prevent, and manage recovery from forest and grassland fires. Data and information are accessible and searchable online.

'This agreement'is a guarantee that our nation's collections of aerial and satellite images of the world's land areas will be permanently maintained, preserved and accessible to the public,' said Allen Weinstein, archivist of the United States. 'These records are crucial to scientists and policy-makers around the world in understanding how man and society affect the natural landscape.'

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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