Arlington National Cemetery Records and Data Management

Leadership at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) identified a collection of documents that were vital to the cemetery’s record preservation goals. This collection of administrative documents was stored at the ANC Task Force office in Rosslyn, and consisted of records pertaining to veterans and those individuals who are buried at the cemetery.

ANC is responsible for conducting the funerals, a process that includes the determination of eligibility, the administration of grave locations, burials, headstones, and site maintenance. To facilitate information management, search, and retrieval, these documents needed to be converted into a digital format and indexed with sufficient metadata for their use cases. This collection of documents amounted to 1,800,000 pages of various sizes, conditions, and ages, many of which were fragile and irreplaceable, and with the ages of some dating back to 1948.

AITHERAS was hired to package, receive, inventory, track, scan, and index these documents while performing quality control (QC), and subsequently to return all primary documents to the government, in their original order, with accompanying electronic files (images together with their associated metadata in a pre-determined and digestible format). The effort required packaging and transporting the original records from ANC to AITHERAS HQ in preparation for the files to be scanned or converted, the scanning, conversion, and indexing of these files, and storing the files in an electronic format structurally consistent with the government’s internal records management systems. AITHERAS packaged the materials, ensured security, and exercised due diligence for the preservation of all records during packing, loading, transportation, scanning, repacking, and delivery to the government in accordance with best business practices. AITHERAS accepted full responsibility for the safeguarding of all material upon identification of records to be moved and for ensuring that the content of this material was protected and not publicly released. All documents converted were considered sensitive and treated as such.

Storage of documents in a safe manner, while they were in AITHERAS custody, was given great consideration. We worked with ANC and other government officials to ensure that our approach to storing these irreplaceable documents was aligned with government preferences and recognized best practices. To this end, AITHERAS documented and demonstrated in our facility an approach to storing documents that posed the least exposure to fire and water damage, theft, and several other potential risks. Government representatives inspected our facilities, infrastructure, and our internal contingency plans to ensure that best practices were defined and being met before we were allowed to take custody of these documents.

As mentioned above, in many cases the source material was very fragile, irreplaceable, and old, and the data it contained was often handwritten or typed on manual typewriters, in a time period predating current records management and indexing best practices. Our solution to the fragility and irreplaceability of files was to use a combination of transparent Mylar jackets for their protection, allowing us to use automated feeders for speed without risking damage to the files. That we were able to jacket and scan approximately 500,000 individual records without damaging a single file lends credibility to our approach from this perspective.

A list of operator and technician performance metrics was tracked throughout every step of this process, including individual-level completion rates, error rates, and speed metrics for all operational roles. AITHERAS used these metrics to ensure that work was completed at an adequate rate, and later compiled for use in status reports delivered to ANC on a weekly basis. We also implemented a comprehensive quality program that identified potential and actual problem areas within the production cycle, thereby ensuring exceptional scan quality and authenticated metadata inputs across the spectrum of the contract. If any issues were identified they were quickly addressed, and production schedules were adjusted to meet contract deadlines as outlined in our Performance Work Statement.

Oftentimes during this project, while the records were in our possession, ANC required scanned images of particular files for use in their ongoing operations. We were required per our SLAs to locate and send these individual files as needed within 24 hours of the initial request. AITHERAS is particularly adept and experience in providing “live file” support such as this to ensure that day-to-day operations are not disrupted while customer files are in our custody, and as such we provided this support to ANC. During this contract, we typically returned the requested images within minutes of request, with a total of 190 requests during the 7-month period of performance.