Purpose - To examine the relationship between deposit of electronic theses in institutional and archival repositories. Specifically the paper considers the automated export of theses for deposit in the archival repository in continuation of the existing arrangement in Wales for paper-based theses. Design/methodology/approach - The paper presents a description of software that makes use of the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) as the first stage in the automatic import and ingest of items between institutional and archival repositories. The implications of this approach on the management of the institutional repository are also considered. Findings - The paper shows that OAI-PMH is a useful approach to harvesting the metadata for items to be imported into an archival repository. This reduces the difficulty of maintenance of the import and export software components albeit at the possible expense of necessitating certain requirements on the management of the institutional repository. Research implications/limitations - The research shows that institutions can make use of OAI-PMH as a part of an automated export/import process, encouraging the preservation of multiple copies of digital items for increased safety of the content. Practical implications - The software has been developed and is being tested. It is proving capable of performing the required harvesting but the relative imprecision of searching in OAI-PMH has implications for the management of the exporting repository. These are discussed. Originality/value - The paper presents a description and discussion of novel software components that enable the use of OAI-PMH as the first stage in the export and import of digital items between repositories, independently (as far as is practicable) of the software used by the repositories themselves.