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Digital archiving: Disrupt or be Disrupted

This article by John Sheridan, Digital Director of The National Archives (TNA) of the UK, provides three reasons why established archives (and therefore archivists) are in the best position to develop new capabilities to preserve digital records:

  • Trust: National Archives are already trusted based on their proven commitment to preserving records that document the nation’s history and making them accessible to the public.
  • Longevity: National Archives are long-established institutions with a proven track record that ensure the likelihood for the continued maintenance, preservation, and accessibility of archival holdings is very high.
  • Capacity for Change: As Sheridan states, “change is nothing new for archives.” The core purpose and commitment to preserving the public record requires continual change in order to respond to emerging technology and societal expectations.

Read this article in its entirety in the July 2018 Information and Records Management Bulletin (issue 204), published by the Information and Records Management Society.

National Treasures: Preserving and Providing Access to Cultural Heritage

National archives are often at the forefront in preserving the cultural heritage of the Slide10world, one nation at a time. However, not all archives are on equal footing. Archives’ abilities to govern, preserve, and provide access to invaluable records is impacted by, among other factors, colonialism and post-colonialism, access to technology, and natural and man-made disasters.

Slide02On June 9, 2018, International Archives Day, responding to questions from moderator Alyse Dunavant-Jones, researchers of the International Directory of National Archives (IDNA)— Traci Mitchell, Angie Conrow, and Faezeh Jahan Shiri—shared insights they discovered from their investigation of national archives around the world and the national treasures the archives govern, preserve, and share.

The three main questions asked and answered by each panelist based on the countries they studied are: How does the National Archives govern? How does the National Slide04Archives preserve memory and cultural heritage? How does the National Archives provide access? Among the National Archives discussed are those of the following countries: Afghanistan, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Denmark, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Republic of Morocco, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Additional topics explored by the panelists centered on colonialism, disasters, and technology.

 

Celebrate International Archives Day June 9, 2018 with us!

banner_smallWhen: June 9, 2018 | 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. pacific.
Where: Zoom at: https://sjsu.zoom.us/j/875876132
What: Panel presentation on National Treasurers: Preserving and Providing Access to Cultural Heritage
Who: Alyse Dunavant-Jones, Taci Mitchell, Angie Conrow, and Faezeh Jahan Shiri

Abstract: National archives are often at the forefront in preserving the cultural heritage of the world, one nation at a time. However, not all archives are on equal footing. Archives’ abilities to govern, preserve, and provide access to invaluable records is impacted by colonialism and post-colonialism, access to technology, and natural and man-made disasters. In this panel discussion, join researchers of the International Directory of National Archives (IDNA) as they share insights from their research of national archives around the world and the national treasures the archives govern, preserve, and share.

Join moderator Alyse Dunavant-Jones and panelists Traci Mitchell, Angie Conrow, and Faezeh Jahan Shiri for a discussion on National Treasurers: Preserving and Providing Access to Cultural Heritage based on their research for the International Directory of National Archives. More information and a link to the live presentation can be found here.

Interview with Majid Sultan Al Mehairi, Executive Director of the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates

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National Archives of the UAE

Interview Conducted by Kate Eminhizer

 

 

While attending the ALA-ICA conference in Mexico City in November 2017, I had the privilege of speaking with Majid Sultan Al Mehairi, the Executive Director of the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates. His areas of expertise include information technology, digital preservation, government records and leadership.

When did you assume your duties? What prompted you to accept the challenge?

I became the Executive Director in May 2008. I was previously the Director of the Department of Support Services and Head of the Information Technology Section at the National Archive. Accepting the position provided me with the opportunity to continue advancing the country’s electronic management system and to focus on project management.

What is the mission of your national archives? How do you explain/present this to your funding authorities?

The National Archives concentrates on collecting government records and those records that have national value. This is mandated by the government, so they ensure that there is appropriate funding available to be successful in that mission.

If you could tell me one thing special about your archives, what would it be?

A. The National Archives works very hard in making sure that records are accessible to the public. The more people who access the Archives’ records, the more connected they will be to the nation’s cultural heritage. There are many apps that the public can download to their mobile phones so that they may learn and interact with the nation’s history quickly and accurately.

What international partnerships or collaborations do you have or are you working for (aside from ICA)?

The Archives is very supportive of the vision of UNESCO PERSIST. UNESCO PERSIST is an international effort to advocate for the long-term preservation of digital documentary heritage. In late 2018, the Archives plans on being able to make available online the product of a collaboration with the National Archives of the United Kingdom. The Arabian Gulf Digital Archives will exhibit over 500,000 reports, letters, maps, and ships’ logs that pertain to the history of the region.

How much has the work of the national archives changed in light of digital technology? How has this impacted the way records are accessed by the public?

In 2017 the United Arab Emirates launched the UAE Artificial Intelligence Strategy. The purpose is to introduce the latest technology into all aspects of government to improve performance and efficiency. The date by which the country is striving to be fully digital is 2031, but the hope is to complete the transition for government records by 2020. Having born digital records would mean there would be less of a delay in providing access to those records to the public.

What is your vision for the future of the national archives?

The National Archives has a vision of preserving those records that best exemplify the nation’s history and cultural heritage. As more and more records are created in a digital format, appropriate metadata must be applied from the date of creation. Also, long-term digital preservation options must be a priority.

What advice do you have for those beginning their careers in archives?

It is best for everyone to embrace technology. The advances in technology are going to provide multiple options for the long-term preservation of our cultural heritage.

Interview with Jeff James of the National Archives of the United Kingdom

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Jeff James CEO and Keeper of the National Archives of the United Kingdom

Interview Conducted by Kate Eminhizer

My formal interview with Jeff James occurred on November 28th, 2017. He and I had already met throughout the course of the conference; therefore, we had already established a bit of a rapport by the time the interview took place.

When did you assume your duties? What prompted you to accept the challenge?

I became the Chief Executive Officer and Keeper of the National Archives of the United Kingdom in July 2014. I wanted to further expand my leadership and managerial skills.

What is the mission of your national archives? How do you explain/present this to your funding authorities?

The National Archives is the custodian of the public record and the government’s trusted expert in managing, preserving and using information. We also manage the Crown Copyright and provide publishing guidance for all government publications. All funding comes directly from the treasury as directed by Parliament.

If you could tell me one thing special about your archives, what would it be?

The most important thing about our archives is the connection people can have with the records. While we are the keepers of some of the country’s oldest documents, such as the Doomsday Book, it is the relevance our contents have with the public that makes us special.

What international partnerships or collaborations do you have or are you working for (aside from ICA)?

Part of the National Archives’ strategic ambition is to increase our collaborations worldwide so that we may drive the development of archives around the world. We continually look for ways to expand and enhance our reputation in research and collections management. The National Archives has contributed records access to the International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property, and we have encouraged increased international participation in our digital preservation program PRONOM.

How much has the work of the national archives changed in light of digital technology? How has this impacted the way records are accessed by the public?

There has been a ten-year decline in usage at the archive itself but our online access has increased by 400%. Digital technology will allow us to continue to increase the accessibility of our records to the public. There is also a large demand to digitize records. The increase in digital records will also force funding to be diverted to digital preservation.

What is your vision for the future of the national archives?

I see the future turning archives into a more digital environment. I also see the opportunity to increase educational programming at the archive.

What advice do you have for those beginning their careers in archives?

The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone is to ask questions. Do not simply accept the status quo; challenge it to make it better.

Interview with ICA President David Fricker

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From left to right: Pam Lutzker (author of this blog post), ICA President David Fricker, Kate Eminhizer

David Fricker is an energetic individual, with a great sense of humor, who is very enthusiastic about archives.  He is the current President of the ICA, but my colleague, Kate Eminhizer, and I first met him as the Director-General of the National Archives of Australia (NAA) at the FAN Meeting preceding the ALA-ICA 2017 Conference. Director-General David Fricker’s understanding of the fundamentals of data, information, knowledge, records and archiving is breath-taking and his vision of the archival community working together to improve access to records (especially digitally) across boundaries is one of the reasons that he supports FAN. Although Director-General Fricker was very busy (he was also a Key Note Speaker for the Conference) he willingly sat down with us after the Emerging Professionals Luncheon the first day of the ALA-ICA Conference, November 27, 2017.

Director-General Fricker earned his BA in Computing Studies, and began his career in the Australian Customs Services, holding several important positions before leaving to found his own consultancy business. In 2002, he joined the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) as CIO and was appointed to the position of Deputy Director-General in 2007. Given this background in computer science, I was curious how he ended up in archives. He explained that it was a natural outgrowth of working with computers and data.  Data leads to information. Information leads to knowledge.  Knowledge comes from organizing and analyzing information and data.

The processes of selecting, preserving and making accessible records that are vital to the archival process ensure that accurate and reliable information is preserved – not only for the society, but for the individual. The way archives are viewed needs to change.  The immediacy of access to digital records is a game-changer for the archival community. There needs to be a conscious effort to move beyond preservation and limited access to reaching out to the community and becoming advocates on their behalf, thus showing the value of archives.

Director-General Fricker’s strengths in digital records management led to his appointment as Director-General of the NAA in 2012. In 2014, he was elected to the position of President of the ICA. At NAA, Director-General Fricker has worked to further electronic access to records. One of the most recent projects is a database of World War I service records (coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the end of the war). The database is designed to enable the public to upload information about the subjects of the records; and contribute their own material about the men and women that served during the first World War. This type of “crowd sourcing” provides the opportunity for the public to establish a personal relationship with the records, and in so doing keeps the memory of those individuals in the records alive and relevant to contemporary society. David pointed out that no matter which country you are in, the archive will always have something relating to any one individual, even if indirectly; and this differentiates Archives from other memory institutions. The more the public understands the personal connection they have to the records, the higher the demand will be to make those records available.

My final question to Director-General David Fricker was to ask for advice for those beginning their career in archives. He said that their ambition should include the democratization of information.  Not only should archival records be authoritative and dependable, but they should also be available to anyone anywhere.