USC Shoah Foundation Recognizes Researchers

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Inna Gogina and Svetlana Ushakova – Image Courtesy of the Shoah Foundation

The USC Shoah Foundation’s Information Technology and Services is showing two of our researchers, Inna Gogina and Svetlana Ushakova, some love.  Inna and Svetlana were two key contributors to the IDNA project.  The Shoah Foundation, where the two work, recognized their efforts in a recent blog post.

Inna and Svetlana researched and authored 16 archive profiles for the IDNA project.  Their research concentrated on Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries.

Check out the full blog post on the Shoah Foundation’s website.

 

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.

ALA-ICA Conference

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Kate Eminhizer

When given the opportunity to participate in a major international conference, you take it. That is exactly what I and fellow student Pam Lutzker did in November 2017 when we travelled to Mexico City to attend the ALA-ICA Conference. Student participation was promoted by Dr. Ian Wilson, former Director of the Library and Archives of Canada, former Vice-President of the ICA and current advisor to the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates. The trip also had the support of Dr. Sandy Hirsch of the SJSU iSchool. In addition to participating in Conference Logoconference sessions, Pam and I were extended an invitation to observe the annual meeting of the Forum of National Archivists (FAN). The overall intent of the trip was to grant students who had worked on the International Directory of National Archives the opportunity to converse and network with some of the archivists of those archives.

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From left to right: Pam Lutzker, Dr. Ian Wilson, Kate Eminhizer

The theme of the conference was “Archives, Citizenship and Interculturalism.” It marked the first time that the ICA conference was hosted by a Latin American city. The Latin American Association of Archives provided a culturally rich atmosphere for professionals from around the world to discuss achievements and challenges within the archival community. Both ALA President Mercedes de Vega and ICA President David Fricker felt that it was imperative to provide an opportunity for professionals in the field to reflect upon the challenges facing the archival community. Sessions at the conference focused on the following topics: interculturalism and native cultures, human rights, illicit trafficking of documentary heritage, archives and artistic creation, archives and academic projects, access to information in relation to personal data protection, natural disasters, regional cooperation, copyright and intellectual property, information systems and digital preservation, big data, and information governance.

As someone who has attended conferences in other disciplines, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of inclusion I experienced. It did not matter to a single person that I was “only” a student. Whether I was speaking with another student or the director of a National Archive, I was treated with respect. There was not a sense of intimidation so commonly found in a room full of established professionals. I felt completely at ease participating in sessions and working with the United Arab Emirates delegation to advertise and promote the 2020 ICA conference in Abu Dhabi. The experiences I have had due to my participation on the IDNA project have far exceeded my expectations.

What is a country?

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Stephanie Routhier-Perry

This is a question that can be answered in a number of different ways, but for the purposes of the IDNA project, it was decided to include the 193 member nations of the UN, two non-member nations also recognized by the UN, and one country, Taiwan (the Republic of China which had membership from 1945 to 1971) that was expelled from the UN in 1971 when mainland China (the People’s Republic of China) was admitted

However, even with a working definition of “country” or “nation,” making decisions on what to include isn’t always easy. For example, I researched the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) for this project. The UK is made of up four constituent countries—England, Scotland, and Wales (“Great Britain”), and Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have devolved governments and meet many of the accepted criteria for independent nations, such as an internationally recognized boundary, people who live there on an ongoing basis, and an organized economy. However, they do not regulate their own foreign or domestic trade, and they cannot pass laws on “reserved issues” such as energy, common markets, and fiscal policy. Most importantly, the Parliament of the United Kingdom reigns over all constituent countries, which means that they do not have the full sovereignty required to be classified as an independent country. This is why only the UK as a whole is recognized as a country by the UN.

In terms of archives, the UK has one overarching institution for the whole country: The National Archives. The National Archives is also the national records centre for England and Wales, whereas Scotland and Northern Ireland have the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), respectively.

As well as being records centres, NRS and PRONI are considered “national” archives for their respective countries. They perform all of the traditional activities of a national archive, including keeping important texts and materials, advising on policy, publishing legislation and maintaining Crown Copyright, serving as a place of national deposit, and generally being a first port of call for researchers.

As noted, England doesn’t have its own separate archives, or records centre; its collections fall under the jurisdiction of the UK National Archives. Wales does have a national archival collection, but its archive is contained within the National Library of Wales, which has a similar mandate to NRS and PRONI, namely, to provide advice and support, as well as to develop policies, professional standards, and training for staff, researchers, volunteers, and other institutions. While it has a similar function, because it is a library and not an archival institution, it was decided that this is beyond the scope of this project.

However, even after making our decision to include NRS and PRONI, as well as the National Archives, we have perhaps raised more questions than answers: What about other nations that contain constituent countries or overseas territories? What about those that aren’t recognized as independent nations, but consider themselves as such, such as Kosovo? Or those people who are considered a nation, such as the Kurdish people, but who are stateless and have no recognized country to call home? And what about Canada, which has a territory like Quebec, considered a “nation” within Canada, but not an independent one?

In addition, with time, things change: borders are moved, countries are annexed and declare independence, and political decisions are made, such as the Brexit vote in June 2016, and Scotland’s unsuccessful vote to leave the UK in September 2014. These types of actions add to the confusion and ensure there are no easy answers; decisions will need to be made on a case-by-case basis.

What do you think? Should we have included PRONI and NRS? What about Taiwan? What other countries do you think should be considered for their own entry? Is there a better way to make this decision?