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.
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.
When I decided to become involved in the IDNA Project, I did so from a research perspective. As a researcher, I have had the opportunity to explore many archival institutions, but I had absolutely no background in archival science. I must admit being afforded the opportunity to be a part of the IDNA Project spiked my interest in archival science. As a student pursuing my MLIS degree at San Jose State University, I decided to enroll in a few MARA classes in my last year of study.
This fall I am enrolled in the Archives and Manuscripts and Preservation courses. As I started learning about provenance, original order, appraisal, arrangement, description, analog and digital preservation, and the archival community, all I could think about were the archival institutions I researched and the data I compiled for the project. Upon reflection, the little details started to take on a new meaning for me. I began to consider how archivists look at records in groups and how the records are related and collected based upon the activities of the organizations/persons that created them. I pondered the importance of the creator of the records and how important an archives mission or vision statement is to the appraisal process for potential acquisitions. I was no longer thinking of the information I had collected as just facts about the archives. I started considering the cultural heritage community and the role that archival theory plays in archival institutions and how this theology is shared internationally across this community.I am reminded of the National Archives of Romania, whose mission places great emphasis on the preparation, selection, and preservation of records containing documentary evidence of national identity, proper functioning of government and cultural memory. With this mission in mind, it only makes sense their holdings consist of records from government entities, private collections, and public and private institutions. I can also see the value in why the archives serve as the authority on which governmental and organizational records hold historical value. In Romania, no organization or government department can dispose of records without the national archives evaluating the material to determine historical value (National Archives of Romania website, 2017).
I think of the value of collaboration within the archival community when I reflect on the archives in Madagascar. The Madagascar Archives contains collections documenting the history of the Malagasy people as well as the history of the nation. The collection of Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony has been digitalized through the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme, which is supported by the Endangered Archives Programme. It contains royal archives from 1864 to 1895 and marks the beginning of archival history for Madagascar. It is amazing these records have survived, and they can be digitalized and shared thanks to the preserving spirit of the Madagascar Archives and their initiative to reach out and collaborate with wonderful programs like UNESCO dedicated to safeguard heritage collections that are at risk (British Library Endangered Archives Programme website, n.d.).
Lastly, the Archives of Serbia comes to my mind as I learn about digital archival practices and preservation techniques. One of the functions of the archives is to develop and improve archival practices across the republic. The Archives of Serbia sticks out in my mind because it has an interesting organizational structure. One of the departments within the archives is called the Department of Technical Protections. This department is dedicated to conservation and preservation of analog and digital materials. In its efforts to preserve materials the archives have developed its own microfilm collection. Preservation is so important, and I really liked the emphasis the Archives of Serbia placed on this important practice (Archives of Serbia website, 2017).
Reflecting on my experience with the IDNA project, I no longer just see the institution, repository, or the collections when I consider archives. My eyes are now open to the science behind what archivists do, and it is through the dedication of the individuals working together within an archive and the formation of external partnerships outside of the archives that makes the cultural heritage of these international institutions what they are. A big thank you to the IDNA Project for taking me under your wing and for providing me the opportunity to grow as a person and to gain knowledge and develop a new perspective on archives.
British Library Endangered Archives Programme (n.d.). Safeguarding the political history of pre-colonial Madagascar: The archives of Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony (1864-1895). Retrieved from: http://eap.bl.uk/project/EAP856
Alyse Dunavant-Jones, a researcher with the IDNA project authored an article published in the Society of California Archivists Fall 2017 issue. The article is based on a presentation given on June 9th 2017 by members of the research team on lessons learned during their time contributing to the IDNA publication.
International Archives day falls on June 9th every year and was a result of a resolution of 2000 participants of the 2004 international Congress who requested that the United Nations create an International Archives Day. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of national archives—the importance of archives to the public, the benefits of records management to the decision makers and the need to preserve the archives for one and all.
This summer, I had the opportunity to participate as a researcher for the IDNA project. My research on the West African country, Guinea, led me to an article describing exactly what the International Archives day was created to accomplish. In Guinea, the 2017 celebrations were attended by several personalities, from political figures to historians. The Director of National Archives stated that “the objective of the day is to make the public aware of the importance of archives as a basis for rights and freedoms” (Nabé, 2017). The message that concluded the ceremony was the wish that the following year a whole week would be dedicated to raising awareness instead of only one day.
Just a few short weeks into my position as an IDNA project researcher, I much appreciated a different International Archives day celebration that raised my own awareness. Experienced researchers from past and current semesters delivered a presentation entitled “Lessons learned while gathering data for the International Directory of National Archives.” Social media as resources, understanding cultural privacy versus the right of access to information, and challenges that may be faced when it came to dispersion of archives and resources were some topics that helped me during my research. Google Translate was another useful tool recommended to help in retrieving information from webpages not in English. The presentation also clarified the iterative nature of the whole research process from gathering data from multiple resources, social media and research articles, to narrowing down to the most current and accurate information.
I have had the opportunity to visit a handful of countries and was always interested in learning about the local history. This interest had led me to applying for the position of a researcher for the IDNA project. My usual go-to for information would be history books at a local store. However, in the future, when an opportunity presents itself, I will definitely perform some online research on national archives of a region prior to my visit. For now, I will make some virtual international visits through the International Council on Archives website which has an “About page” on International Archives Day with links to a list of how various regions of the world have celebrated the day since 2009.
On February 8, 2017 an interview with Dr. Pat Franks, Svetlana Ushakova, Pamela Lutzker and Inna Gogina was posted to the ISchools website. In the interview Dr. Franks discusses the inspiration for the IDNA project and researchers discuss their experience during the international research process, the challenges they faced and the countries which they profiled.
I started this project focusing on the national archives of some Pacific island nations. Not being able to actually visit these archives, I was often distracted by the very beautiful pictures of these coral islands presented by Google during my research; images of blue water and a vibrant sky dotted with big white clouds provided a much needed virtual vacation from the cold, wet winter I was experiencing in Seattle. But this beautiful, warm paradise can wreak havoc on historical documents and artifacts. As archivists, librarians, and museum professionals, we are well aware of the risks that these institutions face, including extreme weather, natural disasters, war, aging infrastructure, and the very modern concern of hardware and software degredation and obsolesence. Archives have always faced some level of risk and accordingly, many archives have some sort of disaster plan to deal with the those disasters most likely to affect their archives.
A particular risks to the national archives of the Pacific island region (including Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia) is the environment, as the tropical climate of these island nations presents a challenge to the preservation of analog records and to the maintenance of hardware necessary to house digital records. Hot, humid environments are the archenemy to archival preservation. Paper and water just don’t mix.
Not only does the environment pose a challenge to the archives of Pacific island nations, but Matthew Gordon-Clark points out two new risks to these island national archives in his 2011 article “Paradise lost? Pacific island archives threatened by climate change”: rising sea levels and extreme weather events. As sea levels rise due to global warming, those low-lying Pacific islands are at particular risk of damaging or losing their archives to encroahing sea levels and storm surge water (the author mentions Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Tokolau, and Kiribati at greatest risk). Even those island nations that sit well above sea level still risk damage to national infrastructure due to rising sea levels, which will impact all areas of governement and life. Additionally, extreme weather events (stronger and more frequent hurricanes, for example) pose a myriad of risks to all Pacific island countries and their national archives. This very real possibility should be considered by the national archives of these nations, especially if they have the opportunity to relocate inland to higher ground.
Indeed, changing weather is an issue for all nations and cultural heritage institutions world wide, not just those in the Pacific, and should be addressed in disaster plans to ensure that we preserve those documents and artifacts that are most important to our countries. Until then, let us hope that these seemingly idylic Pacific islands remain so.
Gordon-Clark, M. (2011). Paradise lost? Pacific island archives threatened by climate change. Archival Science, 12(1), 51-67.