The topic of this post has been percolating around my brain for a while, but it’s really been brought to a head by a few recent things. First was an article in the UK’s Independent newspaper about discovery of a systematic program of document destruction as Britain ended its rule in its former colonies in the 50s and 60s. Second, there was an article from Mark Greene in the latest issue of American Archivist discussing the responsibility (or lack thereof) of the archival community to pursue social justice in the practice of the profession. (Link is subscription-only at the moment– sorry if you can’t get to it!) I have to admit, though, that the real impetus to writing this post was a twitter conversation with Maarja Krusten that I had earlier this week. (So now you know the horrible secret to getting me to write on a topic on this blog: twitter-guilt me into it!) Embedded tweets below the jump, so as not to eat your bandwidth:
In case you haven’t seen it, you should check out James Lappin’s records management blog called Thinking Records. He blogs on a variety of records management topics, but does so with a twist. Over the past two months, he’s been doing an animated series on the Ontario Email Deletion Scandal. I think this is such a easy-to-understand way to convey information about the whole case from closing of the gas plant to the investigation into missing emails to the way the server handles email. So far, there are five parts to the story:
- The Ontario E-mail Deletion Scandal (Part 1)
- The Ontario E-mail Deletion Scandal (Part 2) – The Investigation Begins
- The Ontario E-mail Deletion Scandal (Part 3) – The Microsoft Exchange Server
- The Ontario E-mail Deletion Scandal (Part 4) – The RAID Server
- The Ontario E-mail Deletion Scandal (Part 5) - The Backup Tapes
In yesterday’s most recent post, Mr. Lappin summarized the story so far:
A member of the Ontarian Parliament has alleged that Craig MacLennan had broken Ontario’s Archives and Recordkeeping Act by deleting e-mails relating to two controversial gas plant closures. The Information and Privacy Commissioner is investigating. All other attempts to locate, restore or salvage the e-mails of Craig MacLennan having failed, the last hope lies with the backup tapes.
Stay tuned for upcoming episodes and follow his blog here. I hope to see more stories like this in the future!
Piggy-backing off Meg’s post from a couple weeks ago (read it! You won’t be sorry!), a brief discussion of social media as records may be of use. A recent discussion on the always useful Recmgmt-L list pointed to two documents from NARA on social media as records. Both take the form of practical guidance(!), always welcome in the LIS world, particularly when it comes to electronic records or digital preservation.
The first is NARA Bulletin 2014-02 (October 2013), which serves as a springboard for a major concern I have with some discussion of social media and the archives. Much of the conversation, at least in the archives world, starts from a place where an institution has already decided that output on social media is something worthy of longterm (if not permanent) retention. And while that may be the right choice for one institution, larger institutions may end up with a lot content that is merely recycling content better suited for capture in a different format. Bulletin 2014-02 does not start with this assumption: “Some social media records may be temporary; with a transitory, short, or long term retention. Some may even be permanent…” By applying traditional records management concepts to the social media output and outlining the challenges to records management posed by social media the bulletin insists that agencies confront Twitter, Facebook, and the like instead of adopting a blanket capture (or worse, blanket ignore) strategy.
Full disclosure: I was not able to attend the ARMA conference this year. However, I hope many of you did have the opportunity to visit lovely Las Vegas for the 58th annual gathering! For those who are interested ARMA has provided several web seminar series for those who were unable to attend or for those who would like to revisit the sessions once again. Series are broken down by skill level including the Core Skill Level Conference, Management Skill Level, and Strategic Skill level, all of which are described and can be purchased following this link: http://www.arma.org/Conference/2013/LasVegas.aspx. Good news for those who attended because beginning November 27 these webinars will be available for 60 days of free viewing!
A colleague of mine who is an archivist and records manager was fortunate enough to attend the conference. I asked her what she felt was the biggest takeaway from her experience at the conference and she summed it up for me in two words: Information Governance. Information governance might not be a familiar phrase to those outside the realm of records management, but in essence all archival professionals dabble in “IG.” Information governance, if I may take a shot at loosely defining it, is effectively creating, managing, preserving, and usefully promoting records and information typically within an organization. In 2012 ARMA developed an Information Governance Professional Certification which aims at a scope beyond that of traditional RIM. In a future blog post I will discuss this certification in more detail.
Back to the conference. Part of the reason why I am involved in SAA’s Records Management Roundtable is because I am very interested in the convergence of the archives and records management fields. I am finding that the two realms are becoming less distinct in some ways while growing apart in others. In my own career I’m eager to see what is yet to come in terms of mergers and divisions. In regard to ARMA 2013, how do the proceedings of this conference relate to those in SAA who are primarily archivists, or dual-role professionals who span the border and assume both archives and records management tasks? For those who attended (and even those who did not!) please chime in and share your thoughts in the comments section. What are the biggest takeaways from the conference this year? Did you find that information governance was the biggest theme?
P.S. ARMA 2014 is in sunny San Diego!
This week, I’d like to share with readers a post I recently wrote for my home institution’s blog on the intersection of web archiving and records management. Take a moment to read it, here.
Of course, this is just one institution’s perspective. What are others doing to address the management of websites and web content?
I’d like to hear from you– does your organization schedule websites? Do you consider them to be permanent records to be transferred to an archival repository? Why or why not?
ARMA’s 2013 Conference is happening as we speak (you can follow proceedings ongoing on twitter at #ARMA2013), and someone apparently had a little fun with promotional videos for the association this year. You can show this to your non-RM friends when they ask what it is you do all day. (Admittedly, you may have to add a small disclaimer.)
It is always fascinating, and sometimes frightening, to see records management and archival topics covered in mainstream media. A recent New Yorker blog post on Iron Mountain was true to trend. Originally an iron mine, the extensive caverns of Iron Mountain’s first storage facility have served varied purposes; odd, mundane and paranoiac. Ostensibly, this is the meat of the story. “The Mountain,” as it is known, has been used to grow mushrooms and store priceless artwork and artifacts. During the Cold War portions were furnished as a fallout shelter complete with 65 en suite rooms and a cafeteria.
Perhaps more interesting, (here comes the frightening part,) are the off-handed, scene setting descriptions. For the sake of some spooky security-conscious fun, let your records manager/archivist imagination run wild on the following excerpts:
Today, the former mine functions as a premium facility for Iron Mountain’s most demanding clients—usually clients who want to store “vital” records or objects, things that are irreplaceable or secret…
…After working there for thirty-five years, [Chet] Smith has memorized “about eighty per cent” of the vault’s  combinations.