Two items on authenticity

Two items had me thinking about authenticity of digital records this week. Both exist in that somewhat nebulous region between (consisting of both?) records management and digital preservation. They are both unrelated to one another, so here’s a head’s up about the coming rough transition.

Over the past couple years the institution that employs me has been working with an organization to preserve their records (big surprise, eh?). Last week we started discussing their electronic records. Without getting specific, the organization operates in multiple, geographically disparate locations and has demonstrated itself to be highly organized and with a grasp on records/information/knowledge management. When it came, however, to discussing their electronic records, they had little perception of the issues attendant in making minor changes to clean up files that were created ca. 1996. Leaving aside the (in)ability of modern software to render files from that time period, losing the creation and modification dates associated with the files calls into question, on some level, the authenticity of the records. If we’re unable to acquire the original media, the issue immediately becomes one of how well they have documented their custody of the digital material, including when files were migrated, edited, or otherwise changed. And my role becomes one of counseling the organization on what to document about their electronic records and how to organize them so that users not familiar with the contents can attempt to navigate to the desired information without viewing each and every file. While this sort of pre-custodial intervention is demonstrably different from past practice with many physical record groupings, it is not, I believe all that different from the consulting work records managers perform with record creators and their active records.

Okay, so the abrupt tonal shift happens here. A doctoral student at the University of British Columbia has sent out a call for participation in a survey on digital records and authenticity. If you’re on the E-Recs Listserv, you have likely seen this request already. So while it’s not specifically a records management issue, I think it’s worth your participation if you do any management of electronic records. Information about her study, and a confidentiality statement are included after the jump.

Thank you for taking time to consider participating in this research. Your participation is greatly appreciated.

My name is Corinne Rogers and I am a doctoral candidate at the University of British Columbia, School of Library, Archival and Information Studies. This survey is part of my doctoral research into authenticity of digital records. The purpose of the survey is to gather basic information about how records, information, or systems professionals ensure, assess, and/or protect records’ authenticity, and what indicators of authenticity they consider to be important. 

All records and information professionals, or any persons assigned a responsibility for managing records within an organization, are invited to participate. The survey consists of 20 questions, and should take about 10-15 minutes of your time.

Your responses will be strictly confidential. The information you provide will be used only for statistical purposes supporting the objective of this research project. This research has received Behavioural Research Ethics Board approval (H12-01496). If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Corinne Rogers, School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, University of British Columbia,, or Dr. Luciana Duranti, Professor and Chair of the Master of Archival Studies (MAS) program and doctoral supervisor at If you have any concerns about your rights as a research subject and/or your experiences while participating in this study, you may contact the Research Subject Information Line in the University of British Columbia’s Office of Research Services by email at  or by telephone, at 604-822-8598 or toll free 1-877-822-8598.

If you have read the information above and agree to participate in the study please click on the link below or copy and paste into a browser.

Thank you!


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