This testimonial about the intersections of archives and records management comes from Lori Eaton, Archivist at Found Archives, LLC.
At a meeting of foundation archivists in June 2019, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, spoke about the value he found in the margin notes past presidents had made on letters, reports, board materials and other documents preserved in the foundation’s archives. His comment has nagged me ever since.
I work as a consulting archivist helping foundation staff who are charged with managing how their organization is administered. Though they may have different job titles, these are typically the folks who create and update records management policies and retention schedules (or bring me in to help them with these tasks). In contemporary foundations, this means working with born-digital records.
Thanks to Mr. Walker’s comment, I’ve been keeping an eye out for the “margin notes” in digital systems. They’re photos of white board notes captured after a pivotal meeting and saved in a project folder, they’re comments in Google docs, they’re in the conversations that happen within project management tools like Asana or Basecamp.
How do I, with my records management hat on, ensure that these margin notes are represented without opening the flood gates to a plethora of non-records or duplication? How do I, with my archives hat on, ensure that the narrow stream of records preserved in the archives includes critical commentary and strategic thinking by key staff?
Knowing where to look for these digital margin notes, means that I must not only understand the kind of work my clients do, but also how they go about doing it. It also requires a generous definition of what constitutes a record with archival value.