Archivists and Records Managers, part 5

At the 1958 annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists, LeRoy DuPuy read a paper entitled “Archivists and Records Managers – A Partnership.”  While acknowledging disagreements between the professionals, he asserted each could be made better through cooperation.

“If this emphasis on differences is pursued with vigor, the entire profession will be the loser; and the entire profession will bear responsibility for the loss. The administration of records, reasonably defined (as in the approach of the National Archives and Records Service), is indivisible. Each part of it depends largely upon every other part. Take away one — records management — from its relationship to the other — archives administration — and you remove a vital link. Combine the two branches and you present a united front whose total impact toward professional betterment is many times greater than the sum of efforts separately pursued.”

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Archives*RM Testimonial #4

This testimonial about the intersections of archives and records management comes from Jenna Cooper, Records Analyst at the Austin History Center.

Bridging the gap between records managers and archivists is critical to preserving the historical record. It seems so obvious, right? However, the two professions are continually siloed from each other academically and logistically. When records managers and archivists aren’t on the same page, it’s so easy for historically significant materials to slip through the cracks, especially the records of non-executive or managerial individuals. We are all records custodians in the end and should put working together at the forefront of our initiatives. That is my goal in my current position as the Records Analyst for a public library department who also arranges transfers and appraisals of municipal records to the City archives (another library branch). Even presenting to departmental records management teams about the value of their own records to posterity inspires folks to be better stewards of their active records. Moreover, communication motivates people to be forthcoming in ensuring materials are promptly ushered into the archives, instead of being lost to desk dumps or indefinite long-term storage in Iron Mountain.

Archivists and Records Managers, part 4

Last week, we looked at a paper presented by Philip C. Brooks at the 1942 Society of American Archivists annual meeting.  The third paper presented in that series was by Robert H. Bahmer, who also worked at the National Archives and would go on in the 1960s to be both SAA president and Archivist of the United States.  Bahmer’s paper was entitled “Scheduling the Disposition of Records.”  He made a simple assertion:

“Few greater dangers threaten the comparatively small quantity of valuable records that accumulate in government offices than the intermingling with them of huge quantities of routine and valueless material; if the important records are not actually lost in the confusion, they stand a good chance of being buried so deeply that the task of the archivist who must appraise and administer them is made doubly difficult if not impossible.”

Archivists and Records Managers, part 3

At the 1942 annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists, held in Richmond, Virginia, Philip C. Brooks read a paper entitled “Current Aspects of Records Administration: The Archivist’s Concern in Records Administration.”  Brooks served as the first secretary of SAA (1936-1942) and would later be president (1949-1951).  He worked at the National Archives.  He concluded this talk with an analysis of the connections  between records management and archival work:

“It is inevitable that the iniquity of omitting care for records as they accumulate shall be visited upon the third and fourth generations of later administrators, archivists, research students, and society as a whole.”

Archives*RM Testimonial #3

For this installment about the intersections between archivists and records managers, we have a perspective from the business world:

I work for a southeast bank. Upon needing to vacate a building as the lease was ending, we explored the “archives” of the bank. As an archivist by training and records manager by profession this was my dream. We had twenty library style shelves full of stuff – everything from late 1800s bank ledgers and corporate china to newspaper clippings. This was the perfect opportunity to put my RIM and archives skills to the test. Over the course of two days, myself and the corporate librarian took a big bucket records management approach to clean up much of the paper materials. Anything that looked unique or archival we set aside for later assessment. Using the corporate retention schedule we were able to determine much of the paperwork could be trashed. The very unique corporate paintings and old ledgers were donated to the state library so their beauty and worth could be fully utilized. Without records management practices, two days could have easily turned into weeks of work. And without archival principles, much of the gorgeous materials we were able to donate would have been moved to another dusty room and never used.

Shannon Wood

Records Governance Manager

Archivists and Records Managers, part 2

Last week, I looked at the presidential address of Wayne Grover in 1954.  He was succeeded as SAA President by Morris Radoff, state archivist of Maryland.  In his 1955 presidential address, Radoff also considered the tensions between archivists and the emerging field of records managers.  In reflection on professional education in particular, he concluded:

“But above all, we should strive to give our profession the dignity, the unity, the opportunity for service that can come only from the mastery of a body of learning.  And this body of learning should by all means include the whole art and mystery of records.  This surely will bind us together.”

Archives*RM Testimonial #2

This testimonial about the intersections of archives and records management comes from Kris Kobialka (Kobi), Archivist and Institutional Records Manager at Boston Architectural College.

In my current position, I was hired mainly to build and run a records management program and to use whatever small amount of time I had left over on Archives. The Archival holdings at that point were no more than 6 c.f. total in volume. I went about the business of interviewing folks in the offices about their current records and as they got used to having me around, I began to hear: “What about these older things from my predecessor?” That was my cue to begin “helping” folks with their older files, by which I mean evaluating their older materials for inclusion in the Archives. Today I have a very robust Archives and Records Management program and we have grown the Archives to 300+ c.f. including large format early architectural student work, College publications, administrative history, and board minutes. It’s all there! But initially it was all broadly distributed throughout the institution. I am very glad that people know to contact me when records are “discovered” and our Archival reference statistics, at nearly 500 reference requests per year, are also a good yardstick for success.

If you’d like to share your own testimonial, please reach out to us at saarecordsmanagement@gmail.com.

Archives*RM Testimonial #1

I have plenty of personal and some anecdotal evidence that good records management contributes to good archives.  But with enough people demonstrating a desire to explore these intersections, I decided one good avenue to pursue would be collecting testimonials from practitioners who see the value of RM to archival work.  With the assistance of Cathy Miller, we’ve begun this endeavor and today bring to you our first testimonial.  If you’d like to share your thoughts on this topic, please reach out to us at saarecordsmanagement@gmail.com.

My job for over five years was, among other things, fixing outdated retention schedules to ensure non-archival materials didn’t come to the archives and archival materials did come. Records management (RM) and archives are both core functions of the Kansas Historical Society in the State Archives and our reappraisal work while I was there was one way of marrying the two to help other state agencies AND make sure we were only bringing in records of enduring value.

Based on that experience, and experiences I’ve had elsewhere, RM and archival work shouldn’t be siloed; each side needs to know what the other is doing and is communicating with each other (if one person or group isn’t doing both sides already anyway!)

I’ve also used that past experience in my current role to help ensure appropriate materials are remaining in manuscript collections (and inappropriate materials, such as routine financial records, don’t stay in except for really good reasons).*

Marcella Huggard
Manuscripts Coordinator
University of Kansas Libraries – Kenneth Spencer Research Library

*All opinions expressed in this testimony are my own and not my employers’.

Archives Month in a Records Management World

Archives Month begins today.  In the survey of the Records Management Section membership that we conducted along with our election ballot in June, we received a number of comments from people who are interested in investigating the overlaps between archives and records management, so this seems like the right time to begin this process.  Although our efforts will certainly extend beyond this month, we are beginning to sketch out some ways that we can explore these intersections.

Today I begin with a simple approach, which is to look at some of the literature that’s been written about archives and records management.  At the 1954 annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists, SAA President Wayne C. Grover (who was then also the Archivist of the United States) delivered his presidential address and provided commentary on the burgeoning debate about whether archivists and records managers were different enough specialists to necessitate going separate professional ways.  He concluded,

“It is folly for archivists even to think of parting company, literally or psychologically, from the newly developed specialists in records management; and no less folly on the records management side than on the archival side. Our numbers are too few; our common interests too important.”