The Records Lifecycle: Moving Permanent Records from the Records Management Phase to the Archival Phase

For those of us working in a university or institutional archives setting records management is not just about risk management and efficiency, but also about documenting the history of our institution. This happens through the scheduling of records that have been appraised by archivists to have enduring historical value.

Examples of records that are often scheduled for permanent retention because of enduring historical value include annual reports, executive correspondence and memoranda, even photographs.

My own institution, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), has created a list of the most common types of permanent records found in our university’s departments and offices for quick reference. That list can be found here.

Take a moment to enjoy these digital photographs from December 2002, when an early winter storm encapsulated UNC in a layer of ice. You can easily see why an archives would want to acquire and preserve this type of material, and why archivists and records managers should work together to ensure that these types of records are scheduled as permanent and transferred to an archival repository.

 

[Digital photographs of ice storm, December 2002, in Medical Illustration and Photography of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records #40307, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]

And just to map this process to the records lifecycle, these photographs were (1) created by the Department of Medical Illustration and Photography in UNC’s School of Medicine, (2) maintained and used by that department until they had met their retention period, at which point they were (3) transferred to the University Archives at UNC, and then (4) accessioned into the archive’s holdings.

Then, they were (5) arranged and described by archivists and (6) ingested into the Carolina Digital Repository (CDR), UNC’s digital preservation repository. Today, we are able to (7) access them through the CDR and even share them through a blog like this!

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Letting Go of Comprehensiveness

When I interviewed for my current position of Records Management Archivist about 16 months ago, I was asked to present my vision for a records management program in a “modern university.” Although I stand by that vision and believe we are making good progress toward most of the ideals I enumerated in that presentation, there is one that leaps out to me today as particularly naïve:

“Records management services are integrated into and actively support the operations of all records-producing offices, departments and groups.”

Through this characteristic, I was attempting to encompass both the ideal of comprehensiveness and the value of records management to the daily activities of the campus. It is the former of these, comprehensiveness, which now feels the least realistic of all my stated goals. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I have nearly abandoned it in favor of a strategically limited approach that, while it makes sense for my context, I have struggled to find support or guidance for in the records management literature. Continue reading “Letting Go of Comprehensiveness”