Archives*RM Testimonial #6

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.

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Archives*RM Testimonial #5

This testimonial about the intersections of archives and records management comes from Elizabeth McGorty, Archivist & Records Manager for Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation.

I serve as Archivist & Records Manager for the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC) which manages the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Yard was once a federal ship repair facility on the Brooklyn waterfront owned and operated by the US Navy. During WWII it was the largest industrial complex in New York state – a 300-acre facility employing 70,000 civilian workers repairing over 1,000 ships. In 1967 the site was purchased by the City of New York and was transformed into an industrial park. There are now over 300 tenant businesses in the sectors of manufacturing, design, and art.

I like to think of the Yard as a site with two lives, and this is certainly present in our special collections – comprising personal effects of former welders, carpenters, and electricians, and our flagship collection(s) which comprise architectural and engineering drawings of the site – nearly 3,000 linear feet in extent. The collection of drawings created by the Bureau of Yards and Docks (construction arm of the US Navy) date as early as 1806, when military residences were built, but also contain drawings of substations, railroad tracks, shops, and production utility buildings. The other collection of drawings is contemporary, all commissioned by BNYDC for maintenance repair, renovation, and development projects, dating from the 1970s.

Architectural drawings are considered both a corporate record (as defined by our policies) and material of archival value. Thus, it requires arrangement, description, digitization, and ingest into our DAM/public facing digital library at the item level. Item level processing was predicated on user value – recalling boxes of project records currently in retention does not serve staff, nor the needs of external consultants and contractors who need specific drawings for repair and tenant fit-out projects that occur after the construction project is completed. Project records are a series in the schedule, but the drawings from those projects are accessioned into the two aforementioned collections.

Managing our corporate records (two types with the same name: corporate records deemed permanent, AND records of the corporation in temporary retention) has helped me as archivist committed to, among other things, preserving BNYDC’s corporate legacy. It’s easy to see the intersection of RM and Archives because they are both functions of a singular process: the life cycle of information, and I see this in practice every day.

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.

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

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’.