August 1, 2014
Originally posted on Recordkeeping Roundtable:
As I sit down to write this thought piece in January 2014 our Canadian colleagues are preparing for a Canadian Archives Summit with the enviable title ‘Towards a New Blueprint for Canada’s Recorded Memory’. To me the most interesting word in this title is the word ‘new’. While the Canadian summit has been organised in response to the crisis associated with the removal of federal funding for their National Archival Development Program, Australians can nevertheless only look with wonder at another Commonwealth country with a federal system of government that has the luxury of an existing national blueprint for recorded memory – for surely one cannot create a ‘new’ blueprint if an old one does not already exist.
View original 2,754 more words
July 23, 2014
Today, on the Australian Archives and Records google group, Chris Hurley alerted us to the recent report from British Columbia’s Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham – A failure to archive: recommendations to modernize records management in British Columbia (https://www.oipc.bc.ca/report/special-reports.aspx).
In reading the report, I have to confess to lots of moments of deja vu. It’s just over ten years since my own state’s archive stopped taking transfers; the budgets are similar, as is the per capita spend (although…I think BC’s archivists are possibly slacking – SROWA provides access and does retention and disposal schedules too). But the reason I wanted to write about this report is because it speaks to many current archival challenges, using the lens of the British Columbia archives to explore them.
Ms Denham opens with a brief reference to her own archival training and background, and it’s good to see an archivist playing at such a high level in information governance and access to information (she has a Master’s degree in archives administration from UBC). She highlights the role of archives as institutional memory, but also weaves in the need for good recordkeeping to support freedom of information – ‘Without the proper creation and management of records, any statutory right of access to records will prove unenforceable in practice.”
Ms Denham looks at the question of archives transfers and the role of archives in providing access to information. – “As public archives are often the sole reliable record of government action and decision-making, they play an essential role in our society and system of government. Through the creation and preservation of government records, archives sustain society’s cultural and historical identity, help preserve our rights and obligations and define our sovereignty.“
One of the lessons that I took from the document was the question of charging for archive transfers. Ms Denham found that the fee charged for archive transfers (a whopping $454 per box, upfront; or 67 years at commercial storage rates of $6.72 per box per annum) discouraged organisations from transferring. The fee, of course, was based on costs for description and preservation as well as storage, but organisations generally compare storage to storage and do not recognise the value adding tasks. I have to wonder if a small one off fee, for transfer, and then annual ‘maintenance’ fees would have been more palatable.
From access to archives and costs of transferring and maintaining archives, the report then moves on to the challenge of digital archives. Ms Denham describes a tortuous path, in which born digital records are printed to paper, ready for transfer to the archives, at which point they would then be scanned (!) and copied to microfilm. While i like the idea of a microfilm backup (either in ascii, images or , my favourite, barcode stripes or dots – ioioiiiooo), why not just dump the files straight to film? But a digital archive needs more than a back up regime :
It makes no sense to build a transfer infrastructure without a repository to store those files, and it makes no sense to build a repository without an infrastructure to enable the transfer of those files.
An electronic archiving infrastructure must preserve the authenticity and reliability of a record. The identity, content, future readability, and metadata of a digital record must be retained in order for the record to be reliable and verifiably authentic. In other words, an archive must be able to prove that a particular electronic record, as accessed at a point in time, is the same record with the same content as when it was created.
Finally, Ms Denham writes of the need for up to date archives legislation – BC’s is from 1936! This last rang bells for me following the Perth NAA consultative forum, also today, at which David Fricker said that the NAA was looking at its 1983 legislation and, in particular, at definitions of a ‘record’ which were not technologically dependent. Ms Denham speaks not just of the need to identify records and thus archives, but also of the need to ensure that decisions are properly documented:
This “duty to document” should also be a component of the new information management legislation. I think there is general agreement about the need for government to record its key decisions, and how it arrived at and implemented them. It is only with the creation and preservation of adequate documentation of action and decision-making that access to information regimes and public archives can be effective.
I could not agree more.
July 10, 2014
In addition to the ICA SUV and DH2014 conferences mentioned in my last post, I am also watching the Australian Historical Association conference (#ozHA2014), taking place in Brisbane. Like the digital humanities conference, the tweets raise a number of questions about use of archives, the roles of information professionals and presentation and preservation questions.
Yvonne Perkins @perkinsy
Now listening to Niles Elvery of @QSArchives talk about researching the archives for WWI records #OzHA2014
Elvery says that while @QSArchives does not have archives of overseas WWI service there are lots of records of home life esp govt #OzHA2014
[True for all State collections, I would think]
July 7, 2014
This is a great blog about the role of records in creating an open, transparent and accountable government.
Originally posted on Courtney Bailey, MSLS:
The weekend of July 4th celebrations seems a good time to look at the Declaration of Independence. As an archivist, I’ve been struck by the fact that Thomas Jefferson included in his list of grievances against King George III something about the importance of public records:
“He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.”
Knowing this long history of the acknowledgement that public records contribute to fair government, the recent stories about bungled records management by the Internal Revenue Service are all the more appalling. A few weeks ago, in the midst of a Congressional investigation into how the IRS had handled nonprofit organizations that are affiliated with the Tea Party, the IRS revealed that a significant chunk of the emails of Lois Lerner, Director…
View original 392 more words
July 5, 2014
As some of you may know, I am a judge for the Australian Society of Archivists’ Mander Jones awards. The awards recognise a range of publications, from finding aids, to scholarly articles about archives, to histories and research publications that use and discuss archives in interesting ways. Each year, a series of packages arrive on my doorstep (have I said how much I like getting parcels?) and I open each one with a mix of anticipation and dread – anticipation that the contents will expand my understanding and awareness of the rich variety of Australian archives, and dread that they will not, or that my assessment will somehow fail to identify the truly worthy.
It’s that time of year, and I have already happily taken a pair of scissors to an Australia Post Express Post bag, and to the sticky tape on the box inside (we like things to be safe and secure). Of course, I can’t tell you about the contents, and you will have to wait for Octconferober to find out the winners. But I can, I think, share some of the nominees from last year, and my own responses to the works.
Queensland Government Digital Continuity Strategy: Future proofing the critical digital records of government business, Queensland State Archives 2012. (http://www.archives.qld.gov.au/Recordkeeping/GRKDownloads/Documents/QueenslandGovernmentDigitalContinuityStrategy.pdf)
A respectable addition to the library of works on the subject, and a creditable attempt to summarise the issues and identify strategies. The definitions of digital preservation, digital continuity and digital archiving in the main text are, however, confused, and confusing, while the glossary is more clear. I’m not sure that the limited discussion in the paper helps records managers argue their case.
Michael Piggott, Archives and Societal Provenance; Australia essays (Chandos, 2012) (http://store.elsevier.com/Archives-and-Societal-Provenance/Michael-Piggott/isbn-9781780633787/)
An excellent summary of Michael’s work over the years. I thoroughly enjoyed the Prologue, and the essay about Robert Hawke. Overall, though, I am not sure that the book makes a definitive case for societal provenance, as much as it does for Michael’s wit and charm.
A beautifully presented, well researched book, which understands its market well. Eberhard is not afraid to engage with the controversies of the day – bullying, Vietnam and the cadet movement, etc – but does so with a delicate, non-judgmental touch. I think this will make the book more acceptable to a broad range of the school community.
Another beautiful book, which really does use pictures to tell a thousand words. I liked the admixture of photos and photos of text and realia. Going through the book I saw the school grow and change to meet the challenges of changing educational standards, culminating with the beautiful photo on the river for outdoor education, and the ski tour – something the early students would have been bemused by ( and conversely, modern generations and the Debutante Ball. How did they convince all those girls to wear white?!)
I found this book both revealing and moving. A sensitive and unusual approach to an issue that will become more important to archives and collecting institutions in coming years. The use of ‘language’ for the captions was inspired.
Price of Valour, John Hamilton, Pan MacMillan Australia. (http://www.panmacmillan.com.au/display_title.asp?ISBN=9781742611235&Author=Hamilton,%20John)
A beautifully written work, with great use of quotes from archival and contemporary sources. The acknowledgements provide a brief view into the wealth of research that backs this book.
Saulwick Polls and Social Research – a resource for exploring the work and archives of Irving Saulwick (http://www.esrc.unimelb.edu.au/projects/saulwick-polls-and-social-research-2/)
Nicely designed with good links to the ADA and Uni of Melbourne Archives. Not sure if the topics chosen reflect the actual arrangement of material or polls, or have been assigned by the developers of the project.
Easily located via a google search or via the main menu (if you know that you are looking for convict information). Some of the hyperlinks are a bit circular. Some of the information provided in the FAQs could have been provided as an introduction or background to the project, providing users with some context before they click on search. Accessible, clean and easy to use.
Richard Lehane, ‘Documenting sites of creation’, Archives and Manuscripts, Vol. 40 No. 3, November 2012, 171-180 (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/01576895.2012.738008)
A fascinating exploration of the idea of provenance and context, in the physical and virtual environment in which records are created. I enjoyed Lehane’s weaving of digital and analogue examples. The idea of virtual libraries was an intriguing introduction to ideas about access, which I hope Lehane follows up.
Janette Pelosi, ‘Submitted for Approval of the Colonial Secretary’: popular entertainment in the State Archives, 1828-1856’, Chapter 7 (pp.83-100) and Appendix A, Plays Submitted to the Colonial Secretary, NSW, Australia 1841-1856 (pp.244-249) in A World of Popular Entertainments: an edited volume of critical essays, ed. by Gillian Arrighi and Victor Emeljanow. Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.
Janette’s essay revealed an interesting collection of materials within the Colonial Secretary’s Office of New South Wales. Considered logically, once the requirement for plays to be submitted for approval was made evident, it should have been no surprise to find these works. But that’s sometimes the joy of archives – that the things we find are so unexpected. I loved the fact that she was able to trace the plays that had been borrowed and not returned, so that provenance for the material was retained. An entertaining and well written essay, that explains both the history of plays and public performance in New South Wales, and opens up some of the arcana of archival practice.