September 3, 2014
For a long time, I’ve been hearing people tell me that microfilm is going the way of the dodo – there are no machines able to read it (torch and magnifying glass?), digital access is better (possibly), the film is not being produced and, of course, using microfilm makes people seasick (true, but so does whizzing through a website – it’s a visual perception problem). But it seems that microfilm is making a comeback, and in the realm of digital preservation, of all places.
I’ve been doing my homework for the next set of lecture notes on digital preservation. I’ve refreshed my understanding of universally unique identifiers (uuid) and looked at current research and advice in the persistent url field (see, for example, Australian National Data Service [ANDS] – http://ands.org.au/guides/persistent-identifiers-working.html). I’m across the OAIS model and ISO 14721, in a generic, non-technological way, and I have been working with my colleague at SROWA on the Archivematica digital preservation software.
But, I’m a belt and braces kind of girl, and deep down, in my heart, I like microfilm. I’ve been aware of the PEVIAR project (http://www.peviar.ch/index_en.php) for some time, but hadn’t seen anything more about it since the move to the commercial sector, so I was quite excited when I became aware of S.W. Schilke’s (2010) paper on the use of microfilm to preserve digitised and digital documents in what appears to be an upgraded form of Computer Output Microfilm. Not only does Schilke suggest that digitised documents, and those that are created digitally but which we view in human readable format (pdf, word docs, spreadsheets, images), be copied to microfilm for preservation, but that, through the use of barcode software, we can save machine readable data as ones and zeroes, too. I’ve been on the hunt since then for further documentation, and I’d dearly love to hear from anyone who has instituted a hybrid digital/microfilm data preservation strategy, or is looking at it with real intent.
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.
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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…
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