Digital archives: Here’s the problem – how would YOU address it?

inthemailbox:

Fascinating summary of one of the workshops at ARANZASA. I was unable to attend, so thanks to Anne for this comprehensive report.

Originally posted on Recordkeeping Roundtable:

Report back from the Recordkeeping Roundtable workshop at #ARANZASA in Christchurch, NZ

By Anne Picot

A gathering of over 50 records and archives practitioners tossed ideas around for 4 hours wrestling with the difficulties of what, when and how of establishing a digital archives. The occasion was a workshop put together by the Recordkeeping Roundtable duo, @CassPF and @BarbaraREED, as part of the ASA/ARANZ 2014 conference, to get our profession thinking about what is really involved in a digital archives. As a stray tweeter in the “audience”, the question which kept running through my mind as the experts presented their views was “if a digital archives is the answer, what was the question?”

The prompt for the discussion was a case study presented by Natalie Dewson, Senior Electronic Archives Advisor for the Manawatu-Wanganui (NZ) local government shared services authority for 8 councils. After doing a digital recordkeeping systems stocktake at…

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‘Digital dinosaurs': a response

The CSIRO has recently released a paper advising that the Australian GLAM sector has to become digitally innovative, or risk becoming “digital dinosaurs’ (http://www.csiro.au/Portals/Media/Australian-museums-risk-becoming-digital-dinosaurs.aspx. Also from the project google site – https://sites.google.com/site/glaminnovationstudy/).  While I endorse the sentiment that the GLAMR sector needs to connect socially online, provide innovative digital programs,  in education, and through digital preservation and discovery, I find the report and its recommendations to be somewhat shallow, and just a tad condescending.  I recognise that the same could be said of this response, given that it has been pulled together by one person, over the course of a weekend.  I’ll also be looking at the report from a records and archives perspective, with a little bit from libraries, and my own historian’s perspective.

The report opens with a foreword from Frank Howarth, President, Museums Australia. In it he talks about his wish to find the works of Australian photographer, Frank Hurley.  Hurley is well researched, and well known, with many publications available about his work. Yet, says Howarth, ‘the capacity of the GLAM sector’ to provide immediate digital access to the complete works of and about this important figure ‘ is patchy indeed’.  The failure lies at the feet of the various collecting institutions which have, apparently, failed to maximise digital access to their collections (and to Hurley, in particular), through a lack of engagement with the relevant technology, in particular registers, catalogues and indexes.  A wider conversation across all sectors to enable greater use of digital collection systems is required.   Howarth identifies the primacy of the ‘visitor experience’ and identifies that this occurs primarily through physical access to the sites and collections. Morevover, he suggests that the distinctions between libraries, galleries, archives and museums is 19th century, and a hindrance to true exploration of the distributed national collection (which is not a phrase to be found in the report, at any stage, until towards the end, where it is treated with some suspiscion) – in other words, that convergence on-line and in the real world is both inevitable and required.

Howarth identifies that there needs to be three key actions to enable this to happen :

1) Greater cross-sectorial conversations and links;

2) A great conference, like the Digital Forum in NZ, or Museums and the Web; and,

3) ‘Equity of opportunity and access to the potential of the digital world’.

These three themes are also picked up in the executive summary.

The first and last of these points are clearly motherhood statements, which need to be teased out further. Nevertheless, the first point is clearly needed, as identified by the gaps in this report, and, for example, by the comparable and complementary work of the National and State Libraries Association  (NSLA)’s Digital preservation working group and the Council of Australasian Archives and Records Association (CAARA)’s ADRI, which appear to be working independently of each other.  With respect to the second, while the Digital Forum occurs in a foreign country, it is accessible by most Australians and institutions with the necessary budget – why reinvent the wheel; perhaps we can take it over by stealth?  But the question needs to be asked, do these conferences drive innovation, and are they the most effective way of spreading the digital message?  As for the third, well, yes, of course, but how? The Collections Council was, of course, one approach to the problem. Abruptly deprived of funding by the Labor government, overseen by Minister for Culture and the Arts, Peter Garrett, the Council provided a voice across the GLAM sector and was working towards standardisation and areas of commonality – http://arts.gov.au/collections/collections-council-of-australia.  Perhaps a time has come for its return?

The focus of the study is to look at innovation (although this is not defined, and could perhaps benefit from close attention to the US Museums Association message on the subject –  http://museumsassociation.org/video/17092014-museum-innovation) and the opportunities provided to the GLAM sector ‘created by new broadband and digital services’.  So, the links to access, via digital technology, are clearly spelled out. This is not a bad thing, but it does mean that the report may be focused on product rather than process.  There is also an expectation that convergence is inevitable, and that those opposed to it are dragging their feet through an outdated allegiance to old ideas and concepts. Despite this, the report gives a brief one paragraph summary of each sector, drawn from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008 report on the culture and leisure industries.  I am not convinced by the convergence argument, myself.  I think that the collecting institutions and the professions that work within them represent different ways of understanding and working with information. Blurring the lines between them means that we must embrace the educative and interpretive roles of the museum, plus the research functions of science and natural history museums, creating not just collecting information, while at the same time ensuring that the evidential nature of the material collected is clearly identified and expressed. The material will need to meet or address some aesthetic criteria, or present critical perspectives of past, future and contemporary issues. Taking all of this on for all institutions, and collections, may be biting off more than we can chew. I’m also concerned that the increasing post-modernisation of the products of the GLAM sector will mean loss of context and therefore meaning and understanding.  Our collections are appraised, arranged and used for different purposes. Confusing these purposes may dumb us down rather than create and build knowledge (see, for example, Raymond Schutz’s analysis of the need for context in the digitised Holocaust archiveshttp://www.arhivelenationale.ro/images/custom/image/serban/2013/RA%202%202010/03%20schutz,%20raymund-engleza.pdf).

The first part of the report looks at the institutional environment, including funding, collection size and access statistics. The first part looks at economic activity, and the funding and clientele for each sector.  The library sector is, unsurprisingly, by far the largest, with over 12,000 employees, more than 6,000 volunteers,  and an annual income of around $1220 million.  Museums follow with $710m and 5,000 employees  supported by the largest volunteer sector – nearly 23,000 people. Galleries receive around $470 million, with 2,500 employees and a respectable 3,700 volunteers. Archives tag along, a poor fourth, with $140 million in income and 811 employees (plus 120 volunteers).  Museums and galleries receive a significant proportion of funding from the public sector, as opposed to libraries and archives. Archives differ from the others in that they have a significant clientele among government bodies  Clearly, Howarth’s third activity and a converged environment are already facing some challenges.

The report then turns to collection statistics, including the size of collections and visits to the various institutions.

There are over 100 million objects held across Australia’s GLAM institutions. Australia’s museums and libraries hold the largest documented collections; galleries collections are far smaller. Archives are not included in these estimates as their collections are recorded in kilometres of shelf space, rather than numbers of objects.

Again, the differences appear to be more significant than might otherwise be expected.  And the exclusion of archives on the grounds that they measure things differently is really not excusable, particularly as the report identifies that

There is a hierarchy among GLAM institutions in terms of funding and status – there was discussion about different levels of interest from government, corporate and public stakeholders in the different domains within the GLAM sector – archives being the least visible.

Yes, archives are measured in shelf metres, but the main CAARA statistical reports also provide a nice calculation to turn those metres into items (or objects) – http://www.caara.org.au/index.php/archival-statistics/ – either mulitplied by 100 (NAA, revised) or by 158 (unrevised). Using the simplest calculation, the archives sector suddenly has 62.9 million objects and the library sector nearly 90 million items, of which only 7.6 million, plus 37 shelf km, or 43 million objects are retained permanently as with the other collecting bodies, with galleries possessing 2.9 million and museums, 49. 6 million.  This means that the lowest funded institutions have the majority of items.  The report then looks at the proportion of gallery and museum objects on public display, accessible online and recorded electronically, but does not do the same for libraries or archives.  While the question of ‘exhibit’ may be somewhat moot for libraries and archives (another convergence challenge), the question of accessibility online and electronic recording should be more easily determined.  Museums and galleries have 5.4% of their collections online with 46.7% recorded electronically, according to the ABS statistics cited.  I’m reasonably certain that all of the NSLA institutions have online catalogues, with the majority of works described at item level. The archival and manuscript collections within libraries may be more difficult to ascertain, but not impossible. Similarly, all the CAARA bodies (other than the ACT archives) have online catalogues and backend archive management systems, so the proportion of archives ‘electronically recorded’ at either series or item level should be fairly easy to determine, and also very high : the major archives provide a summary of the number of individual items described within the annual CAAARA report, a not inconsiderable 23 million items in 2011-2012 (approximately 30% of the archives collections. However, this does not identify the records described at the aggregate, series, level).

The question of what is accessible online is more problematic, and highlights one of the problems with the report.  Should libraries include the works digitised by Google or the Hathi Trust? If including University libraries, should the digital theses repositories be included? Does it include access to works only available digitally,  including journals and reports? Should archives include the material digitised by Ancestry, Findmypast and the like? Although the report embraces innovation and connectivity, it does not seem to recognise the now very traditional ways in which libraries and archives engage with and make material accessible over the internet (whether broadband or via dialup).

The second part of the report looks at trends and innovations: this is something of a riff on the usual suspects, and would benefit from a more engaged understanding with the sector, and deeper research.  Trends include the increasing use of digital services, and particularly social media, based on a 2012 CSIRO study on megatrends, generally; the reduction in GLAM sector funding from government; environmental factors; the ageing population and globalisation.  Social justice issues such as access to information about ourselves, from family history, to Stolen Generations, forced adoptions and Royal Commissions into institutionalised child abuse are not raised.  Given the role of archives in ensuring civic rights and individual surety of identity, this is a critical gap. Curiously, though, section 4.1.2 of the report focuses on ‘Community welfare’.

The section on innovation and best practice reviews some of the better known activities in the digital sphere but neither engages with why they were successful, or what barriers might exist that may need to be overcome. Nor is the question of resourcing addressed.  Open access to collections is identified as a factor, with the Powerhouse’s use of Flickr provided as an example. The problem with the closing of Flickr Commons for several years, limiting the ability of collecting institutions to contribute in a cost effective manner is not discussed, nor is the State Library of Queensland release of 50,000 images to the Wiki commons. TROVE, of course, is mentioned, and its antecedents with Picture Australia and successful newspapers online project are identified, but the corresponding issues of copyright clearances and orphan works are not addressed, until one gets to section 3 – the ‘elephants in the room’.  The great Atlas of Living Australia is put up as a resource for geolocation of information about biodiversity data, but the issues of historic place names, questions of ease of integration with cataloguing tools, questions of uploadable datasets and size,  and even the availability of geolocatable information is missing (nor does the report mention, at this stage, the National Map data service - http://nationalmap.nicta.com.au/). Citizen science, wikimedians in residence, third party metadata tagging and so on, all get a mention. Here the question of a cultural mindset among GLAM institutions would be a useful addition, in looking at the reasons why these apparently free and relatively simple to implement programs are so rare. The success of Google books in the US and UK is identified

Many North American and European libraries have collaborated in this initiative, however there are no Australian partners. As a result, many books about Australia and published in Australia are now only searchable in digital form from a copy held by an overseas library

In a digitally connected online environment, in which institutions are to become a melange, why is country of source an issue? Conversely, the Norwegian digitisation project is put up, but the question of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage (and the lack of funding for IATSIS and ‘language’ projects), which might benefit from improved access to culturally appropriate works is not addressed. From there we go to digital art collections, digital film and sound (Australian Sreen online and BBC creative archives, not to mention the BBC’s  digital public space), but not releases of public domain material on vimeo or youtube, to robots touring physical exhibits  and maker spaces.  Missing is a discussion about gamification, collections in Minecraft or Second Life, .scvngr, 4square or drones in the archives. Where too, are interactive videos, audio streaming, and Museum Dance Off?  The link to government initiatives at a policy level, rather than institutional level, is also missing.

Section 2.3 , ‘Relevant technology’, is more of the same.  Digitisation looks at the use of digital scanning in the digital humanities sphere, but does not look at the National Archives ongoing digitisation on demand program, and similar programs. Discovery points to the data visualisation undertaken by Mitch Whitelaw in the National Archives  as an Ian McLean researcher in 2008, but does not go further to look at how similar work has been adopted by the National Archives and Records Administration, working with the University of Texas, to work on digital archives approaches. Nor does it look at how that work is being used by researchers or the NAA itself. Common sense reasoning, analytics, and touch screens all get a look in, although the University of Sydney’s Heurist does not – http://heuristnetwork.org/background/, nor the long running Bright Sparcs project (now Encyclopaedia of Australian Science –  http://www.eoas.info/)and related programs at the University of Melbourne, or the work of IVEC in WA in supporting a range of archaeological and cultural heritage initiatives.  The role of the Australian Research Council in funding research and data use is not investigated, nor is the metadata aggregation of the Australian National Data Service or the CSIRO’s own engagement, via its library service, with managed research data repositories. While it could be said that space was an issue in the report, the same cannot be said for the number of links in the google site.

Section 3 refers to a workshop, based in Sydney, at which some of the ideas in the report were presented. Aimed at “leading edge practice in the sector’, digital technologies such as telepresence suites, virtual conferencing systems or even Skype would have provided an ideal opportunity to both walk and talk the walk and talk. During the workshop a number of ‘elephants’ – barriers to digital engagement – were identified, but few solutions seem to have been identified, other than that institutions needed to take a greater role in providing innovative solutions, to stop competing with each other and to undertake ‘mentoring’ of smaller , less able institutions. Easier said than done, especially in an environment where resourcing is clearly competitive, and the institutions themselves rely on legislation to authorise their activities.  One can be far more interpretative of legislation if one is not then also responsible for ensuring adherence to the letter and spirit of other laws.  Four key strategies were identified :

1) Making the public part of what we do – citizen archivists, tagging and collaboration (TROVE Newspapers online, the NAA arcHive, Carnamah’s Virtual Volunteers)

2) Becoming central to community well being (Find and Connect, Forced Adoptions, Founders and Survivors)

3) Beyond digitisation (GovHack? ), and

4) Developing non-government funding sources.

They also visited

several institutions that seem to house galleries, libraries, archives and museums under one roof, notably the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, the Australian War Memorial and the Museum of Australian Democracy…

noting that “the apparent boundaries between the four styles of institutions already seem more porous than one might think’. However, this is a common confusion over co-location, rather than convergence.  Housed in the one building, the various areas nevertheless display the common characteristics and professional concerns of the individual collection types.

Finally, the authors took these four strategies to specific discussants, and tried to identify some areas of commonality. From those discussions came 6 strategic initiatives:

1. Digitisation and access
2. Digital preservation
3. National approaches to rights
4. Skills and organisational change
5. Shared infrastructure
6. Trans-disciplinary collaboration, Digital Humanities and eResearch

Again, a very broad brush has been taken to these initiatives.  Digitisation and access looks at questions of support and shared expertise, suggesting that expertise and equipment could be shared, although how this latter could be done across the country is not worked through – does the equipment travel or the items? How would it be funded? Digital preservation noted the need for an urgent ‘coordinated, national, cross-sector approach to avoid losing access to historical digital materials’. The copyright section noted the responses to the recent Australian Law Reform Commission review, and identified the need for a ‘stronger and unified voice on rights in general’. No argument there! However,  management of orphan works, and moral rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, could be simply managed by a national, co-ordinated response.  The report again cites Tony Ageh and the BBC Digital public space, to which my response is,

It’s more complicated than you think

https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/tony-ageh/its-more-complicated-than-you-think.

From there we go to education, and the need for new skills and reskilling. As a person working in the education space, I can assure we are keenly aware of the need for these skills, but also that you can’t train everyone to do everything, nor should you. Nor have we forgotten that our core skills require archivists and librarians to be “client centred’ or ‘service dominant’, whether in the digital or physical environment. The report does not articulate the ways in which the GLAM sector is not client centred, which would at least provide a way forward for the proposed changes.

Shared systems and infrastructure focused on the eResearch networks,such as ANDS and AARNet. It was suggested that use of AARNet would assist with cross institutional collaboration, including storage and dissemination. Certainly, I can see benefits for cross-sectorial collaboration, including telepresence communication and the like, but I’m not sure that the various archives or libraries actually fit AARNet’s remit. Worth exploring, though.

Similarly, the suggestion that we work more across disciplines and engage with users is one which I think most institutions and professions are open to.

Finally, the report recommends a National forum, along the lines of the National Digital Forum in NZ and an Innovation and Access Foundation.  With increasing restrictions on travel and training, the AARNet supported conferencing systems may be the best way of establishing the first.  A National Foundation, established as a clearing house for private sector donations across the GLAMR world, may be one way of ensuring that archives, for instance, move from being ‘the least visible’ part of the sector.

In conclusion, then, I find the report to be somewhat long on rhetoric and short on research. There are some good suggestions within the report that need to be refined and further developed.  However, it seems clear that GLAM insititutions are already working well within the digital sphere, and are at more risk from glib dismissals and underfunding, than from a lack of engagement with digital technologies. Two and a half stars from me.

http://everybodyslibraries.com/2013/03/04/from-wikipedia-to-our-libraries/

http://trends.ifla.org/insights-document

http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2014/09/opinion/not-dead-yet/connecting-researchers-to-new-digital-tools-not-dead-yet/#_

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“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”: microfilm and digital preservation

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.

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Eternity Revisited: In pursuit of a national documentation strategy and a national archival system

Originally posted on Recordkeeping Roundtable:

Adrian Cunningham[1]

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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Resistance is futile?

With the news (archives and records  google group; archiveslive) that a review into whether the State Records South Australia and State Library of SA should be combined, questions about convergence, assimilation and collaboration are once again on the Australian archival agenda.

In her PhD thesis (http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/175518829?selectedversion=NBD50509505), Leith Robinson identified convergence as being about the physical and virtual co- location of ‘memory institutions’. She identified that physical convergence, at local government level, has some benefits for the community, although the benefits to the converged entities was somewhat more problematic.  Smaller institutions suffered from a loss of identity and funding, with simplified services and challenges to different professional approaches to collection information.  As Robinson notes, archivists have generally not been as supportive of the convergence trope as libraries, quoting past ASA President, Jackie Bettington’s, concerns about the ‘dumbing down’ of the archival profession.

In a comment on the ArchivesLive forum, James Lowry identifies the principal problem with the ‘memory institution’ ideology, in a way which reinforces Bettington’s concerns:

‘Collaboration’ allows archives and libraries to share technical expertise and infrastructure, but ‘convergence’ (mergers), especially with cultural institutions rather than accountability institutions, often damage the position of the archives and always sends the wrong message to government: that the archives are a cultural heritage institution only and not policy-makers with administratively significant work to do in supporting government efficiency and openness.

He points to the Library and Archives Canada as an example where ‘convergence’ has not been as smooth as might otherwise be suggested - http://exlibris.pbworks.com/w/page/63815458/Timeline%20on%20Library%20and%20Archives%20Canada%20Service%20Decline%20after%202004

These concerns are not new – in the 1994 Commission on Government review in Western Australia, specified matter 9 looked specifically at the question of an independent archives, as a separate entity from the State Library in which it had been based for some fifty years (http://www.slp.wa.gov.au/legislation/statutes.nsf/main_mrtitle_3172_homepage.html). In considering the matter, the Commission pointed out that:

An overwhelming majority of the submissions we received were critical of the proposed

retention of the PRO within the library structure. This was seen to detract from true

independence. Submissions came from professional associations allied with the different

aspects of record management including librarians, records managers and archivists.

Individuals, as well as academics, government agencies and others with a particular

interest in the topic, made formal submissions. A similar response was encountered at the

public hearings and seminars we conducted…

Echoing the Robinson’s findings that smaller institutions suffer when merged with the larger, the Commission found:

the PRO will have to constantly compete with a larger agency (LISWA) and may be

marginalised and resource starved;

and, again echoing Bettington and Lowry:

it is inappropriate to separate the operational and regulatory functions of an archives

authority because of the need to have some concentration of specialised skills;

In looking at other jurisdictions in which the Library and Archives appear to be combined, it is noted that these are shared organisationally, rather than subordinate of the one within the other.

The Tasmania Archives and Heritage Office forms part of the Tasmanian LINC service. The Archivist, who is appointed by the Minister, has sole responsibility for the archives and recordkeeping regime, and does not answer to a separate body, such as the State Records Commission. The Archives are responsible for both State and private archives, the latter being handed to the Archivist via the State Library Board.

New Zealand Archives and Libraries – are merged within the Department of Internal Affairs but are managed as independent entities within the Department.

Generally, though, archival institutions are managed as independent entities. An alternative model might be that of the National Archives of the United Kingdom (TNA), which encompasses not just the archives, but also current information needs, through the Office of Public Sector Information and Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. TNA also has responsibility for private archives.

In looking at questions of convergence, perhaps we need to consider other agencies and organisations, other than ‘memory instituions’. There is no reason, for example, why a State archives could not be associated with a Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, open Government body or publisher, or the national archives with a metadata registration body (e.g. the NAA and ANDS) or similar. Perhaps, rather than resisting assimilation, we should be actively seeking alternative institutions and organisations with whom the other roles of the archives resonate.

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Archive failure

Today, on the Australian Archives and Records google groupChris 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Pre October Conferencing part 2

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]

Brilliant paper on ‘chasing Eliza Miles’ through the archives, by Louise Blake: a portrait of research & homage to @TroveAustralia#ozha2014

And more problematically:

Michael Bennett retweeted
20h
PHAVic's avatar

The gloves are on at the Fryer Library exclusive historians ‘white gloves’ tour! #OzHA2014 pic.twitter.com/x2Gsn81MNc

 

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