Core Competency C: Understand the evolution of information recordkeeping systems in response to technological change.
What do you understand this competency to mean?
The approach we take to recordkeeping and archives management is continuously evolving, particularly due to rapidly developing technologies, which include methods of records creation – such as mobile devices and e-mail – as well as methods of storage, retrieval, security, and access. More and more archival institutions and records repositories are adopting recordkeeping practices that embrace the digitization of records and the use of software and databases designed specifically for electronic records. In order to keep up with emerging technologies, archivists and records managers must be flexible and willing to adapt previous recordkeeping systems to these new technologies.
The digitization of records is one feature born of the emerging technologies of which archivists and records managers must be aware. If they are to optimize the storage, care, security, and accessibility of the records in their care, a level of flexibility is required. Embracing new technologies can help archivists to better organize their collections and the associated metadata, assist records managers to control Big Data produced as a result of mobile devices, and provide the public with access to virtual copies of materials that had previously been out of reach. In his address titled ‘Harnessing the Wisdom of the Crowd The Citizen Archivist Program at the National Archives’ given on July 16 at the 2013 Digital Humanities Conference at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, stated of the National Archives: “The records start with the Oaths of Allegiance signed by George Washington and his troops at Valley Forge and go all the way up to the Tweets that are being created at the White House as I am speaking this evening” (Ferriero, 2013). Adapting to technological change has allowed the National Archive to safeguard – and make accessible – treasured documents critical to American history over the years.
Another example of the evolution of information recordkeeping systems is the evolution of audio mediums, which appear in oral histories in archival collections. Through the years, audio mediums have evolved from reel-to-reel tapes, vinyl records, and cassette tapes to compact discs and MP3s. Archivists and records managers must adjust their archival practices as technology evolves around them. In this example, updating audio formats would be a necessity to ensure the survival of the recordings. Not only is audio tape or film subject to environmental dangers that can cause disintegration or warping, but the devices used to play certain formats become obsolete, rendering the playing of some audio formats impossible. By updating audio formats, like transferring audio recordings from cassette tapes to MP3s, archivists can ensure the survival of their audio collections.
Failing to adapt to current technologies can result in the loss of records based on obsolete formats or out-of-date systems. Failure to evolve in step with the emergence of new technologies can also hinder the archivist’s ability to fulfill their commitment to the public with regard to making records accessible. Internet-based and electronic systems can assist archivists and records managers in managing, storing, and preserving records efficiently and securely, but the willingness to evolve and update one’s practices is required.
What course assignments or other work products are you submitting as evidence of your mastery of this competency? Which source or class is your evidence drawn from?
As evidence of my mastery of the competency I am presenting two participation questions and the final term paper, titled ‘The Digitization of Manuscripts and Electronic Recordkeeping Implications,’ from MARA 249: Electronic Recordkeeping Systems and Issues in Electronic Recordkeeping, and an analytical essay from MARA 284: Information Governance.
Why did you select these particular work products as evidence for your mastery of this competency? How do your selections show not simply learning but also application?
The following four items of proof have been chosen for their specific ability to support my proficiency of this competency.
- MARA 249: Electronic Recordkeeping Systems and Issues in Electronic Recordkeeping: Week 5 Participation
This weekly participation answer written for week five of MARA 249, Electronic Recordkeeping Systems and Issues in Electronic Recordkeeping, addresses metadata, emphasizing the way metadata usage has evolved to accommodate electronic recordkeeping practices. The evolution of metadata and how it is used as it pertains to archives and recordkeeping is particularly demonstrative of the flexibility that archivists and records managers must exercise in order to maintain control over their holdings amidst emerging technologies.
Metadata in an archival setting allows archivists and records managers to track the records in their holdings. For example, each time I was assigned a new collection to process at the Maine Historical Society, I would access the Past Perfect program on their computer system and retrieve the accession form for the collection, which included such metadata as the name of the donor, the name of the registrar who accepted the collection on behalf of MHS, the accession number, the size and condition of the collection, and a preliminary list of the items in the collection. This metadata establishes provenance and verifies the authenticity of the collection, which assists the archivist in managing the collection once it has been accessioned into the archive. Without the proper archival software to organize these accession forms, the metadata necessary to verify a collection’s authenticity and provenance might not be as easily accessible.
2. MARA 249: Electronic Recordkeeping Systems and Issues in Electronic Recordkeeping: Week 11 Participation
A second response penned for participation for MARA 249, this post discusses Big Data and the implications of this new concept of voluminous data on such a vast scale. Records managers today are facing new concerns over the high volume of records and the rapidity of their creation, particularly the what-where-how of storing what has been termed as ‘Big Data.’ With recent technological advances, there are numerous electronic devices that now have the capability to generate records at an increasing rate. Understanding the concepts of Big Data and the impact that Big Data has on the archiving world can assist records managers in developing plans and retention schedules for dealing with such a high volume of records.
An example of Big Data’s effect on the evolution of recordkeeping practices can be gleaned from the retention of a business’s emails. Emails sent on the commission of the business’s operations can be considered records, and might therefore by retained by the records manager. The high volume of emails sent in one day by everyone employed by the company would be classified as Big Data. In order to adequately and securely store all of these records, the records manager may retain the services of a third-party vendor with high-volume storage capabilities. Contracting out records storage because of Big Data is demonstrative of the necessities of adapting to changing technologies.
3. MARA 249: Electronic Recordkeeping Systems and Issues in Electronic Recordkeeping: Final Paper
Titled ‘Digitization of Manuscripts and Electronic Recordkeeping Implications,’ this final paper written for MARA 249 discusses the impact that digitization has on archiving and the attached implications of undertaking digitization projects within an archive. While this paper’s primary focus is on the digitization of manuscripts, the same assertions and methodologies presented hold true for all record types, and can be applied by archivists and records managers regardless of the type of institution to which their records belong.
A prominent responsibility of the role of archivist is to provide access to records in their care – with the emergence of new technologies that inhibit internet access from a number of mobile devices, it is no surprise that many institutions are taking advantage of the audience that would be within their reach via web-based applications. Digitizing records allows users to access records at any time of day and from any location.
Digitizing records and providing the public with access to them via electronic repositories allows archivists to maximize their archive’s assets. Smithsonian Institution museums from the Air and Space Museum to the National Zoo offer virtual exhibits through their website, allowing the public to experience museum exhibits and archived documents from anywhere in the world.
4. MARA 284: Information Governance: Analytical Essay
Of the emerging technologies that archivists and records managers must navigate, social media is one of the most widely used platforms of communication, responsible for the quick, high-volume creation of records. The popularity of such a high-volume-record-wielding platform has the unfortunate effect of drawing potential criminal activity in the form of hackers, who can mine electronic records for valuable personal information. It is for this purpose that records managers must be diligent in their efforts to protect records in their care from malicious activity.
This analytical essay addresses the importance of the implementation of an Information Governance policy in order to safeguard against the inherent risks to which electronic records are vulnerable. Being aware of Information Governance policies and the purposes for implementing these policies can arm archivists and records managers against impending threats that inevitably come with advancements in technology.
Most recently, health insurance mogul Anthem was subject to malicious hacking, during which time the private information of 80 million customers and employees was compromised. Although Anthem claims to have had strict security software in place, hackers were still able to breach these defenses and steal valuable information. In an interview regarding Anthem’s security breach Dwayne Melancon of security software provider Tripwire stated that “‘We have seen a lot of cases where people have deployed technologies and either not implemented them properly or it was the wrong technology and they still got breached’” (Commins, 2015). With an effective information governance policy, security technologies would be required to not only be installed immediately, but the software would have to be from a reputable vendor. By complying with information governance strategies and exercising flexibility in relation to technological evolution, archivists and records managers have a better chance of protecting their holdings.
What have you learned?
There is never only one way to do something – even best practices are revisited and revised to accommodate new technologies. Archivists and records managers must be willing to work with new technologies as they emerge, including digitizing their holdings in order to make them available to a society that is becoming increasingly reliant upon web-based resources. This may mean that those of us working in recordkeeping professions must be flexible when it comes to our preconceived notions of effective recordkeeping practices. Doing so will provide the records with a superior level of care and administration, and users will be provided access efficiently to records that are accurate and complete.
The benefits reaped as a result of such flexibility manifest themselves in numerous examples where elements of recordkeeping are simplified, better protected, or made more efficient. One example is the use of metadata as applied to electronic records – metadata attached to electronic records holds them accountable with regards to their authenticity, and any alteration would be documented digitally in the embedded metadata. The security of the records is therefore protected by the attached metadata.
Implementing Information Governance programs can also ward off the dangers attached to the increasingly popular mobile devices used to create, transmit, and store electronic records. When an archivist or records manager is aware of new technologies used to create and store records and the potential threats to records that inevitably come with them, they can better prepare themselves for storing these records, allowing access to them, and, ultimately, safeguarding the information therein. As evident in the growing number of power-house institutions like universities, healthcare organizations, major retailers, and banks that have been subject to the malicious activity of sophisticated hackers, records managers must be, now more than ever, prepared for the threats that come with the perks of emerging technologies. Being well-versed in advancements in software and emerging technological devices allows records managers an opportunity to prepare themselves for the security risks these technologies will bring, and perhaps the foresight to implement security software to protect themselves.
Embracing these new technologies rather than fearing them will allow archivists and records managers to perform at their best, and can be advantageous to both the archive and the patron. Using web-based applications to create online exhibits benefits those who would wish to visit a museum or archive but are unable to do so in person. On the Smithsonian website, which boasts many interactive features for patrons, they proudly announce “The Smithsonian goes social! Participate with your Smithsonian through social networking, gaming, mobile, and more.” With the right software, archivists and records managers can contribute to the vast world of web-based learning, engaging the public in ways they could not before the advent of the internet.
Commins, J. (2015). Anthem data breach: potential game changer for healthcare. MedPage Today. Retrieved from http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/PublicHealth/49914.
Ferriero, D. (2013). “Harnessing the wisdom of the crowd: the citizen archivist program at the national archives.” University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Lincoln, Nebraska. Retrieved from http://www.archives.gov/about/speeches/ferriero/index.html.