For the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the Access to Holdings grant includes a digital initiatives stream. We have not offered this stream in the past, so we are really interested to see what types of applications we receive. The grant parameters include projects that improve the capacity of our institutions to acquire, preserve and make accessible e-records. For example, the grant funds projects such as purchasing hardware/software or hiring someone to develop policies and procedures for digital preservation. The grant can also be used for arranging and describing e-records. Many of our members have mentioned that support is needed in this area of archival work. As this stream of grants is new for ASA, it will be a trial to see what the needs are in the community. This pilot will also help us refine the application for future years.
The ASA recommends that your institution has a plan in place for managing e-records in your archives prior to attempting to process these types of records. The elements an institution should think about to prepare for digital archives include the following:
Does your institution have staff with skills to manage e-records? If not, you could consider investing in some professional development. ASA Education and Travel grants can be a financial help so staff can take courses. For this grant, your project could include research days to explore online options related to managing e-records in an archives (see links below).
What money is required to preserve and manage e-records? Can your institution invest in it? Do you have servers on which to store your e-records? Is there backup and virus protection? Do you have software for processing and for digital preservation?
- A Plan
A plan is essential for managing e-records. Your plan would include various elements in a policy and procedures encompassing the areas listed below.
How will your institution acquire e-records? Various methods to acquire records could be via email, ftp or on physical carries like USB drives and optical or floppy disks. You could also visit a donor’s home or workplace and transfer records onto a work laptop or external hard drive. Once you receive records into your custody, how will you ingest them into your system? There are tools, including forensic tools, available for these processes. Your institution will need to decide what methods of acquisition both suits your needs and capabilities and maintains the integrity of the records that are acquired at the same time.
How will your e-records be stored? On a computer, server, or external hard drive? Back up and recovery plans should be added to your existing emergency and disaster recovery plans.
For example, at least one back up should be kept in an offsite location.
The plan should consider monitoring the e-records once in archival custody. This includes monitoring through checksums as well as maintaining security by controlling who has access to your digital storage.
Finally, how would researchers access e-records? Do you have database software that can provide access online? Or perhaps access can be provided onsite through a computer in the reference room.
Various procedures and institutional policy decisions for these different aspects would need to be worked through, for example a workflow and a metadata schema should be developed as well as preferred file formats chosen for preservation and access.
The Library of Congress has a guide on levels of Digital Preservation which may be a useful guide for what to include in your digital preservation plan. It helps you to analyze your current state and consider what steps can be implemented now and what can be a goal for your future state: http://www.digitalpreservation.gov:8081/ndsa/activities/levels.html
- Management Buy In
Possibly the most difficult component of managing e-records is having those you report to agree to investing in e-records. After drafting a plan, you could create a business case for management to accept and support your proposal for managing and preserving e-records.
List of Resources
A comprehensive list exists on the newly revamped Archivist’s Toolkit by AABC: http://aabc.ca/resources/archivists-toolkit/electronic-records/
Digital Preservation Management: Implementing Short-term Strategies for Long-term Problems https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/dpm/dpm-eng/eng_index.html
Digital Preservation Handbook http://dpconline.org/handbook
Brown, Adrian Practical Digital Preservation: A how-to guide for organizations of any size http://www.facetpublishing.co.uk/title.php?id=047555#.WhNaD1WnFhE
Software: Archives Canada Digital Preservation Service http://www.archivescanada.ca/ACDPS