Friday, May 4, 2007

Smithsonian Institution Archives & Rockefeller Archive Center tackle digital preservation issues

The Collaborative Electronic Records Project is a three-year endeavor that began in August 2005. This project seeks to develop, test, and share technology to preserve digital documents. This initiative has a strong focus on e-mail messages and attachments. Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig at the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA) and Nancy Adgent at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) serve as the project’s archivists.

CERP was developed by Dr. Edith Hedlin, then director of the Smithsonian Institution Archives and former SAA president, and by Dr. Darwin H. Stapleton, executive director of the Rockefeller Archive Center. These well-established, stable institutions have responsibilities for the management of records that go well beyond cataloging of historical manuscripts. Both are entrusted with the strategic management of a broad range of institutional records from founding documents to nearly current files.

The project archivists conducted interviews with depositors to determine how electronic records and email fit into their daily business routines. Not surprisingly, email management varies greatly from users with more than 10,000 emails in the Inbox with no organization to users who have elaborate systems of folder hierarchies.

Specific files and email account holders were chosen for testing. To date, email messages with attachments, education course planning files, an office handbook, and other electronic documents have been transferred in digital form. Transfers were conducted via server and removable media, and initial processing has begun.

The email presents interesting challenges: missing email addresses and transmission data, dead Web links, large bulk of messages, missing sent email, and specific applications needed for viewing the email.

Email guidance also has been drafted for the depositing organizations. Requirements for a digital repository for the materials are currently being refined. The results of this undertaking will be shared with the depositors and the archival community through a symposium.

The Smithsonian Institution Archives:

The Rockefeller Archive Center:

The Collaborative Electronic Records Project:

Originally published March 20, 2007


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