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All things digital

On 10th July 8 archivists and records managers from the south met at a bistro in Bournemouth to discuss all things digital!

We came from a range of backgrounds, from universities to local authorities to a religious order. This was great because those experiences meant we had different perspectives on what to digitise and how to deal with born digital records.

Our first subject for discussion was the blog post “For God’s sake, stop digitizing paper” by Joshua Ranger. We thought the blog’s message wasn’t clear enough and wished it had more of the argument that audiovisual materials are in greater danger of obsolescence. Even so, it provoked discussion about how the public expects to find records online but don’t understand the amount of work needed to get them there.

Next, the 2011 presidential address by Helen Tibbo in the American Archivist led us to talk about opportunities for the profession. Ideas from the group included how to help our organisations deal with huge digital volumes by promoting/legitimising destruction and being a hub of knowledge. We spoke about how archivists are often driven by a love of content and preserving history, which may be limiting how we take these chances.

We talked about it being difficult to make decisions about what digital records to keep. Decisions are needed upfront but we can’t always foresee future uses. A useful example was that digitised records can be used to study physical formats when the quality and resolution is high enough.

It was a helpful get-together as the subject meant everyone had something to offer, though with it being so broad we went off on lots on tangents! Looking forward to the next one…

Exploring an alternative perspective on provenance

After a long hiatus, the next meeting of Cardigan Continuum London has finally been organised for 14th September at 6pm.  The challenge for those coming along is to read and gain some understanding of the W3C PROV Standard.

According to the W3C Group on Provenance ‘Provenance is information about entities, activities, and people involved in producing a piece of data or thing, which can be used to form assessments about its quality, reliability or trustworthiness.’ Is this a definition we recognise? Is this a standard we understand? What (if anything) does its development mean for archives and records management? Can we even follow the standard, expressed as it is in a language many of us are not familiar with? All these questions and more will be open for discussion, so please join us.

The venue is to be confirmed, so please email me at jenny@pgld.com if you would like to come along and I will send you the final details in due course.

P.S. If you get stuck – this article might help “Requirements for Provenance on the Web”, Paul Groth, Yolanda Gil, James Cheney and Simon Miles, International Journal of Digital Curation, 2012, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 39-56.

Next Cardigan Continuum South Meeting

After a bit of a hiatus, we are pleased to announce that the next meeting of Cardigan Continuum South will take place in Bournemouth on Friday 10th July 2015 from 7:30pm.

This time, we will be looking at whether we are ready to meet the challenges of digital preservation. We will be reading ‘For God’s Sake, Stop Digitising Paper’, a blog post by Joshua Ranger, and having a think about Denbighshire Archive’s approach to delivering archive services.

If you feel like a little extra reading, check out pp.18-25 of Helen Tibbo’s ‘A Profession Coming of Age in the Digital Era’, which gives a nice overview of why the digital challenge makes this an interesting time to be a recordkeeper.

If you would like to come along, please email cardcontsouth@gmail.com and we will send you more details nearer the time, including venue info. Please also get in touch if you can’t make this date but would be interested in attending future meetings.

We hope to see you there!

Sarah Gerrard (in Hampshire) and Kate Watson (in Dorset)

Happy 2015 to one and all

The first meeting of Cardigan Continuum London will be held on Wednesday 25th February at 5.30pm in the Arts and Humanities Staff Common Room, Foster Court, UCL [directions]. In a spirit of renewal in keeping with the arrival of the New Year (and copying Cardigan Continuum South) we will be reading ‘Reinventing Archival Methods in the Hague‘ by Cassie Findlay. This paper comes from a recent initiative of the Recordkeeping Roundtable, kindred spirits on the other side of the world.

The meeting will also discuss, inspired by all this talk of reinvention, the future of Cardigan Continuum. We have been going now for over three years, plenty of time to get into a rut, so all thoughts are welcome as to how (or if) we want to do things differently.

Last meeting of 2014

First of all many apologies for the delay in arranging another meeting, but I have been quite busy undertaking a research project for the day job. I will try to do better after Christmas, but was hoping that I might be able to hijack a quick meeting before Christmas to discuss something I have written as part of my research. The date I have in mind is 18th December at 6pm and we will meet in the Arts and Humanities Staff Common Room in Foster Court, UCL. The piece in question can be downloaded from here, and it is essentially a summary of recommendations made by people from outside archives and records management in regard to personal archives and recordkeeping. I am trying to work out what (if anything) we (as archivists and records managers) can learn from it and what we think we can usefully feedback to those working in these other fields. As I will be using the results of our discussion for my research, I am afraid that everyone who attends will need to complete a consent form (also downloadable) but apart from that everything will be exactly the same as a normal meeting – something to read, something to discuss and with it being nearly Christmas, seasonal nibbles to eat and something to drink. I hope to see some of you there and, even if you can’t make it, I hope you find the summary interesting as a different perspective on things.

Report of the first Cardigan Continuum South meeting

The newly formed Cardigan Continuum South held its first meeting on the 18th September in Winchester. Thanks to Kate and Sarah for organising and to Kate for this report.

Our discussion article “ReinventinCardigan Continuum Southg Archival Methods in the Hague” (http://rkroundtable.org/2014/02/05/reinventing-archival-methods-in-the-hague/) by Cassie Findlay was chosen because, written from a continuum theory perspective, it had talking points about both records and archives.

The issues raised by the article were universally recognised, and we agreed that it was difficult to choose the most effective way to make a difference with limited resources. For example, it was acknowledged that two values associated with the profession are our obsession with detail and having a big picture view of how organisations function. As most organisations now don’t have the luxury of carrying out detailed cataloguing, the idea of a taking a proportionate, risk-based approach to activities was thought to be an interesting challenge to the status quo.

In relation to the archives world we discussed how ready internet access to digitised records has contributed to falling visitor numbers. Interestingly, one participant noted that less people hasn’t meant less retrievals, as users are now more savvy about what they want by the time they visit. It was accepted that users generally expect instant access, however, the group didn’t agree that new users were always interested in adding their own stories to archives. Instead it was suggested that only select groups of users that form part of a shared-interest community are likely to want to reform archival description, e.g. the digital humanists or Ancestry users.

From the perspective of records management services, there were many thought-provoking statements in Findlay’s article. We agreed that disposal is difficult and time-consuming in the electronic world, that it is difficult to apply retention schedules across all systems that hold information, and that EDRMS may produce a skewed view of records. The ‘conscious’ recordkeeping of saving something into an EDRMS was compared to being picky about what to post on Facebook, only the best bits will make the cut.

The link between archives and records management was raised in the value of records managers who advise on records creation and how this can ease eventual appraisal. Given the volume of electronic information being created, changing or adapting our paper practices so that they are suitable for huge volumes of electronic information was thought to be the only way forward. For example easing disposal by applying retention by function rather than document type or by aggregating retention periods.

In line with Findlay’s approach of “offering solutions, not problems”, advocacy was discussed, with one proposal being to find out stakeholders’ problems and describe how archives and/or records management will solve them. Overall everyone positively agreed with most points and seemed heartened by the many calls to action. However, the group disagreed with the idea that governments will soon stop funding purpose-built repositories. Thinking of the many new buildings that have gone up recently, we were confident and hopeful that this wouldn’t be the case!

It was a successful meeting with attendees travelling from Dorchester and Southampton, and we hope to repeat it with another meeting in the New Year.

Cardigan Continuum Comes to the South!

We are excited to announce that a new Cardigan Continuum group is being formed in the South of England!

The first ever meeting will be held in Winchester on Thursday 18th September from about 7:30pm. We will announce a venue when we have an idea of numbers, but it will be somewhere within walking distance of the railway station. We hope to hold other meetings elsewhere in the region in future.

The text under discussion will be ‘Reinventing Archival Methods’ by Cassie Findlay, which is available online: http://rkroundtable.org/2014/02/05/reinventing-archival-methods-in-the-hague/. This looks at some strategies for coping with managing digital information and covers both the archives and RM perspectives, so hopefully there will be something for everyone to think about!

If you are interested in attending, please email cardcontsouth@gmail.com to let us know and we will send you more details nearer the time. Please also get in touch if you can’t make this date but would be interested in attending future meetings.

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