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Report of the first Cardigan Continuum South meeting

October 6, 2014

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.

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