Thirty Years of Electronic Records

Karin McGuirk (University of South Africa)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 1 December 2004




McGuirk, K. (2004), "Thirty Years of Electronic Records", Online Information Review, Vol. 28 No. 6, pp. 465-466.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The contributors in this collection of essays have all been involved in the development of the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). It is not only about appraising, accessioning, preserving, describing and providing access to archival electronic records. It also includes discussions on the application of archival theory and practice, and their evolution. The main focus is on archival electronic records, which makes this collection essential to the current challenges faced by libraries, archives, museums and similar institutions regarding the preservation (and related activities) of contemporary and future types of electronic records. Of great value is the inclusion of the history and evolution of the record's creation, and the use and disposition of electronic records, as well as broader governmental and societal understanding and use of electronic records. Two sections precede the chapters. The first section, Chronology, offers a useful chronological record of NARA and of electronic records, as well as organisational names. This is followed by a section entitled Recollections by Fishbein, which provides an account of the convergence of technology that resulted in the need for an effective electronic records programme to be developed. A logical progression from this section is Chapter 1 (Brown) on the history of the NARA programme. It reflects the development, setbacks and progress of the NARA programme, and it parallels the evolution of archival processing and services for electronic records and of the archive community's efforts to address this new form of records. The electronic records programme of NARA has undergone changes in addressing the issues related to the identification, acquisition, preservation, and use of archival electronic records. Brown shows that these changes coincide with major phases in the evolution of information technology.

The main functional aspects of appraisal, accessioning, preservation, description and reference as they relate to electronic records are developed further in Chapters 2 (Henry), 3 (Ambacher) and 4 (Adams) respectively. Chapter 5, by Thibodeau, provides insight into the Electronic Records Archives Program (ERA) of the future. In Chapter 6, Baron gives a perspective on the impact of litigation on government electronic record keeping. He analyses two case studies to illustrate his perspective. The chapter on Views of Managers (Chapter 7) provides insight into the electronic records programme of NARA from the standpoint of the officials tasked with managing the programme. Chapter 8 is an appropriate conclusion by Conrad. He details the significant contributions of NARA to the development of archival electronic records theory and practice through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission's electronic records research agenda and its grant programme. Even though NARA is specifically a US electronic archival records programme, it still attends to universal problems regarding such records. It may prove to be an important source for those involved in archival studies. The only pity about this collection is the absence of an index.

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