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Size matters: The implications of volume for the digital archive of tomorrow – a case study from the UK national archives

Valerie Johnson (Department of Research, The National Archives, Kew, UK)
Sonia Ranade (Department of Digital Preservaton and Cataloguing, The National Archives, Kew, UK)
David Thomas (Department of Technology, The National Archives, Kew, UK)

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 11 November 2014

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to focus on a highly significant yet under-recognised concern: the huge growth in the volume of digital archival information and the implications of this shift for information professionals.

Design/methodology/approach

Though data loss and format obsolescence are often considered to be the major threats to digital records, the problem of scale remains under-acknowledged. This paper discusses this issue, and the challenges it brings using a case study of a set of Second World War service records.

Findings

TNA’s research has shown that it is possible to digitise large volumes of records to replace paper originals using rigorous procedures. Consequent benefits included being able to link across large data sets so that further records could be released.

Practical implications

The authors will discuss whether the technical capability, plus space and cost savings will result in increased pressure to retain, and what this means in creating a feedback-loop of volume.

Social implications

The work also has implications in terms of new definitions of the “original” archival record. There has been much debate on challenges to the definition of the archival record in the shift from paper to born-digital. The authors will discuss where this leaves the digitised “original” record.

Originality/value

Large volumes of digitised and born-digital records are starting to arrive in records and archive stores, and the implications for retention are far wider than simply digital preservation. By sharing novel research into the practical implications of large-scale data retention, this paper showcases potential issues and some approaches to their management.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

© 2014 Crown copyright. This article is published with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's printer for Scotland

Citation

Johnson, V., Ranade, S. and Thomas, D. (2014), "Size matters: The implications of volume for the digital archive of tomorrow – a case study from the UK national archives", Records Management Journal, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 224-237. https://doi.org/10.1108/RMJ-01-2014-0004

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Government agency