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The woes of Swedish private archival institutions

Proscovia Svärd (The Department of Information Science, University of South Africa, South Africa and Södertörn University College, Sweden)

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 20 November 2017




The purpose of this paper is to highlight the long-term preservation challenges that the Swedish private archives are faced with. In as much as they offer a complement to the public archives and hence offer a nuanced national narrative, they lack both financial and human resources to effectively deal with the digital information management environment.


Participatory Action Research (PAR) was used to identify the challenges of long-term preservation together with the six private archives institutions that were involved in the collaboration. The collaboration was financially facilitated by the Södertörn University. PAR is defined as a systematic investigation, with the collaboration of those affected by the issue being studied, for the purposes of education and taking action or effecting social change. What is distinctive of PAR is the active involvement of people whose lives are affected by the phenomenon under study.


The private archival institutions face long-term preservation challenges such as lack of a digital repository that would facilitate the capture, organization and management of digital records that are of different formats and in a dispersed environment. There are no stringent legal requirements to facilitate the creation and management of the records in a standardized way and the institutions fear that imposing such requirements might deter their clients from depositing archival materials with them. The institutions will also need to espouse the business-oriented archival descriptions where private organizations are concerned to identify relevant archival materials and to promote participatory archival descriptions that would allow the creators to tag their records with metadata. Digital information requires a proactive approach, that is, planning for the long-term preservation of the information before it is created. Private archives need to invest in education packages that will facilitate their clientele’s understanding of the challenges of digital long-term preservation.

Research limitations/implications

The findings cannot be generalized to all private archival institutions, as it was only six institutions that participated, but the issues discussed are relevant to most archival institutions.

Practical implications

A lot of research has been carried out in the area of long-term preservation, but researchers have not paid enough attention to the woes of the private archives. To sustain a nuanced national narrative, the private archives need all the support to be able to live up to their mission of preserving archives of the private sector that are not captured by the public archival institutions. This is important in a pluralistic society such as Sweden. Highlighting the challenges might enable the institutions to work towards finding common challenges.

Social implications

The private archives are part of Sweden’s national heritage. Their preservation matters to the society as a whole and to enhancing the voices of the underrepresented.


The literature review revealed that not much research has paid attention to the challenges being faced by the private archives. This paper, therefore, contributes to this knowledge gap.



The author would like to thank Södertörn University for the grant that facilitated the collaboration that the author had with the six archival institutions that were involved in the discussions that led to formulation of this article. She, therefore, thanks the members of the institutions for sharing their views.


Svärd, P. (2017), "The woes of Swedish private archival institutions", Records Management Journal, Vol. 27 No. 3, pp. 275-285.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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