Appraisal of records to separate the wheat (records of enduring value) from the chaff (ephemeral records) is one of the most important functions of the archives. In terms of the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa (NARSSA) Act (No. 43 of 1996) (the Act), “no public records may be transferred to an archives repository, destroyed, erased or otherwise disposed of without the written authorisation of the national archivist”. In implementing this section of the Act, the NARSSA issues a disposal authority, which emanates from the appraisal process explained in the policy guidelines of 2002. The purpose of the study is to analyse the appraisal policy guidelines on the approach of NARSSA in relation to preservation of digital records.
This study has used qualitative data obtained through content analysis and literature to review the appraisal policy guidelines and approach of NARSSA in relation to preservation of digital records. The 2002 approved appraisal policy, as well as the directives issued by NARSSA in terms of Section 13(4) of the Act, is examined to determine the criteria, the process and the methodology adopted in the appraisal of records. Content analysis data are augmented through interviews conducted in person with the head of the records management unit at NARSSA and the archivist responsible for appraisal of government records.
The study has established that, in terms of the approach, records are appraised two years after the implementation of records classification systems in governmental bodies and those of archival value are then transferred to an archives repository after a period of 20 years. Twenty years is a long period as records might be lost, especially in digital environments. Furthermore, the appraisal policy guidelines limit the powers of records managers in governmental bodies in deciding on records of enduring value, as this responsibility is assigned to archivists at NARSSA. It is clear that the policy was written with paper records in mind.
This study may go a long way in influencing policy review to embrace appraisal of digital records in South Africa. This in turn will help in determining the feasibility of preservation technology for digital records.
This study is useful to ensure participation of the public in the appraisal process. This study has triangulated content analysis data with interviews to examine appraisal criteria, process and methodology, followed by NARSSA.
Ngoepe, M. and Nkwe, M. (2018), "Separating the wheat from the chaff with the winnowing fork: The eeny meeny miny mo appraisal approach of digital records in South Africa", Records Management Journal, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 130-142. https://doi.org/10.1108/RMJ-09-2017-0027Download as .RIS
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