About midway in the period of the existence of the Records Management Journal, in 1997, I authored an opening essay[2] for a special international issue at the request of its editor. For this issue, I have been invited to reflect on the current state of play of some of the topics raised in that essay and other contemporary topics in keeping with the current, national orientation of this issue. Therefore, though reflective to begin with, I will speak mainly to the status quo in keeping with the theme of this issue, speaking only to a few portions of the earlier essay to help keep some perspective. Similarly, this writing will reflect one more representative of US developments, but mindful that changes in the global landscape projected in the earlier essay have come about in ways that have made international political boundaries become less and less relevant in the world of technology, information management and recordkeeping.

Discussion of today's state of play begs to first take note how monumental the changes have been in technology, the workplace and related workpatterns, and the increasing significance of these on the theory and practice of archives and records management during the period marked by this coming-of-age anniversary of the RMJ, with its maiden issue, Volume 1, Issue 1, 1989. They are even more pronounced since 1997 by which time technological innovation was already on what retrospectively the mathematician might call an asymptotically upward trend line.

In Retrospect

Cultural and technological changes that are now ordinary daily fare would have been unimaginable 10-20 years ago by all but the most far-seeing visionaries such as a Vannevar Bush[3] or a Ray Kurzweil.[4] If recordkeeping professionals were overwhelmed with the seemingly insurmountable issues in managing electronic (or machine-readable) records in those days, how much greater today's challenges must seem. Indeed, even the term "status quo" in organizational behavior and associated recordkeeping is no longer an accurate term to describe currerent events, because change is now the status quo. It is as though we are now viewing ongoing movies rather than stop frames or Daguerreotype images. 

Nevertheless, there were among us some very prescient people in our own professional pasts, not the least among them, Ralph Comes, writing in a brief but insightful article published in the first issue of the RMJ, in which the term "records" doesn't appear, but hits a huge recordkeeping nail on the head that resonates today. Lamenting the frustrating lack of interoperability among legacy "stovepipe" systems that plagued all of us then, he offered design criteria that might make possible the then impossible dream of enterprise information management:

The idea of designing redundancy into applications applies across the board… Simplicity is the next design aim. Rather than having ten different kinds of permitted activities reflected in ten different screens and ten different programs, it may be possible to have a single activity which is customised by a table of parameters. When the parameters change, all that is needed is a change to the table rather than major program surgery…. The final aim is connectivity. The application should have platforms on which bridges and gateways can be constructed to other applications. It is very likely that some of these applications will be in other operating software environments so that the pioneering application should pay particular attention to logical and physical communication with them…The key to pioneer survival is low exit costs; and expandibility through redundancy, simplicity, open-endedness, modularity, and connectivity…. But an application designed to the above rules of thumb stands a good chance of handling the standard methods of connecting all three when they finally emerge. And if the cookie crumbles the wrong way and today's technological marvel becomes tomorrow's museum piece, an application which is self contained and communicates by messages to other applications will have affordable exit costs.[5]


In the next RMJ issue, Comes sums up our frustration with the pace of technological change:


It's great fun...to write about state of the art technology, rather than about payrolls and invoicing, especially ‘gee whizz’ technology in artificial intelligence, neural networking, voice input, and so on. Unfortunately, there's not much correspondence between state of the art computing and what goes on in working installations....One difficulty in planning IT applications is the speed with which new technology invalidates the plans...the one certainty in an uncertain world is that a plan predicated on today's leading edge technology will be outdated before it is implemented.[6]  


Notable achievements

Limitations of space in an essay format make it impossible to do justice to the very considerable progress made since the creation of RMJ or my 1997 essay. I will mention only a few from the US perspective, including US involvement in international projects: the development of standards for recordkeeping and electronic systems designed for recordkeeping, including the US Department of Defense Records Management Application standard (5015.02) now widely used in the US federal government and many other public and private sector organizations including internationally; participation in the development of the International Standards Organisation’s Records Management standard, ISO 15489, based on the Australian recordkeeping standard, AS4390; numerous research initiatives, including a large number over the years funded by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) funding arm, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). Other achievements include participation in the International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems (InterPARES) project[7] to translate into concrete action plans on the theory, methods and research of the project's and other endeavors concerning digital preservation; and the development of frameworks for the management of electronic records in courtrooms in the "Sedona Conference" involving leading jurists, trial attorneys, corporate counsel, government lawyers, recordkeeping professionals and others to address e-discovery and related court records issues[8].

Information management and technology innovation. Technologically, there have been too many important advances to catalog and discuss here. At the risk of offending many who might very well speak of others equally important achievements, I'll mention only a few here, at differing levels and scales of operation: creation of World Wide Web (W3) by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990 (another milestone keyed to the year of RMJ, Volume 1), creation of the Internet Archive under the leadership of Brewster Kahle to regularly capture and preserve snapshots of all "as-then" W3 web pages except those who opt out, and its "Wayback Machine" for locating particular sites as they appeared on particular dates; the Library of Congress (LoC) National Digital Library Program (NDLP), American Memory Project and its National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP).

Professional awareness and training. One of the most impressive but significant advances in the past decade has been in the changed and maturing attitudes and appetites of ARM professionals regarding advanced training, some of which would have been regarded as arcane ten years ago. This can be seen in professional training announcements that now abound. A sampling of these taken from training offerings by ARM professional associations and private consulting firms, in addition to traditional recordkeeping subjects, include digital preservation and curation, strategic planning, records taxonomy, objects management, content management and Web 2.0 geared to recordkeeping needs.  Offerings are variously in the forms of seminars, webinars, podcasts or workshops. Presentations at annual association conferences and papers in professional journals also cover such topics and more. As long-time colleague and, for several years, fellow member of the RMJ Editorial Advisory Board, Mike Steemson put it in a recent discussion of this subject:

Recordkeepers are now thinking and talking about, studying and working in much, much more sophisticated environments than we were 12 years ago.  We are considering and creating strategies/policies that were, if not unheard of, at least only vague discussions as esoteric ideals among small coteries of information management academics.  Now they are daily topics for debate and, more importantly, understanding.[9]

NARA's Electronic Records Archives. No discussion of major US developments in electronic recordkeeping in the past 10 years would be complete without including the development of the NARA's Electronic Records Archives (ERA) system to capture, preserve and make accessible for "the life of the Republic" archival records in whatever format created for federal agency and presidential records, independently because of the different laws governing federal and presidential records. What is covered here is only the tip of a large iceberg. It is a highly condensed snapshot of its origin and implementation over the past decade in response to the monumental volumes and diversity of digital records faced by NARA and being faced by virtually all organizations today. Because of its size, complexity, importance, the recentness of its deployment and the potential value of its research to others, ERA is given disproportionate coverage here, based upon discussions and the most recent presentation on ERA at time of this writing, presently published only on MyBestDocs[10].


The ERA system reflects less of a transition from paper to electronic records and more of a transition from paper to e-governance. This is an important distinction since it focuses first on the government's business needs, processes and transactions then on the records they produce (what Forrester Research, Inc., in its enterprise architecture research/education program, refers to as the "IT-to-BT transition"). It also validates the growing emphasis on and use of business process/functional analysis of organizations and related records appraisal and management using business systems analysis tools.


A lawsuit concerning public access to email produced in the Reagan/(first) Bush White House resulted in a court decision requiring the transfer of the records to NARA. They were estimated to constitute thousands of times more electronic records than NARA had received in the prior 20 years, some in digital file formats it had never seen before. After successfully preserving virtually 100% of those records in 1993, then-manager of NARA's Center for Electronic Records, Kenneth Thibodeau, concluded that it would be impossible using the same methods to process expected Clinton Administration records, estimated to be thousands of time larger than those of Reagan/Bush and so advised then-Archivist of the US, John Carlin. Carlin came to the quick realization that the institution had nowhere near the resources required to undertake such a task, let alone sustain it with future administrations given the intake trend: some 5,000 digital files from 1970-1988; 15,000 from 1989-1995; and 200,000 (from lawsuit) in 1993.

Recognition of this caused NARA to rethink its whole approach not just to the transfer and management of digital records but ultimately to the way NARA viewed and conducted its business. That was a wise decision, because the trend has proved to become increasingly logarithmic in scale, from over 30,000,000 in 2001 covering the Clinton administration, to some 325,000,000 in the G.W. Bush White House – 72 terabytes (one Tb, 1012 = bytes), which Thibodeau says would cover an entire football field over 30 stories high in paper.  By contrast, a 1-TB hard drive can now be purchased in local computer outlets or online for about $100.

In one of his most commendable contributions to the US government and people, Carlin ably persuaded Congress to provide budgetary authorization to undertake the multi-year development of the ERA system. Because of his leadership efforts and that of his successor, Allen Weinstein's, and project manager Kenneth Thibodeau's and team, ERA was provided multi-year funding to complete the project ($350,000,000 to date) in the past 10 years, including ground-breaking research, development and systems implementation to completion. Continuing deployment throughout federal agencies is underway with 25 agencies joining the system in January 2010 and phasing in of the other 300+ federal agencies by end-2011. The system is now being extended to include a third, independent, fond for the US Congress. Except for the Supreme Court, courts are legally federal agencies, and their records are included for coverage by ERA with other agencies. The Supreme Court deposits it records with NARA and, upon receipt of a disposition agreement by NARA, would become eligible for inclusion in ERA.[11]

Current issues

Global political, economic and social events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, 20 years ago "in the year of the RMJ," and the subsequent breakup of the Soviet Union may at first appear at such a macro-economic level as to be of little consequence in carrying out our daily recordkeeping functions, especially as they are forces out of our reach and imposed upon us from the outside world. Nonetheless, they were harbingers that brought about a sweeping breakdown of the prevailing post-World War II global order, toppling old trade barriers and spawning emergence of an open global economy with many more multi-national firms, now obliged to abide by a host of new national laws, regulations, common business practices and standards, including for recordkeeping, as a price of doing business in those countries – for example, the Sarbanes Oxley Act ("SOX"). The recent surrender of client data concerning long secret Swiss bank accounts to US authorities is an illustration.  A lesson from this is that external events do matter when they trickle down to daily archives and records operations.

Societal changes and the workplace. As with the economic landscape, the social terrain has changed radically in ways that greatly and more obviously have significant consequences for records management. Analysis of generational cohorts to determine movements in upbringing, values and outlooks on self, life and society, is used for important business and social purposes from product design and marketing to strategies for delivery of education and training. To illustrate, educators and pedagogical researchers, Mike Wilson and Leslie Gerber, see team-orientation as a major discriminator for Gen Y: "young people are so skilled at and accustomed to teaming up that they are beginning to transform the post-college workplace." [12] William Strauss and Neil Howe, historians and authorities on US generational patterns, found Gen Z, born since 1999, as more nurtured, conservative and volunteering than its parents and likened it to the Greatest Generation that remembered the Great Depression and fought WWII.[13]  Such generational changes often create or come from workpattern changes that drive recordmaking.

Generational technology usage. In addition to the above differentiators, consider differences among generations in technology usage during their respective formative, pre-working years, the technological skills and expectations they ultimately bring to the workplace, and their influence on work practices and recordkeeping, in particular as their members reach senior professional and managerial positions.[14] Such differences coexist in today's workforce that now spans chiefly four generations[15] of workers since the end of the "Greatest Generation," (which included World War II veterans born from 1916 to the mid-1920s) and up to and including Gen Y (1982-2003 .

President Barack Obama was born in 1961, in the transitional cusp between the Boomer and X Generations. He was still a young man when the World Wide Web was created and has long been an early adopter of advanced information technology tools, including the interactive Web-2 and other multi-media tools used widely during his presidential campaign and since. His commitment to open government and continued use of e-communications for conducting presidential business, including the use of a smartphone, suggest that the presidential records of his White House can be anticipated to make those of his predecessor appear miniscule.

Gen Z (1999-2009), aka, the "Internet generation," will be the next to enter the workplace. Among other significant differences in this generation, it is a generation that has known and used computers, the Internet and World Wide Web as long as its members can remember and will come to the workplace with expectations of using advanced information technologies such as "smartphones". Use of the descriptive term "phone" this way may disappear as some younger Gen Y innovators are already making diminishing use of such "appliances" for telephoning in favor of other forms of communication such as social networking technologies.

Integration of cultural heritage information. There has long been public recognition of the large roles that libraries, museums and, to a lesser extent, archives have played as fountains of cultural heritage information resources that authenticate the identity of communities of people. In the US, at the national level, the institutions most associated with cultural heritage in the public mind are the Library of Congress[16], the Smithsonian Institution[17] and the National Archives and Records Administration. What is different today are maturing public expectations for easier access to heritage information from afar, as has become common in other walks of life. The question: is the public entitled to seamless discovery of cultural information without considering the buildings and physical locations in which different kinds of cultural resources are located?[18]

This is more challenging for national institutions because their bricks-and-mortar presence is principally located in Washington, D.C., and not easily accessible to the vast majority of Americans. Until recently, this was a reality that could be overcome only by traveling to Washington. With the vast changes in technology in the years since the time of the first issue of the RMJ, greater opportunities now exist for fuller integration of documentary and physical objects held by cultural heritage institutions when preserved in digital forms.  Both such expectations could be much better met by a concentrated effort toward their integration. Progress in this respect in the US has certainly been made in greater cooperative efforts among the three national heritage institutions, especially in the past decade.  In 2005, the Library announced plans for the creation of the World Digital Library[19] (WDL). NARA became a founding member of WDL in 2008 for the digital preservation of cultural objects including books, historical records and other such objects internationally. WDL was funded by numerous private, public and non-profit organizations internationally, currently with over 50 contributors and other partners. Other NARA/LAC cooperative programs include: the records of the US Congress, held in the Center for Legislative Archives; the annual Modern Archives Institute training program; and traveling thematic exhibits such as the Exhibition Exploring the American Labor History.

To different levels of effectiveness and cost, integration of national heritage resources can be achieved at one or more of the physical, organizational and virtual levels. Physical integration can be achieved by co-location of heritage institutions on the same or adjacent property, though this does not serve the interests of easy access from a distance. From an access perspective, virtual integration can be achieved through opportunities afforded by modern technology to access these resources from anywhere via the World Wide Web. However, access is but one piece of the puzzle, if it is in the familiar stovepipe mode, or if the user interface is poor. Integration at the ontological level with shared metadata can facilitate a much greater level of satisfaction for users.[20] 

Organizational integration of heritage institutions may be the most effective way to integrate heritage resources, because it strengthens the likelihood for other kinds of integration being given higher priority. It can result in more cohesive policies, greater operational efficiency and better awareness and management of the user experience. It may also be the most difficult level to achieve because of long-standing traditions and competition between staff in effected groups.

Canada has taken integration of its National Archives Canada and National Library Canada to a much greater extent than so far has been the case in the US. Dr. John English, in the 1999 "English Study" on the future role and structure of the National Archives of Canada (NAC) and the National Library of Canada (NL), led the way but stopped short of full integration. He wrote:

A major focus…[of] stakeholders rested upon…what kind of people the National Archivist and National Librarian should be. Both… groups asserted that the National Archivist should be an archivist and the National Librarian should be a librarian. There was …a vehemence that expressed the sense of professionalism the two groups possess…We noted, however, that the National Archivist of the United States was a former politician, the Keeper of the Public Records of Britain, a librarian, and the head of the Archives nationales de France and the National Archivist of Australia public servants… the Librarian of Congress, head of the largest and, many would argue, most successful library in the world, has been, in succession, a poet, an historian, and a political scientist…[O]thers listed desirable characteristics… ability to raise funds... high public profile, ability to manage large organizations, and understanding of the broader heritage agenda of the Government[21].

According to some knowledgeable individuals at the time, both English and his clients wanted to explore a "grand stroke" and merge the two institutions to better facilitate moving into the "knowledge age" with a broader vision of national cultural heritage, but backed away in light of considerable resistance by staff and major user interest groups. But English had planted the seed and, short of that stroke, made recommendations using such language as "a stronger focus on what is fundamental in the purposes of both organizations," "partnership" and "common services" to nudge the two institutions toward a broader view. He recommended that future appointment to the two leadership positions break away from the traditional "at pleasure" mold in favor of specific and relatively short terms. Roch Carrier and Ian Wilson were appointed. A couple of years later they recommended that the institutions be merged under common management, reportedly without further consulting staff or stakeholder groups. It became law in early 2004, opening the way for fuller integration of finding aids, search experience and direct access to cultural heritage information.

The newly appointed Tenth Archivist of the US, David S. Ferriero, former Andrew W. Mellon Director of the New York, Public Libraries and Duke University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs spoke to some of his initial priorities in his first "State of the Archives," in addition to which he noted:

I have not mentioned space, preservation needs, technology infrastructure, and a longer list of things which are on my radar screen. We’ll save those for another time.[22]

If and when he may choose to engage his colleagues at NARA, LoC and the Smithsonian in exploring the potential for greater integration of American cultural heritage resources will, no doubt, play out in the next few years. His education, experience and, it would appear, perseverance, qualify him greatly to take up this matter.

Resource constraints. We are not lacking in other issues concerning electronic records at a grittier ground level, such as the growing risks and occurrences associated with the loss of digital records. But the issues that have presented themselves for generations that have become vastly greater fences to vault during the past 20 years, are the ever increasing and changing pace of technological innovation and use  in the workplace and the relentless onslaught of born-digital records they have brought with them. They may be forces over which we have, or have been unable to exercise, little control but nevertheless remain our responsibility to address. They hugely impact recordkeeping operations, because such records must be captured, appraised and scheduled one way or the other.  To do so in the traditional ways for managing paper records would require the addition of legions of recordkeeping and clerical staff and much greater storage facilities that are unlikely to come. To do so electronically, requires new skill sets, sophisticated, trustworthy, software tools and a great deal of our only inelastic resource – time – to carry out concentrated planning, stakeholder management and training efforts, all with ever diminishing levels of human and capital resources being allocated to meet these challenges. In a word, the elephant in the records center is implementation and the resources necessary to tackle the job. The sooner we can move beyond that observation and embrace implementation strategies that address electronic recordkeeping that are highly adaptive to uncertain futures, the better.

In most recordkeeping operations, resources have not kept up with organizational introduction of technological innovations and other efficiency measures that often produced many more automated recordmaking business processes with multiple digital platforms and formats. The full implementation costs of such investments rarely take into account recordkeeping consequences.  Budgetary pressures have rarely been greater than today because of diminished corporate profits in the private sector and the substantial loss of public sector revenues in the public sector.  Many in the private sector had already implemented modern content management or transaction-based systems such as enterprise resources planning (ERP) systems, particularly in the financial and insurance sector. Others are only now contemplating such moves as part of broader efficiency measures aimed at survival or to gain or keep a competitive edge. Some organizations that see the advantage of moving ahead with modern content management systems may be less sanguine about the idea of addressing electronic records. It is hard to believe that some may not yet be adequately apprised of the electronic records issues. This leaves few options for present-day archivists and records managers. Among them is to update organizational recordkeeping policies and submit them for review by management on their own merits or during planning for new enterprise systems. Even where management is not ready to procure the necessary technology for the proper management of electronic records, it likely will be willing to consider an updated recordkeeping policy. That process will help to apprise executives of recordkeeping issues and alert them to the risks involved in further delaying addressing electronic records.

This approach can also help in stakeholder building. Recordkeeping policies can be used as a platform for making new allies to assist in making the business case for electronic records to management. For example, get the facilities manager in your corner by discussing the potential savings of electronic records solutions that go beyond the usual actual or opportunity costs associated with renting office space, including furniture replacement and maintenance for typical central, departmental and individual records storage units and related full human resource costs. Similarly, get the procurement officer on board. Procurement requests for information, bids and competitions for new information technology systems should require estimates of costs associated with conversion of existing data to be compatible with proposed systems. New content-based systems should be required to have a recognized certification as meeting minimal recordkeeping service extensions for current or later implementation. Records managers should be ready to provide a list of the many larger systems already certified to be compliant with the US 5015.02 Records Management Application standard that has been adopted by the Archivist of the US for use in all federal agencies. It is also used on a voluntary basis by many public and private sector organizations in the US and elsewhere to ensure their information management systems are certified now and in future because of the requirement for regular recertification. Currently about two dozen documents and content management developers currently have 5015-certified products. Three additional developers are scheduled for product testing in the first quarter of calendar 2010.[23]  This strategy further provides a mechanism for stakeholder identification and involvement in reviews of the standard that is now in its third version.

At the moment, only one product has been certified as compliant with the more rigorous European "Management of Electronic Records (MoReq2)"[24] specifications, and no others are presently scheduled for certification. This may be due to the greater time and other costs associated with its product testing, including necessary software changes to bring products up to specification. This could change and more developers (including in the US) might well apply for testing and certification depending on the outcome of the MoReq2 Work Programme 2010 aimed at developing a more compact set of core mandatory requirements, with a pathway to the more demanding MoReq2 specifications. If the core requirements were similar to the US 5015.02 requirements, it could ultimately lead to an international specification standard and a stepping stone for further cooperation between the US and European Union in developing the missing bookend standard between higher-level records management requirements (now reflected in the ISO 15489 standard) and software-level specifications, as yet without an international standard.

Loss of digital records. Despite stronger laws to protect personal information, accidental or deliberate loss of digital personal records has become too commonplace, especially where, as in the US, there are national plans to develop a national electronic records system or where such systems are already in place. Much (highly marketable) personal data now exist in digital forms on individuals' computers and mobile phone and in government computers at all levels of government and in corporate systems or Web-based "cloud" servers.  Apart from national security, and industrial systems[25], electronic records containing personally identifying information have been compromised by theft or misplacement of information contained in notebook and other computers and in portable or other hard drives and storage media[26]. This can happen because of individual or corporate laxness, poor organizational policies or practices, inadequate physical or technological protective systems, inadequate access and copying controls, plain negligence on the part of those who are so authorized, accidental mistakes or through their purposeful, improper destruction to avoid accountability for embarrassing or criminal situations[27].


There have been numerous such cases in recent years, especially but not only in academia, which have involved countless highly sensitive and marketable information in personal, corporate and national files. Loss, improper destruction or theft looms among the greatest challenges to digital recordkeeping. Paper records losses are likely to be noticed by their absence. Loss of digital records by copying may not be noticed for some time, if ever. It may also be impossible to detect when such compromises might have taken place.



Looking ahead

Many of us in the information management and technology field have been talking for years about the eventual consolidation of functionality and packaging for mobile phone, wireless miniature computer tablets with oversized screens and keypads and small-appliance operating system and browser software ultimately into a single pocket-sized appliance; and that when this occurred users would soon make use of them to conduct both personal and business purposes, creating new forms of personal and business records. This has now happened. So far, according to industry experts, less than 20% of mobile phone owners have smartphones today. That share will likely increase significantly as prices come down. To what extent and how quickly that happens depends on the success of current efforts to create simpler, stripped down and cheaper versions of smartphone functionality adaptable to inexpensive or free "feature phones"[28].

The demise of PCs in the foreseeable future is not likely, in my opinion. With their large screens and keyboard, PCs are still much more convenient to use in document creation and viewing, except for the smallest documents. While notebook computers may have caused substantial reductions in PC production and take-up, they have not yet made PCs obsolete in the home or office. Nor is the availability of e-books on smartphone-type appliances likely to threaten the development of better tablets or e-books soon. E-book hardware and software developers are going after the smartphone market. However, much of their focus for e-newspapers applications is on the already extensive e-newspaper offerings for PC users and on the rapidly moving tablet market, again in large part because of their more readable screen sizes, up to nearly 11inches and counting, and mobility.  Numerous major international newspapers have announced e-books partnerships for providing e-newspaper functionality, even retaining the look and feel of print editions.  Some, called "smartbooks," go further following the smartphone innovation with netbook and PC like features including operating systems and are not single-purpose book readers anymore, but carry QUERTY keyboards, and many other applications – GPS, email, etc.

We have already seen workpatterns changes, especially with home officing and remote collaboration technologies that increase the frequency with which many business functions are being carried out remotely with hand-held appliances. They diminish the borders between:  home and "office" (literally and otherwise); work and leisure with 24/7 presence broadcasting (supported with "presence" technologies especially popular with young people who will make up our next generation of knowledge workers); and use of common technological platforms for business and play that make fuzzy the borders between personal and business records.

Although the jury is still out, more businesses are experimenting with social networking and smartphones for business communications and thus more creation of organizational records using such modalities. This will add to an already diverse field of recordmaking technologies yet to be tamed for recordkeeping purposes and increasing demands on archivists, records managers and other information managers to ensure the proper security, capture, preservation and continuing access to records created in such burgeoning platforms.

There is beginning to be recognition of the potential opportunities for designing enterprise architectures and Web services to help tackle our innovative environment, reflected by Barbara Reed in a recent RMJ paper.[29] NARA's ERA project has also made strides in this direction. However, implementation of enterprise-wide architectural solutions may not be possible in all organizations for budgetary or other reasons relating to organizational culture.

Some earlier technologies and their formats will not soon disappear as important contributors in the creation of structured and unstructured records. For example, such applications as enterprise planning systems (ERPs) will continue to produce massive volumes of process-based financial and human-relations transaction records.

While technological innovations play a large role in recordkeeping issues and opportunities to deal with them, today technological issues offer fewer insurmountable barriers to implementation of sound recordkeeping solutions than do organizational and cultural factors. Executives and budget staff are accustomed to funding technology projects by trading labor (human) for capital (technology) investments, when in fact the necessity to maintain some records in paper form requires maintaining certain human costs along with new capital outlays. Thus, unlike for many other information collections, such 1:1 tradeoffs are inappropriate for archival systems, because many legacy paper and other analog records must be maintained for years or indefinitely even after shifting into electronic systems, with all of the costs that entails, at least until they are digitized or reach their scheduled destruction dates.

The archives and records management community and associated executives and procurement officers did succeed in getting developers of document management (EDM) and content management (ECM) systems to upgrade their systems to meet more rigorous recordkeeping requirements. If newer platforms are more readily understood as recordmaking systems, systems architects and system developers will respond with enterprise architectures and improved content management systems to bring newer technologies and object formats into the tent.


We should all be intelligent workplace and innovation observers, watch for and be ready to move on signs of important upcoming change, but not place high bets in the highly risky game of guessing what future technological breakthroughs will be and how or if they will impinge on the workplace in ways that effect recordkeeping. Rather, we should make our mantra: design and architect our recordkeeping systems to be adaptable – whether distributed, embedded in individual business processes or centralized systems. In Ralph Comes' words, we should bet on "the one certainty…that a plan predicated on today's leading edge technology will be outdated before it is implemented." Beyond technology, we can and should keep our eyes on the broader world in which records and recordkeeping exist: knowing, reaching out and nurturing our public and other stakeholders as beneficiaries of the cultural memory we are committed to preserve in all documentary and non-documentary forms. What can we do to better to serve up those memories in ways more useful to them?  

[1] This paper was originally published in the Records Management Journal of the UK as the opening paper of a 20th anniversary issue, vol. 20, no. 2 2010. All references to website URLs in this paper were accessible as of March 22, 2010.

[2] "Electronic Records Management...The Way We Were...The Way We Are: One Man's Opinion" by Richard E. Barry, Records Management Journal, vol. 7 no 3 (1997) p. 157, the professional journal of United Kingdom ASLIB association, and is reprinted with the kind permission of the RMJ: www.mybestdocs.com/barry-r-ukrmj-7.html

[3] "Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, "memex" will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory," in "As We May Think," by Vannevar Bush, Atlantic Monthly, July 1945. www.theatlantic.com/doc/194507/bush


[4] For long-term predictions proffered in 1999 about technology and its impact on society, see The Age of Spiritual Machines, by Ray Kurzweil, Viking, N.Y., 1999, ISBN 0-670-88217-8, especially the “TimeLine” section pp. 261-280, where he projected  for 2009: "A $1000 personal computer can perform about a trillion calculations per second,…Communications between components uses short-distance wireless technology. High-speed wireless communication provides access to the Web. The majority of text is created using continuous speech recognition… Most routine business transactions (purchases, travel reservations) take place between a human and a virtual personality. …Although traditional classroom organization is still common, intelligent courseware has emerged as a common means of learning. Pocket-sized reading machines for the blind and visually impaired, 'listening machines' (speech-to-speech) for the deaf, computer-controlled orthotic devices for paraplegic individuals result in a growing perception that primary disabilities do not necessarily impart handicaps. …" Kurzweil may dream, but he is no dreamer in the ordinary sense of the word. Consider how many of the above forecasts have materialized and how many others are on the verge of doing so. Kurzweil developed the first omni-font optical character reading (OCR) machine.  After a chance 1982 airline meeting with the legendary, unsighted musician, Stevie Wonder, Kurzweil created a new multi-instrument generation of music synthesizers, used by Wonder and later for Hollywood music scoring, resulting in  life-long personal and  research relationship.

[5] Managing the Information on IT: No Crystal Balls – Surviving the Unpredictable IT future," by Ralph Comes, RMJ, Volume 1, Issue 1, p.40:  www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewPDF.jsp?contentType=Article&Filename=html/Output/Published/EmeraldFullTextArticle/Pdf/2810010106.pdf.  (Subscr. req.)

[6] Managing Information on Technology, by Ralph Comes, RMJ, Volume 1, Issue 2, p.32: http://emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContentItem.do?contentType=Article&contentId=1648250. (Subscr. req.)

[7] See www.interpares.org.

[8] "The Sedona Conference® Cooperation Proclamation," www.thesedonaconference.org/content/tsc_cooperation_proclamation

[9] In email exchange between author and Mike Steemson, January 5, 2010.

[10] This section made use of "Preserving Digital Memory at the National Archives and Records Administration of the US," by Kenneth Thibodeau, Workshop on Conservation of Digital Memories, Second National Conference on Archives, Bologna, Italy, 20 November 2009, in which the development of ERA was most recently synopsized at time of this writing and which the author used along with personal email communications with Mr. Thibodeau: http://mybestdocs.com/thibodeau-k-preser-dig-memNARA091120.pdf

[11] State and local governments, and others, have hoped that ERA would be developed in such a manner that it could be downscaled to serve their needs. Legally, NARA cannot develop software that is not required for its own business purposes. However, its "reference architecture" being articulated this year, purportedly will support different levels of modularity and scalability. This should significantly reduce the development cycle for other public or private sector organizations, including developers, in designing lower-scale systems. One source (not in the Federal government) has privately indicated having been approached by a system developer stating that a small-scale ERA-like system could be produced for under $100,000. If true, it would be a great testimony to NARA and Lockheed Martin for having designed such a scalable system architecture.


[12]"How Generational Theory Can Improve Teaching: Strategies for Working with the 'Millennials'" by

Michael Wilson & Leslie E. Gerber, Currents in Teaching and Learning, Vol.1 No. 1, Fall 2008, p.33: www.worcester.edu/Currents/Archives/Volume_1_Number_1/CurrentsV1N1WilsonP29.pdf

[13] Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584-2069 by Neil Howe, William Strauss, Harper Perennial (1991) and Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation by Neil Howe, William Strauss, and R.J. Matson, Vintage Books, 2000.

[14] Delineation of generations into birth-year cohorts overlap on the cusp and are typically used as convenient measures of groupings reflecting significantly different social patterns. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation for a brief listing of generational designations in various regions of the world. Analysts differ on exact year grouping of cohorts, especially at the cusps; most using 20-year separations to mark new workplace-entrance groupings. Others suggest that accelerating social changes shortens the periods used to classify them.

[15] They include: the Silent Generation, born too late to fight in World War II but early enough to remember it well, some now in their seventies (1926-1938); the Baby Boomer Generation, born during World War II era but mostly thereafter (1946-1964); Gen X, (1961-1981); Gen Y, aka "Millennial", (1982-2002).

[16]  The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and serves as the research arm of Congress. It is also the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts in its collections. It was established by an act of Congress in 1800 when President John Adams signed a bill providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. The legislation described a reference library for Congress only, containing "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress - and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein…" http://www.loc.gov/about/history.html

[17] The Smithsonian Institution was established by Congress in 1846 with a gift from British philanthropist, James Smithson whose will stated: "I then bequeath the whole of my property...to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge..." This became the mission of the Smithsonian, now publically and privately funded. http://www.si.edu/

[18] For the author's vision of a researcher's experience, see "Ya Got Trouble (Right Here in River City," by Rick Barry. This was the basis for a speech at the National Archives and Records Administration on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its becoming an independent organization, May 20th, 2005. http://www.mybestdocs.com/barry-r-nara20th-anniversary.htm

[19] See www.wdl.org.

[20] An example of this is provided in the US government Website: www.usa.gov/

[21] "The role of the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada: report / submitted to Sheila Copps," by Dr. John English; consultants, Jane Beaumont and Marcel Caya, Canadian Heritage, 1999, p. 54.


[22] "State of the Archives," December 3, 2009, by David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States: www.archives.gov/about/speeches/ferriero/12-3-09.html


[23] See the current 5015 standard and certified product register: at http://jitc.fhu.disa.mil/recmgt

[24] The latest specifications for MoReq2 and test records of currently certified software may be found on a subpage of the DLM Forum that is responsible for compliance testing at: http://dlmforum.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=901&Itemid=20&lang=en

[25] Orchestrated cyber-warfare attacks by highly skilled hackers typically target much more than personal identity information. They also seek other sensitive information in national security and commercial and other competitive, intellectual property research-based systems or attempt to gain access to automated control systems used by elements of the national infrastructure to gain remote control of dams, telecommunications networks or power grids.

[26] In a still active case, reflecting similar experiences in other organizations, not all of which would be as forthcoming in reporting such events, NARA reported the loss of a hard drive containing working copies of original 4mm tapes that fortunately were not at risk. The loss occurred between October 2008 and early February 2009. It wasn't discovered until late March. The drive contained personally identifying information including names and social security numbers for former Clinton Administration staff and visitors to the White House complex. According to some accounts, the drive may have been lost during a period when a normally secure door leading to a corridor with rest room access was left open due to uncomfortable temperatures in the working space. It is not clear whether the drive was lost, stolen or misplaced. Despite NARA's announcement of a $50,000 reward of for information leading to its recovery, the drive remains unaccounted for[26]. As the January 4, 2010 update,  NARA had made two mass notifications to over 175,000 individuals with personally identifying information on the missing hard drive, offering free credit monitoring, identity theft insurance, and fraud resolution assistance for one-year. This conscientious recovery approach by NARA illustrates a portion of the financial costs related to such losses. Hidden legal, staff, consulting and other costs to an organization and the effected people, searching for and reconstituting lost records, can be much greater. When sensitive government or corporate records are involved, it can involve much greater costs, some incalculable in monetary terms, where national security information or competitive intellectual property is involved or corporate credibility is damaged.


[27] The Heiner case involves allegations concerning the roles of current and past elected officials and other senior government employees, including a state archivist, in the 1990 destruction of public records after having been requested as evidence for possible criminal prosecution. The offense took place in the year RMJ published its first issue.

[28] "Firms Selling Apps for Simple Phones," by Jenna Wortham, New York Times, January 3, 2010, accessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/technology/personaltech/04app.html? as of January 4, 2010.

[29] "Service-oriented architecture and recordkeeping" by Barbara Reed, Records Management Journal, Vol. 18, No.1, 2008: www.mybestdocs.com/reed-b-soa-rk-rmj-v18-no1-2008.htm