Archive for the ‘NARA’ Category

Yesterday afternoon at work a colleague brought to my attention NARA’s involvement with the election. I already knew the role of the Federal Register from poli sci courses in undergrad, but I never got around to connecting the dots to NARA before for some reason.

NARA has a nice summary of the election procedures time line and deadlines available here. NARA summarizes its mandate to manage these records at the bottom of the page:

NARA is primarily responsible for coordinating the various stages of the electoral process by helping the States prepare and submit certificates that establish the appointment of electors and validate the electoral votes of each State.

I, for one, am glad that NARA is involved in the election process.  While there are many reasons for and against the electorial college, it gives me confidence that at least archivists are ensuring records are created and authenticated in a systematic manner.  Yay accountability!


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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has a new report out this week regarding NARA plan, or lack thereof, for accepting Presidential electronic records in January 2009. NARA’s Electronic Records Archive (ERA) has been under development for a number of years and its launch seems far off.  In response, an Executive Office of the President (EOP) system has been developed to accept Presidential records. The EOP seems to be behind schedule as well.  The GAO is calling for NARA to develop an alternative plan in case the EOP cannot accept records on January 20, 2009. The National Coalition for History has more here.

This is certainly an important issue, but it seems a larger issue to the potential incompatibility between the EOP and ERA.  The systems are being built using different architectures by different entities. Will the requirements, backups, and protections used for Presidential records be the same for federal records?  Are the injest and outjest processes different?  Will the differences between the two systems affect the end users? It will be interesting to see how this develops.

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The New York Times article, In Digital Age, Federal Files Blip Into Oblivion, published on Thursday has a great summary of some of the problems in preserving electronic records throughout the Federal government. Excluding the problems and issues archivists face developing electronic record keeping systems, the larger problem is the lack of knowledge by agency employees regarding what is a federal record, what records need to be saved, and how to go about preserving and creating access for records professionals and archivists.

This is a serious public outreach and education problem facing archivists. Librarians often talk about information literacy and its importance in society. What about archival literacy? How can archivists share our knowledge about records creation, context, use, and preservation with records creators? There is growing literature expressing the need for archival involvement earlier in the records life cycle. It seems that in a time where people are desperate for help in dealing with their electronic records archivists and records managers can take this opportunity to create more effective training programs and support for federal employees. Otherwise, as Richard Pearce-Moses was quoted in the article: “…[T]he risks are so great that we may lose significant portions of our history.”

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