Digital recordkeeping and the series system

On Friday 25 October, 40 archivists from across Australia and New Zealand attended our workshop, Drawing insight and inspiration from tradition: Digital recordkeeping and the Australian series system.

The workshop was inspired by the release of the landmark Australian Society of Archivists’ publication, The Arrangement and Description of Archives Amid Administrative and Technological Change – Essays and Reflections By and About Peter J Scott. (See http://www.archivists.org.au/onlinestore/publications-hardcopy for more information on the book.)

We had such a fantastic day. The objective was to explore the application of the Australian series system to digital recordkeeping. By revisiting fundamental archival principles and insights, the workshop sought to explore how the series system can be reinvented to meet contemporary recordkeeping challenges.

Facilitated by Barbara Reed, the sessions through the morning were:

  • The work of Peter Scott: an overview and why it still matters – Kate Cumming
  • Hunting of the Snark (Looking for Digital Series) – Chris Hurley (PPT 426KB)
  • Digital items and the series system – what have we learned from implementation? – Hywel Williams and Anna Morris, Archives New Zealand
  • Building a digital archive using the series system – Cassie Findlay and Richard Lehane, State Records NSW
  • Databases, datasets, business systems and the series system – Andrew Waugh, Public Record Office Victoria
  • Electronic document and records management systems and the series system – Anne Picot,University of Sydney

In the afternoon, Hywel and Anna, Cassie and Richard, Andrew and Anne all lead workgroups using sets of questions and issues arising from their own implementations. Each workshop participant chose a workgroup and we spent the next hour and a half discussing these issues. There were some great discussions and real progress with many of the identified work items.

Each of the workgroups then presented their findings and finally, Barbara Reed facilitated a workshop wrap-up where we discussed ideas, future directions and key work items.

To quickly summarise, just a few of the issues that were brought together at the end of the day were:

  • We need to engage more with Chris Hurley’s ideas on structurisation and recordkeeping relationships. How do we aggregate and interrelate entities and data to best enable context, understanding and interoperability?
  • We want to try and help create healthy digital recordkeeping ecosystems across organisations. Good digital archives will only exist through good and sustainable digital recordkeeping
  • Archivists are in a great position to manage knowledge of business systems and to stem the loss of corporate knowledge that is facing many contemporary business organisations. How do we make this happen?
  • We need to engage with and not be afraid of theory. There is a critical need for well researched and well developed theory to support the implementation of good digital recordkeeping
  • We need more research, more understanding of the realities of digital business systems
  • We need to focus on developing our systems and interfaces so that archival collections can be indexed by Google
  • We need to get more involved in system design and promote recordkeeping requirements relating to data preservation and management at the outset
  • Datasets generally need better appraisal and management. So much critical research information is contained in datasets, we need to be more proactive in advising on their management.
  • Do we need an Arrangement and Description or Context and Control Special Interest Group in the Australian Society of Archivists to further the research agendas raised at the workshop?
  • We still need to work on a common language and common understanding of recordkeeping issues
  • Should we trial an ASA bookclub where we all read one key article and then discuss?
  • We need to transition from an ideal series system model to a practical series system model. We need to rediscover our roots and determine what’s right conceptually and how to make it work in implementation
  • Do we need to learn from the Commonwealth Archives Office’s example in the 1960s, 70s and 80s where archivists went out into agencies and mapped business processes and identified recordkeeping systems?
  • We need to build better connections between recordkeeping and archival systems – we need to establish a real relationship and interdependence here, so that archiving in its true sense becomes  a simple, standard, desirable part of work process rather than an ad hoc afterthought
  • We need to consider the research agenda in the university environment. What should we be teaching to future archivists, as well as future business and IT analysts

We have invited each of the presenters and any of the participants to blog here and share their thoughts and ideas from the day. Any comments, suggestions or recollections of other discussion points are really welcomed. You can also follow tweets from the workshop and keep up to date with future Recordkeeping Roundtable events using #rkrt

We Roundies had such a fantastic day and we’d really like to revisit some of the issues and discuss more possibilities for the series system and digital recordkeeping next year at another workshop. We’ll keep you posted!

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About Cassie Findlay

Digital archivist and recordkeeping professional, co-founder of the Recordkeeping Roundtable. @CassPF on Twitter.
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One Response to Digital recordkeeping and the series system

  1. Pingback: The work of Peter Scott, an overview | Recordkeeping Roundtable

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