Electronic Records: Preserve to protect

Electronic Records: Preserve to protect

Electronic records are a major part of our personal and professional lives, from the creative and academic work we publish online via journals, blogs, and social media platforms to the meeting minutes and published policies of individual groups, committees, and organizations. The majority of work is now online and we need to act in order to preserve it, the same as for physical materials. There is even an official day to recognize the importance of electronic records – Electronic Records Day, celebrated annually in October. This is a day dedicated to raising awareness among the general public, government agencies, and public institutions on the importance of preserving electronic records.

Archivist Beth South is currently working on several initiatives to preserve the growing body of e-records created by IU East and its affiliates. One project is preserving materials related to the Faculty Senate and its committees. Since the early 2000’s, most Faculty Senate documentation moved online as “born digital” files (texts or recordings produced in a digital format rather than being converted from print or analog equivalents) and were stored in various web cloud services, most recently in Box and Google Drive. The work is almost finished to convert Microsoft Word file documents from the Faculty Senate collection into PDF file formats that are uploaded into IU’s Archives of Institutional Memory (AIM @ IU). AIM is a digital repository for disseminating and preserving official Indiana University records.

PDF files are considered one of the best file formats for long term preservation because it is an open format that is widely adopted, meaning that various applications can open the file. It also saves as a small file size, an important feature when you have limited storage space, and the original content of the file (font, text size, colors, format, etc.) is preserved.

Preserving the Faculty Senate documents is an important record of this legislative body of the university, represented by faculty members from all departments. They share in the responsibility of creating and recommending academic policy within curricula and other general operations related to the university. This collection is a key component of the development and history of IU East as a campus and as a university.

Another ongoing project of the Campus Archives is capturing content from the IU East website and social media pages. Thanks to the IU Bicentennial, which wrapped up in Spring of 2020, we now have access to Archive-It, the internet archiving platform that captures information from websites. The application “crawls” the IU East website, capturing vital information such as university policies, committee pages, athletic rosters, campus news, online presentations, and course information. These are all materials that exist online and not in traditional print outlets anymore. Archive-It is an important tool in capturing and preserving e-records that will help inform the history of IU East, and enables us to create thematic collections.

Managing and preserving e-records is as important for personal content as it is for organizations, public institutions and government agencies. Personal records that may need preserving are resumes, family histories, school papers, personal emails, financial spreadsheets, etc. The Council of State Archivists has a list on why electronic records need special attention and provides some guidance on what to consider when preserving your own e-records.

If you have any questions about records management, digital preservation, or archives, please contact Beth South at eabrockm@iue.edu.

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