About Me

My photo
Web person at the Imperial War Museum, just completed PhD about digital sustainability in museums (the original motivation for this blog was as my research diary). Posting occasionally, and usually museum tech stuff but prone to stray. I welcome comments if you want to take anything further. These are my opinions and should not be attributed to my employer or anyone else (unless they thought of them too). Twitter: @jottevanger

Friday, August 17, 2007

Records management

[Hmm, looks like this has stayed in draft form for quite a while. Not finished but better get it up there anyway]

Yesterday [i.e. some time ago] I met up with Sarah Demb, another newish recruit to the London Hub, who is running a project looking at records management across the Hub museums (4 core partners and a smaller one, I believe), where she's interviewing a large number of staff. The ideas is to develop a co-ordinated strategy, which seems most sensible. I've got a shed load of notes I made on the train this AM but I'm going to cut them down.

We talked about what I do generally, website management questions (backups, archives, security), how the CMS works, documentation, data management and sources. I was interested that Sarah saw her brief so widely, since I had rather narrowly conceived of "records management" as being business-centred activity, lots to do with finance and collections data, e-mails too, and a dash of archiving. In fact I think she's right to look more widely because aside from anything else we have a dearth of policies WRT "records management" pretty much everywhere I'm concerned with.

In our conversation, I noted that we use some 3rd parties to hold or represent some data, such as Google and Flickr, and this will probably increase (not even counting the forthcoming picture library arrangement). I think we agreed on the need for a digital collections policy too, which to my mind would be assembled with reference to diverse categories of material: UGC; born-digital material from the museum itself; derivatives; some things that might be suitable for full accessioning, others that might be required for a good archive. I mentioned knowledge management issues, and the complexity involved in recovering old versions of the CMS site (owing to the interwoven nature of content, template definitions, TP files, and executables).

With luck, the outcome of Sarah's work will be some form of archive post within the Hub. We certainly need one here, and I hope that we can use it as an opportunity to develop ideas about how our digital activities fit into the picture: which materials are like traditional "archive" material, which are like publications or ephemera, which should be valued and treated differently from other material, how all this ties to collections, collections metadata, oral history etc. Such a conceptual framework seems essential for deciding how to treat any sort of asset.