Friday, 6 January 2012

Digital Archiving – who should, and, what to archive?

Happy New Year.

It is timely to address the thorny issue of archiving projects because, as with the other aspects of digital project management, this area has matured and continues to develop in its own right. As developers, we have encouraged you to systematically archive each of your projects to protect yourselves from issues about the project being raised later by your clients, any companies that take them over, or even increasingly in this present economic climate, administration companies.

However, archiving has been a wider society issue for several years with national interests like museums, libraries, universities and governments taking the lead in recognising the importance of harvesting, defining and providing access to the vast online information resources. Software tools for each of these stages have multiplied to the point that now archivists have to understand the differences between them and assess which suits what they need best.
We've realised that perhaps you need to go further with archiving than before. Now you should be seen to recommend that your clients take archiving their own online resources seriously. It is an area that needs defined personnel resource, expertise, a strategic perception and an understanding of the social and legal implications for an organisation. For example, in the Digital Curation Centre’s 2010 report Web Archiving, Alex Ball defines points under the section Motivations for Web Archiving, Page 5, that demonstrate an organisation might need access to their historical online resources for audit, investigation and/or freedom of information obligations. He notes that if a site provides advice or guidance, the precise wording and presentation may be questioned if the guidance is called into question later. This has immediate relevance for any financial clients you have from pension providers to banks. Do your clients expect you to archive because nothing has been stated? Would they perhaps take the opportunity to use that excuse to imply blame on you if they were asked specific questions later? You never know! So better that you are seen to encourage them to take their own archiving seriously, surely. Alex covers many interesting points in a very readable report. It is worth a scan, particularly the Tools Employed section where there's a useful summary of the type of tools and their focus.