Session 10: Studies in Records Creation

Moderator: Elizabeth Shepherd (University College London)
Emergence: Archivists’ Engagement with New Documentary Forms / Robert Riter (University of Alabama)

All histories of archival theory and practice are linked to corresponding and interweaving histories of documentary forms. Records, in their own particular material and evidential forms, present unique critical and evaluative challenges. This engagement and reading furthers the development and refinement of archival questions, which in turn, informs the development and application of archival conceptualizations, practices, and treatments.

Each generation of archivists is confronted with its own material and record challenges. The emergence of new, and evolution of existing, documentary forms requires archivists to ask challenging, though fundamental, questions of records. To what extent does a newly identified/recognized documentary form conform to or challenge the profession’s definition of what is a record? What is its informational/evidential/representational capability? What preservation and administrative challenges does the form present? These are among the questions that archivists ask.

While this aspect is a common condition of archival work, particular periods in our profession’s history are uniquely fruitful in providing a context for developing an understanding of the nature of documentary emergence and the activities that follow. The founding era of the archival profession in the United States is one such context. In addition to the concerns associated with the formation of a professional infrastructure, the period of the 1930’s through the 1960’s was witness to the emergence and increasing maturation of moving image, photographic, and audio records, as well as the increased automation of existing record types.

This paper offers a study archival emergence during this formative period. While this is an artifactual history, this is also a history of archivists’ reactions to, and encounters with, these forms, and of how objects challenge and influence the development of archival concepts and methods. In this study patterns of emergence are traced, placing emphasis on how documentary forms enter into the archival consciousness and into discourses about records. Secondly, reactions and confrontations are documented and analyzed through engaging the following questions: How did archivists engage new and changing archival forms? What types of questions did archivists ask? What evaluative and analytical approaches were applied?

In addressing these two elements, this study documents a specific archival context and set of relationships, illustrates dynamics of archival emergence, and offers a broader discussion of how archivists engage in dialogues with artifacts.

The Implications of Using Software as a Service (SaaS) Applications on Records Creation and Maintenance / Weimei Pan (University of British Columbia)

Technological innovations over the history of human beings (e.g., clay tablet, paper, typewriter, computer, Internet) often have huge impacts on business and communication practice, and records creation. Accordingly, records creation and maintenance practices have to be reexamined and adjusted to accommodate changes these technological innovations may bring about. These reexamination and adjustment ensure that records created in the context of new technologies can be managed in such a way that their evidential nature can be protected.

One recent technological innovation is the shift to “cloud computing”. Within cloud computing is an emerging software delivery model called Software as a Service (hereafter SaaS). According to NIST, SaaS is the capability “to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure” via a network, primarily, Internet, through a thin client interface or a web browser on a pay-per-use basis; the underlying cloud infrastructure is transparent to the consumers and the consumers do not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure, including network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities. SaaS shares the characteristics of cloud computing: on-demand self-service, scalability, elasticity, and measured service. Academic and industry studies show that the adoption of SaaS applications is growing steadily over recent years. Yet, it is constantly acknowledged by scholars from different fields that cloud computing poses great challenges to data, information, documents, and records created and stored in the cloud, such as data lock-in, data confidentiality/auditability, trans-border data flow, security, and privacy. There is an increased body of literature examining the implications of cloud computing on records. However, most of these literature aim to offer advise and guidance on the evaluation and selection of cloud service from a record perspective; there is paucity of studies systematically researching the implications of cloud computing on existing records creation and maintenance practices.

The proposed paper intends to discuss the preliminary findings of a doctoral research study focusing on the creation and maintenance of records using SaaS applications. More specifically, it will present the implications of using Software as a Service (SaaS) applications on records creation and records maintenance. It is hoped that this review will stimulate further research of records in the cloud environment.

Study in Documents and the Modern Diplomatic / Eliot Wilczek (Simmons College)

The document as an object of study is a key characteristic of archival scholarship. The Study in Documents section of Archivaria has provided a venue for this document-centered scholarship. For this presentation, I will discuss the results of a study that I completed with Patti Condon to examine the nature of the Study in Documents articles and their role in archival literature. The purpose of this research is to understand the contribution of these articles to archival scholarship. Further we aim to understand what these contributions say about the field’s literature. We have completed a content analysis of all Study in Documents articles (1985–Present) to discern patterns of research within these articles, as well as citation analysis to see how these articles have influenced the field. We have also analyzed the authors’ professional positions in order to examine patterns of authorship from practitioners and scholars within the archival community. Using this data, I will place these findings within the 1970s and 1980s emergence of the modern diplomatic, a research approach that primarily uses historical research methods to gain a rich understand of the history and provenance of records. Archival thinkers such as Tom Nesmith, Terry Cook, and Hugh Taylor conceived of this research as a core component of archival practice that is scholarly in nature. This scholarship centers on the record and sits between professional practice and theoretical scholarship.