Jenny Mitcham

Jenny Mitcham

Last updated on 14 April 2020

Last month the DPC kicked off a new task force. A group specifically focused on considering how to preserve records from within an Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS).

According to Wikipedia, “Electronic document and records management is used by organizations to manage documents and records throughout the document life-cycle, from creation to destruction.” 

...but what if ‘destruction’ isn’t appropriate? What if preservation is required? In many organizations it is likely that some records require longer term retention or may even need to be kept in perpetuity.

In these situations the records may need to be transferred to an institutional digital archive to be managed (in a slightly different way) for the long term.

Why do we need a task force?

The group was established in response to a need that emerged both from our ongoing project with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and from several of our Members in our work planning process last year.

It seems that many organizations within the DPC are grappling with the question of how to preserve records that are currently held in an EDRMS and although some have taken some steps to find or implement a solution, others are just at the early stages of considering the challenge.

It turns out that transferring documents (and associated metadata) from one system to another, in bulk, and in a controlled, scalable and automated fashion can be quite tricky.

As collaboration is of great importance to the DPC and (we believe) key to making progress in digital preservation, it was decided that it would be helpful to establish a task force to get a number of Members together to articulate the challenges and understand what should be put in place in order to help move things forward for the community as a whole.


How did we find people to join?

A call for task force members went out in February and it was great to see interest from people working in a range of different roles within a number of different types of organizations. This brings a range of different perspectives to the (virtual) table - always a good thing.

Having representatives from organizations at different stages of working on this challenge is also a huge bonus. Organizations who have solutions in place can share their experiences and lessons learned and those at an earlier stage will have a good idea of the problems and blockers and what they would like to have in place in order to make progress.


What will we be discussing?

There are a range of topics listed in our charge:

  • How safe are records held within an EDRMS? Are there specific risks in leaving them where they are?
  • When should records be transferred to a digital archive? What are the triggers?
  • How can records be extracted from the EDRMS?
  • Which metadata associated with the record should be captured and maintained in the digital archive? What is the minimum? What else would be nice to have?
  • Which parts of the process can be automated?
  • How can users continue to access the records (where permissions allow)?

...but other topics may also fall into scope.

Activities we may carry out include:

  • Articulating the challenge/s of preserving records from an EDRMS
  • Sharing experiences of tackling these issues and learning from each other
  • Highlighting other useful case studies or examples of good practice
  • Gathering together existing sources of guidance
  • Highlighting gaps in current guidance


What is the ultimate goal?

The main job of the task force is to find out what is needed and suggest a useful way forward.

We are clear that we don’t want this group to purely be a talking shop ….though we do hope there will be lots of talking!

The ultimate goal is to help our Members move forward with the preservation of records from an EDRMS and come up with some ideas that will help not just the task force, but the wider DPC Membership.

The Task Force may make recommendations for further DPC outputs or events (in 2020-2012) to help address the challenge, for example a Briefing Day, a Technology Watch Report, guidance notes, case studies, webinars or blog posts.


How can you help?

The task force has begun and is at full capacity...but we’d still love to hear from you.

If you have insights you can share with us, resources to recommend, documents that are relevant, outputs that you would like to see, we would very much like to hear from you.

Do comment below or contact us with your thoughts.


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