Sharon McMeekin

Sharon McMeekin

Last updated on 9 February 2023

Email continues to be one of the most commonly used communication methods for business and personal purposes. Therefore, capturing a  complete record  of our interactions, of planning, and of decisions made, both in the recent past and for the foreseeable future, must include the preservation of email. If this is to happen it is imperative that the archives sector upskill to meet that challenge. It was with this in mind that The National Archives (UK)
has chosen email preservation as the focus for the latest training course in the “Novice to Know-How” (N2KH) series

The N2KH training courses were conceived of and have been funded by The National Archives (UK) as part of their innovative “Plugged in, Powered Up” digital capacity building strategy for the UK archives sector. They offer free, practical online training for those looking to build the digital preservation capacity of their organisation. The N2KH learning pathway has now been completed by more than 2500 learners in 62 countries.

The DPC is proud to have worked with The National Archives (UK) on the existing Novice to Know-How learning pathway, delivering the training content and hosting it on their behalf on our Learning Management System, and we are excited to be collaborating with them again on this new course. The project to deliver this training began on 9th January 2023 and we’re already deep into the research phase and course structure development.

Preserving email presents a number of unique challenges. These include the volume of email that is produced, the need to preserve the links between individual messages to provide context, issues caused by the inclusion of attachments (and the wide variety of formats they might encompass), and the likelihood of the inclusion of personal or sensitive data within emails. Any training on the topic of email preservation must address this broad range of issues. 

Due to the complexity of these issues, this training course can be seen as a step on from the original N2KH learning pathway. The original course is aimed at those who are new to digital preservation, for example, those wishing to move from “Novice” to “Beginner” skill levels across a number of skill areas in the DPC’s recently published Digital Preservation Competency Framework. The email preservation course will be aimed at those who already have a solid foundation of digital preservation knowledge who require specific skills on this topic. Going back to the Competency Framework example, taking people from a “Beginner” to “Intermediate” level, where they have the confidence to implement email preservation workflows tailored to their organisation’s needs.

The course will draw on good practice and expert guidance developed by the digital preservation community, including the excellent work of the Task Force on Technical Approaches for Email Archives and their report “The Future of Email Archives”. All of the modules developed will undergo rigorous review from both The National Archives (UK) and the DPC, with the aim of creating a robust and useful resource. As the learning pathway is still a work in progress, it isn’t yet possible to share a full course structure, but the following is an indicative breakdown of the sections to be included:

    1. Introduction to Email Preservation - Why it should be preserved and the key issues to consider N2KH Envelope
    2. What is Email? - Email standards, structures, tools and life cycles 
    3. Developing an Approach to Email Preservation - Advocacy, policy, legal context, retention, and more! 
    4. Selection and Capture - Selecting email for preservation and capturing email from various clients 
    5. Appraisal and Processing - Appraisal methodologies, preservation and cataloguing metadata, using tools to process email, and creating AIPs 
    6. Storage and Preservation - Options for storage and preservation 
    7. Discovery and Access - Options and tools to allow discovery of and access to email 
    8. Case studies - Examples of how other organisations have begun to preserve email

The new Email Preservation learning pathway will be launched in June 2023 and priority places will be available free of charge to learners from the UK archives sector or DPC member organisations. Make sure to watch out for more details over the course of the project because as you can see, there’s lots to do!

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