Özhan Saglik

Özhan Saglik

Last updated on 20 November 2018

Özhan Sağlık is Lecturer at Bursa Uludag University in Turkey

 This is my hard drive, and it only makes sense to put things in there that are useful. Really useful. Ordinary people fill their heads with all kinds of rubbish. That makes it hard to get at the stuff that matters. Do you see?" Sherlock Holmes, Season 1, Episode 3.

Archives are the banks of semantic capital (Floridi, 2018; Gollins, 2018) and we can ensure the intellectual control over this capital by context which is everything in digital archiving (Sheridan, 2018).

On the National Archives building of the United States it is written that “This building holds in trust the records of our national life and symbolizes our faith in the permanency of our national institutions” (National Archives and Records Administration, 2018). This sentence is valid for every country. Archives hold the trust for records whether they are physical or electronic.

The UK National Archives published their vision “Archives Unlocked” and one of the core points is “trust”. It is said “people and institutions trust in the authenticity of archive records, and how they are preserved and presented” (National Archives, 2017).

We can talk about the authenticity of the Magna Carta, but can we trust the electronic records? If we can by what means they are trusted? A digital environment brings lots of benefits to recordkeeping but we also encounter problems because of the nature of this environment. Ageing and deterioration of the hardware, unintended losses, difficulty of the preservation of e-records etc. We can increase the factors, even the robustness. As John Sheridan, Digital Director of the UK National Archives mentioned: our time is the most exciting time to be an archivist. Now, the question is clear: How we can protect the trustworthiness of e-records?

Trustworthiness of e-records is the issue with which legal professionals should certainly be involved, too. Our colleague Ann Lyons said, if we say records are the cultural heritage, they are not interested, but if we say records are evidence they must be interested (Lyons, 2018). Records are evidence of activities so we must preserve them in the way the legal jurisdictions and regulations define. Even when there are discrepancies between the countries, we have common points on protecting the trustworthiness: Authenticity, reliability and accuracy. We can expose the trust to the reliability and accuracy through digital signatures, checksums etc., and I would like to do the same for authenticity.

We define authenticity with identity and integrity (Duranti and Rogers, 2012). By the benefits of the computing world, we can protect integrity with checksums, hash algorithms. The question is about identity. Because one of the main points on protecting authenticity is, to show if the records are generated in the ordinary course of business activities. This point, directs us to the context.

Here is the connection with Sherlock: We group records each other by the organic bond they have. This process forms the folders. A linkage between the records-folders-series-functions and units establishes the one side of context, so context shows us what is useful -  really useful, as Sherlock asserts. We have seen that many institutions do not establish this linkage as we mention above. The linkage records with folders and series give us the establishment of the business activities which show the ordinary course, in other words show the authenticity. We have seen that institutions which do not establish the linkage are producing poor results because they do not reach all parts of the context properly, they do not define and present the e-records when they are needed, so they face the threat of becoming ordinary. We believe institutions are shaped by people and people make records. They deserve to be extraordinary in that the records they have are exclusive.

We can expose the context and analyse if the authenticity is protected or not from a recordkeeping perspective but we need a tool in software to show us authenticity is protected. It seems, we will discuss the issue more and in the words of John Sheridan again, our time is the most exciting time to be an archivist. Happy World Digital Preservation Day!


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