Critically Endangered small

Records from local government (i.e., below the state level) which are required for transparency and may be in many diverse forms, but in which the local authority may lack the capacity to manage the complex digital preservation requirements that arise.

Group: Public Records

Trend in 2021:

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend towards greater risk

Previously: Critically Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is a priority.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on many people and sectors.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to prevent losses in this group, such as the development of new preservation tools or techniques.

Examples Born digital records of small and medium-sized agencies; fasting-changing internal manuals, advice or policies shared electronically; records of care services; Documentation supporting long-lived contractual relations like Public Finance Initiatives; Organizational Slack channels; network drives; EDRMS; Email.

‘‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of preservation infrastructure; conflation of backup with preservation; loss of authenticity or integrity; Long-lived business processes; poor storage; churn of staff; significant volumes or diversity of data; poorly developed digitization; ill-informed records management; poorly developed migration or normalization; longstanding protocols or procedures that apply unsuitable paper processes to digital materials; encryption; political instability; lack of sustained funding.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Well managed data infrastructure; preservation enabled at the point of creation; carefully managed authenticity; use of persistent identifiers; finding aids; well managed records management processes; recognition of preservation requirements; strategic investment in digital preservation; preservation roadmap; participation in digital preservation community.

2021 Review

This entry was added in 2019 as a subset of a previous entry for ‘Records of long duration from Local Government or Other Government Agencies’.  The split was intended to allow greater concentration on the challenges that these different types of agency face. Local government typically operates across a broad range of digital formats and services but it is unclear, and unlikely that relatively small archival agencies are properly funded locally to support the wide range of digital preservation requirements that arise. The 2020 Jury noted the trend towards greater risk based on 2020 being a year of significant political and economic upheaval, putting additional strain on local government and its agencies. In these circumstances already vulnerable records are likely to be at greater risk. The 2021 Jury similarly agree with the continuation of this trend over the last year. They also noted examples like Grenfell to demonstrate the precarity of local government records, especially when these risks overlap with records of non-governmental agencies, resulting significance and impact of loss, impetus for action and call to governing frameworks where failing in enforcement (and depending on jurisdiction).

Additional Jury Comments

Significant research by the UK National Archives into Local Government Archives in England underlines the digital skills shortages that exist, especially with respect to preservation.

There may be a benefit from splitting into a) legally required public record and b) additional information that may enrich our digital preservation of society. My assumption was that the roles and requirements for records management are clearly defined, but if this is not the case and there are inadequate resources to match the requirement, then the risk goes up.

Case Studies or Examples:


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