Endangered large

Documents, correspondence and other records created in the course of contractual dealings between individuals and agencies, especially where the subjects are of long duration and may be subject to legal scrutiny at undefined points in the distant future.

Group: Formats

Trend: No change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2017

Last update: 2017

Previous category: Of Concern

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within twelve months

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools or services within this group would have a global impact.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to address losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.


Email in all its forms, including individual messages, threads of conversation, mailboxes, email servers and file attachments.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Conflicting and unmanaged IPR; use of personal accounts for professional work and vice versa; proliferation and duplication of attachments; email not recognized as a record; absent, unworkable or inconsistent records management; dependence on free cloud-based services; lack of migration path; lack of preservation planning; perverse incentives to delete; encryption.

Vulnerable in the Presence of Good Practice

Application of appraisal and selection tools; timely transfer to preservation facility or archive; commitment to transparency; preservation policy; working preservation plan; clear migration path; widespread recognition of email as a record.

2019 Review

This entry was made in 2017 which the Jury did not have capacity to assess. It has been assessed this time in part to highlight significant developments since then including the recommendations of the Email Preservation Taskforce and the development of the ePADD software. Email presents many kinds of preservation challenge, from scale through core technologies, attachments, privacy and intellectual property rights. Because this entry intersects with many others, the presence of email within these other entries should be considered an aggravating condition.

Additional Jury Comments

Email is hugely important as it has been so pervasive as a communication mechanism for society. Some methods used and responsibility adopted for collecting at business and public body level (again will differ globally) but this will be a fraction of the communities that use it and few will be set up for the long-term care of this data.

See also:

·        Prom, C (2019) Preserving Email (2nd Edition) DPC Technology Watch Report 19-01 online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.7207/twr19-01 (from 7th November)

·        Murray K and Prom, C (2018) The Future of Email Archives: A Report from the Task Force on Technical Approaches for Email Archives, CLIR, online at: https://clir.wordpress.clir.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2018/08/CLIR-pub175.pdf

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