The purpose of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) member digital archive is to provide members and staff with exclusive access to designated resources within the RCN digital archive.

Since 2017 the RCN archive team have been using Preservica digital preservation software to manage, preserve and provide access to born-digital and digitised material. Staff have access to their own records within this cloud-based archive using the Preservica Explorer dashboard. Making use of Preservica’s Universal Access module (a Wordpress product), selected records have also been available to view freely online since 2018 on the public RCN digital archive. However, we have been restricted in what we can make public by GDPR and the need to provide added value to the members who fund our service. Technology didn’t seem to support a way to provide members with that added value service.

RCN Library and Archive Service team away dayBetween 2018 and now there has been a growing need to focus on organisational transparency within the RCN. An increasing amount of digital resources are being made available to members online via the RCN website. This gave the archive team the opportunity to explore new ways of providing access to records within the archive collection.

The RCN holds personal data to operate as a trade union and this must be kept private to members. The RCN has membership database software which provides a high level of data security. Online member services (e.g. library online resources) can be offered exclusively to members on the RCN website through a login system called SAML. This asks the member database to verify membership without copying any personal data and putting it at risk. This is how we manage access to the member layer of the online digital archive.

In 2019, in addition to planned record-collecting activity the archive acquired a large number of audiovisual files from a server that was being de-commissioned. Much of the material, which included audio and video recordings of the RCN AGM and annual Congress event, was unsuitable to share on the public digital archive, given the data protection restrictions around trade union membership. However, this is important evidence of transparent governance. Congress is an annual decision-making member event. Delegates meet to debate and vote on resolutions which direct the RCN’s work. Resolution and debate records are important for our members to access.

RCN Member digital archive Congress

Following a positive conversation with Preservica about the technical possibility of creating a second Universal Access website which would allow access to an additional set of records to those shared on the public digital archive, the archive team planned the main steps of the work, which were as follows:

  • The creation of second Universal Access (UA) module website by Preservica. The public digital archive website was copied and assigned a different web address. The next step was to ensure that the site could distinguish and separate the right records within Preservica. Security tags and access roles are used in Preservica to control which users can see which records. A security tag titled ‘Member’ and a role ‘RCN Anonymous Member’ were created allowing ‘member’ records to be displayed on the member digital archive but not the public allowing ‘member’ records to be displayed on the member digital archive but not the public one.
  • The member digital archive website now had to identify who was a member. We worked with the RCN IT team to establish a SAML authentication system allowing the website to ask the RCN membership database ‘is this person a member?’. Using this, RCN members can log into the member digital archive with the login credentials that they use to access other online resources. The membership database verifies this and tells the website ‘yes’. All RCN members are identified as a single person called ‘member’ who has the access role we set up beforehand. That means we do not need to create and manage Preservica logins for each of our 450,000 members.
  • Preparing and uploading content was needed to launch the new website. The records of the annual RCN Congress event were selected as a test collection as this was an ongoing cataloguing project. Preparation of the collection involved: collating physical and digital resources from across the collections; coordinating digitisation of selected records; sorting, arranging and cataloguing the collection; uploading records to Preservica; and synchronising metadata from the catalogue with the digital objects in Preservica. Within Preservica, a number of the video files were migrated to a web-renderable format for use online.
  • The website needed to be assessed and acknowledged as GDPR compliant. Once the collection had been uploaded to the digital archive, the Archive Manager carried out a Data Protection Impact Assessment for member digital archive site in coordination with the RCN Data Protection Officer, which was approved.
  • The launch of the member digital archive was initially planned for April 2020, but as the archive team moved to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of upload of records to the digital archive slowed slightly. With the real 2020 Congress event cancelled, the decision was made to launch the website during the week that the event would have been held (7-11 June). This provided RCN members the opportunity to celebrate Congress virtually by revisiting past events. The launch of the site was communicated internally via an intranet post, as well as by demos with staff. Externally, there were articles in two of the RCN member magazines, Activate and Bulletin, a news story on the Library & Archive Services webpages and scheduled posts on social media by both the RCN and Library & Archive Service channels to promote the resource to members.
  • Following positive feedback on the resource from colleagues in RCN Governance, the Congress collection will be used as model for how selected historic corporate records can be made available to members in the future. The archive team are currently working on uploading recordings of past AGMs, which will be accessible in time for this year’s AGM. User experience testing has been carried out – one of the next steps will be to address user feedback, making adjustments to the site where possible and suggesting features for development to Preservica.

RCN Member digital archive homepage

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