I’ve found myself playing around archives for a few projects. Usually it is for my blog Finnish Not Done, which would not exist if it were not for archives of the migration of Finnish people in the Americas. I recently used archives for a story about AIIM’s early history, which got me thinking. When talking about Records Management I don’t ever recall a conversation about Archives. Should we think about Archives as we talk about Records Management?
What’s the difference between Archive and Record content?
The Society of American Archivists defines “archive” as:
The word archives refers to the permanently valuable records—such as letters, reports, accounts, minute books, draft and final manuscripts, and photographs—of people, businesses, and government. These records are kept because they have continuing value to the creating agency and to other potential users. They are the documentary evidence of past events. They are the facts we use to interpret and understand history.
While ARMA, the professional records management association, defines a “record” as:
Records are the evidence of what the organization does. They capture its business activities and transactions such as contract negotiations, business correspondence, personnel files, and financial statements, just to name a few. Records come in many formats; physical paper, electronic messages, web site content, and data in databases.
So I it leads me to conclude that:
Records are documentary evidence of business activities. Those records that have permanent value as evidence of the past are Archives.
What About Archives in Business
Some items, like articles of incorporation, bylaws, board or shareholder meeting minutes, patents, and trademarks, require permanent retention. Many of these can also be seen as having archive value. All of these represent major events in business that could have historic value. Other documents are less obvious.
Marketing ads are probably at the top of the list of archive documents. Iconic brands, like Coca-Cola and Disney, keep extensive archives of their brand assets. Even Google keeps an archive of its Doodles. Manuals could be part of an archiving, because it can show how improvements have been made over time in a product.
Some archive content isn’t an organization’s choice. Anything said publicly is part of your archive. Press Releases are by default an archive item. While an organization themselves might not save press releases, they’re available online at sources like PR Wire.
Most websites becomes part of an archive, called the Wayback Machine. It constantly archives sites. For example, here Xerox already had a modern view for the document back in 1996. Both of these sources are parts of the organization’s recorded history.
Remembering archives before it’s too late
Even data can have archive value. A 3-year global search was conducted by the Honeysuckle Creek Project to locate old telemetry tape from Apollo 11. It concluded the tapes were deleted. The world lost an opportunity to see high definition video of the moon landing, because the backup tapes met retention requirements. Let’s take one small step to archives as we take the giant leap into retention. Sorry, I couldn’t ignore the pun.