Teaching about international archives in the United States

By Joel A. Blanco-Rivera, from Puerto Rico, doctoral student in Archival Studies at the University of Pittsburg, School of Information Sciences, USA. E-mail: joel.blanco@gmail.com

This summer, as part of the Archival Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh, I will be teaching the course “An International Perspective on Archives.” This will be the first time such course will be taught.  Even thought a variety of courses from academic programs in the US include topics that offer an international perspective (with special attention to archival developments in Australia and Canada), a course that focuses completely in global archival theory and practice has been basically non-existent (my search of academic programs in the US did not find a course about international archives). For this reason, I will like to share in this blog my experience developing this course.

This course will introduce students with a diverse number of archival issues analyzed from an international perspective. The development of archival theory and practice, along with the foundation of professional organizations and the development of archival standards has put into perspective the importance contributions from different countries. In addition, recent developments more closely related with issues of access, accountability, and memory offer a great opportunity to understand and appreciate the international contributions to archival studies.

I divided the course into three main sections. First, I will discuss archival history in the 20th century. This will include a discussion about archival thinkers from different countries that have provided significant contributions to archival theory and practice. Second, I will address the topic of international professional organizations, archival standards, and archival education. And finally, the course will analyze how global discourses about postmodernism, post-colonialism, memory and transitional justice challenge traditional ideas about the archive.

A key to the success of this course will be to offer students an opportunity to learn about events and developments from different countries. That’s why students, in addition to the course readings (and reading blogs like this one), will look at a diverse number of case studies. The strategy to accomplish this will be twofold. First, students will discuss in class news, events or any other development related to archives internationally. And second, the class will have guest lectures by archivists with experiences from abroad. Most of these lectures will be accomplished using videoconference. Therefore, I will like to extend the invitation to colleagues that might be interested in being a guest for the class (it does not need to be necessary a video conference, we can plan a podcast or other form of delivery like blogs). Those interested can contact me through the email address above.

It is my intention to share my reflections while teaching this class, so I will be writing more about this in the upcoming months. I am also very interested to hear experiences from archival education programs in other countries. This is part of my strong belief that collaboration in the archival community, including sharing and discussing ideas with colleagues from all parts of the world, is essential to strengthen our profession.

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The Innovation and Strategic Projects Office (DSIPE) from the General Head Office of Archives (DGARQ) as a key element to the Administrative Modernization of the Public Services in Portugal (part 2)

By Luis Corujo, from Portugal, Archivist at the General Head Office of Archives (DGARQ), Portugal.

(Portuguese version available by clicking “Read More” ; Versão Portuguesa disponível em “Read More”)

  • DGARQ, under the aegis of administrative modernization policy, supports the project Electronic Store or Real Conference in Virtual Environment (CRAV), integrated in the SIMPLEX and the National Technological Plan, in order to update and simplify the interaction with customers and provide new services in the field of electronic documents. The CRAV comprehends the integration of an information system for archival management (DIGITARQ). This project aims to offer the user the ease of a single access point for exchanges with DGARQ and its regional archives. This access point includes the searching and viewing of documents, the request for consultation (at the archive office), the reservation of documents for consultation, the request for the research and duplication of documents, the request for a quote for services and its acceptance, the checking of the state of the research or duplication request, the demand of further information on the research subject, the use of electronic payment systems, the reception of certified digital copies through the Internet, the enablement of access for disabled persons, and the purchase of products from the shops of DGARQ. The “virtual” features of the reference service will allow the management of applications, which throughout the process will enable greater control, the flowing of information between the archive services under the same environment and simultaneous support to different participants of the process, and provide clearer, shorter and more accurate indicators of the institution and respective staff performance, the satisfaction of the remote user, the sending of copies, with or without digital certificate, a secure Internet connection and the availability of other services, such as “scan on demand”, a more detailed profile of the users and of the consulted archives. This project should begin in 2010. However, there is already an electronic desk operating at the Porto Regional Archive.
  • The public service and all its organizations must depend on information produced, processed and maintained in digital format throughout its life cycle. However, in spite of the enormous technological development, there is not a common concern for the long-term preservation of the information produced today. DGARQ, aware of the challenge that involves the preservation of documents digitally produced, wishes to address this problem, and has been following three courses of action and/or axis of strategic development:

– The development of a digital archive capable of integrating, managing and distributing digital objects produced inside the Public Administration. The National Digital Archive, or RODA, is an effective response to the necessities of the gathering and management of electronic information. This project is developed by DGARQ, with the technological assistance of University of Minho. The chosen strategy was the gradual development of basic features and the progressive improvement of these features to increase the categories of digital objects and, presently, provide direct response and support to organizations that have digital objects but no resources in this specific area. RODA has been built around the standard OAIS (Open Archival Information System) and on technical documents produced under the project Interpares 2. The RODA repository is based on the FEDORA platform and uses various forms of metadata, including the EAD (Encoded Archival Description), PREMIS (PREservation Metadata: Implementation Strategies), METS (Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard), Z39.87. RODA currently supports the integration of relational databases, structured text, still images, movies and sound. RODA will be associated to the Network of Portuguese Archives (RPA) and, in the context of RPA, should provide a service of digital converters to begin operating in 2009.

– The production of technical documents and standards to help institutions understand, manage and develop tools which allow the preservation of digital objects. With this objective, DGARQ has published the Digital Preservation Plans Development Guide.

– The accomplishment of other tasks through consultants and the production of specific technical documents to assist institutions in the management of their electronic (and conventional) documents, to promote a proper document management at the initial stage of production and allow a more efficient downstream prevention of problems derived from technological obsolescence and lack of management processes able to identify, classify and retrieve digital information. DGARQ offers expert advice, has published the Electronic Archives’ Management Software Budgeting Guide, a simplified version of the technical manual MoReq (Model Requirements for the Management of Electronic Records), and intends to help organizations select application systems for document management that meet the main requirements of MoReq.

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The Innovation and Strategic Projects Office (DSIPE) from the General Head Office of Archives (DGARQ) as a key element to the Administrative Modernization of the Public Services in Portugal (part 1)

By Luis Corujo, from Portugal, Archivist at the General Head Office of Archives (DGARQ), Portugal.

(Portuguese version available by clicking “Read More” ; Versão Portuguesa disponível em “Read More”)

The current General Law of the General Head Office of Archives (DGARQ) gives to the Innovation and Strategic Projects Office (DSIPE) responsibilities in the development of studies and projects on electronic government which may contribute to the preservation of the digital archive heritage. Such responsibilities include the development of standards, technical guidance and the participation in international projects in the fields of management and preservation of digital records and archives, and also the support of the conception, development and implementation of electronic archiving systems for institutional producers and keepers of records and archives, essential to the Public Administration modernization described by the SIMPLEX and the Portuguese Technological Plan. DSIPE is also responsible for developing a national plan for document digitalization, supporting the research, publication and diffusion related to the safekeeping and improvement of archival and photographic heritage. To accomplish this mission, DSIPE has to supervise and support projects for the conception, development and implementation of digitalization projects of Portuguese archival and photographic heritage, and coordinate the management of web resources, to improve the access to the national archival heritage and provide more services to the users.

To achieve such purpose, DSIPE, under the aegis of DGARQ, is in the process of planning and developing several projects, in particular: the implementation, up keeping, control and maintenance of the National Archival Authorities File (FNAA), the National Digitalization Plan (PND), the Real Conference in Virtual Environment (CRAV), and, under the scope of the Digital Preservation, the management of the Repository of Authentic Digital Objects (RODA), and of the recommendations for the production of Digital Preservation Plans.

    • The purpose of FNAA is to open access, in standardized and autonomous form, to descriptors of legal entities, either individuals or families, as producers, owners, or in any other way related to the records and archival documents. Associating this information to the documents’ description will allow a better understanding of the context production, an easier retrieval of information and documents and the virtual listing of all documents scattered throughout different entities, even if such documents were produced by the specific functions and activities of one or more entities throughout time. This function may be especially useful in the case of structural changes inside the public services, being the Central Government Administration restructuring program (PRACE) one recent example. The FNAA will be a reference tool to the public service, allowing the recovery of information in the archival documentation and in the administrative records. This tool should also be made available for citizens, under the requirements of accountability, transparency, simplification and modernization of the public service, and to promote a more informed citizenship. The partnerships promoting the development of FNAA will contribute to the creation of a network of Portuguese Archives, assist in the development of an integrated approach to records/archives (in contrast with the traditional division between “administrative records”, “records” and “archives”), support the integration of new documentation media to answer the new needs and challenges faced by the record and archives management, and, finally, develop record and archival systems through the implementation of better practices and improvements on information-shared work. To accomplish this objective, DGARQ has developed a technical document with the operating rules of FNAA and the functional requirements for its development. This project will be associated to the documentation on Interoperability Metadata (MIP), produced by DGARQ with the purpose of advising the General Office of the Council of Ministers’ Presidency.
    • The PND was created under a framework of international and national EU policies concerning the digitalization, online accessibility and preservation of digital content, the employment of new information technologies, and the strengthening of European cooperation in the field of records and archives. Therefore, under the Portuguese Technological Plan and of the National Strategic Reference Framework (QREN), the organizations with archival heritage – archives, libraries, documentation centres, museums and other private organizations – are responsible for ensuring that their services and products are electronically available and remotely accessible.
    • The PND is a three years initiative, coordinated by a team led by DGARQ in collaboration with the Portuguese National Library (BNP), and composed by members of institutions of the Ministry of Culture. Its aim is to involve these organizations in the identification and exchange of experiences, the understanding of the projects’ impact at national level, the consideration of the difficulties ahead and the identification of core necessities of individual users and organizations. To promote the digitalization and its national accessibility, efforts will be made to diversify and streamline the digitalization practices, maximize the efficiency of investments in digitalization projects and provide the professionals with expertise in digitalization and preservation. This process will also imply the creation of a plan for the long-term preservation which advances the treatment of documents for digitalization. This cooperation in the creation, distribution and preservation of digitalized content and/or original digital content, under a strategy of sustainable development, can facilitate the access to the cultural heritage, through the articulation and integration of measures that ease user access to various archival fonds and collections.

      (Part 2 available soon)

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      Cooperation between Archives in the EU

      By Jef Schram, from The Netherlands, Policy Officer, European Commission, Secretariat-General, Document Management Policy unit, Belgium

      Cooperation between the Archives of the Member States is not a new phenomenon. It started in the early 1990s following a Council resolution and a first report on Archives in the European Union published by the European Commission in 1994.[1] This report led to a reaction from the Council of Ministers in the form of the Council Conclusions[2] which became an important catalyst in promoting co-operation between archives in Europe for nearly a decade. To give just one example, the organisation of the large three yearly DLM Forum conferences, the first of which was organised in Brussels in 1996, is a direct result of these Council Conclusions.

      Since then co-operation has both widened and deepened. Co-operation between archives has spread further geographically following successive enlargements of the Union. The number of Member States, and thus the number of participating national archives, has increased from 12 at the beginning of the 1990s to 27 today. While this increase in numbers has brought increased benefits and opportunities, it also poses challenges.

      These challenges became especially apparent during the first years of this decade, on the eve of the enlargement with ten new member states. In 2003 the Council therefore adopted a new resolution that called for an assessment of the situation of public archives in the European Union, taking particular account of the enlargement. The Commission was asked to submit a report that would address the possibilities for enhanced co-ordination and co-operation.[3]

      In response to this resolution, a group of experts from the archives of the EU Member States prepared a comprehensive Report on archives in the enlarged European Union.[4] The Report contains both an analysis of the situation of archives in the European Union and a number of proposed actions and orientations for increased co-operation between archives at the European level. It led the adoption of the Council Recommendation on priority actions to increase cooperation in the field of archives in Europe of 14 November 2005.[5]

      The 2005 Council Recommendation marks a new phase in cooperation between archives. It calls for the creation of a European Archives Group (EAG), which was promptly established by the European Commission at the beginning of 2006. The EAG consists of experts from the archives of the member states and the EU institutions, whereby the member states are usually represented by their National Archivist or the deputy.

      The EAG ensures co-operation and co-ordination on general matters relating to archives and to follow-up the work referred to in the Report on Archives. More in particular, the EAG has worked to implement the five priority measures for archival cooperation set out in the Council Recommendation, whereby the following has been achieved:

      • Preservation of and prevention of damage to archives in Europe

      Good progress has been made in regional cooperation between the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany, notably towards the development of an internet based service with detailed information on disaster prevention and disaster management. The ultimate goal is to expand this internet database as networking tool at a European level. This will allow archives across the EU to prepare and to react effectively to catastrophes.

      • Reinforcement of European interdisciplinary cooperation on electronic documents and archives

      In 2008 the European Commission published the updated model requirements for the management of electronic records (MoReq2), which is set to become a standard for records management software in Europe and beyond. The governance of MoReq2 is the responsibility of the DLM Forum, which reports to the EAG on a regular basis.

      • Creation and maintenance of an internet portal to the archival heritage of the Union

      A consortium of 12 National Archives and the European Digital Library Foundation is preparing an internet portal for archives in Europe. The portal will make it possible to retrieve archival information in Europe regardless of national, institutional or sector boundaries. It will be linked to EUROPEANA and will contribute to fulfilling the vision of a common multilingual access point to Europe’s digital cultural and scientific heritage.

      • Promotion of best practice with regard to national and European law with regard to archives

      In cooperation with the European Branch of the International Council on Archives, a legal database for archives in Europe, EURONOMOS, was developed. Euronomos will provide access to archival and related legislation as well as interpretative and contextual information. The project is off to a good start, its future success will depend on the continued cooperation of the member states, which provide the content.

      • Measures to prevent theft and facilitate the recovery of stolen documents

      A working group for measures to prevent theft in archives was chaired by the Swedish Riksarkivet. In June 2007 the group presented a report based on a survey of almost 200 archives throughout Europe that gives insight into the nature and extent of the problem. The group then developed guidelines for the prevention of theft that will serve as a common tool for archival institutions. A declaration on the prevention of theft in archives and the fight against their illegal trade was adopted by the Heads of the National Archives of the 27 Member States in November 2008 .

      In the summer of 2008 the EAG adopted a progress report that sets out not only the achievements with regard to the implementation of the 2005 Council Recommendation but also identifies a number of challenges that lie ahead.[6] These challenges focus on the changing role of public archives in e-government, the relationship between online and onsite access to archives, the re-use of public sector information, plans to strengthen archival networks and, finally, the development of a new generation of professional archives managers in a European context.

      Co-operation between the archives of the EU Member States has moved forward since the adoption of the Council Recommendation in 2005. As in the past, such cooperation is an evolutionary process, built on shared interests and ambitions and the recognition that co-operation should, and can, be mutually beneficial. On this basis, co-operation between archives in Europe has been surprisingly successful over the last two decades. In order to continue that success, the National Archives services of the EU member states will continue to work together and the European Commission will continue to support the work of the European Archives Group.

      The opinions expressed in this article represent the views of its author only and cannot be taken to represent an official position of the European Commission.


      [1]    European Commission, Archives in the European Union. Report of the Group of experts on the Coordination of Archives, Brussels – Luxembourg, 1994

      [2]    OJ C 235, 23.8.1994, p.3

      [3]    OJ C 113, 13.5.2003, p.2

      [4]    COM(2005) 52 final.

      [5]    OJ L 312, 29.11.2005, p.55

      [6]       COM(2008)500 of 1.8.2008; SEC(2008)2364 of 1.8.2008

      The Historical Archive of Cologne : call for help

      (French version available by clicking “Read More” ; Version française disponible en cliquant sur “Read More”)

      The Historical Archive of Cologne’s building collapsed on 3 March 2009.

      Since then, the recovery process has started : representatives of the city, the historical archive, the professional fire-fighters of Cologne, the state archive of North Rhine Westphalia and restoration experts are working to protect the site, to recover, sort out and treat the materials.

      Much help has already been offered or sent, from colleagues from Cologne archives and other places, from archive schools.

      Nonetheless, help is still needed, now and in the coming weeks, especially from archive and conservation specialists.

      All informations and contacts on the Blue Shield Network Website : http://www.ancbs.org/

      To have a view of what has already been done, have a look at this document by Dr. Karsten Uhde, from Marburg archive school : http://www.archivschule.de/uploads/Forschung/cologne_english.pdf

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      Safeguarding sound and image collections

      Training course by ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) and NRLC (National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property) of Lucknow.

      Place : New Delhi (India)
      Dates: 17 November-11 December, 2009 (4 weeks)
      Working language: English
      Application deadline: 20 April, 2009

      The course will deal with various issues related to the preservation and access of sound and image collections (photographs, films, video and audiotapes, digital material) :

      • value, meaning, selection and use of sound and image collections;
      • identification and preservation of various formats;
      • documenting and cataloging, media handling and storage;
      • risk assessment and emergency preparedness and response;
      • digitization, digital preservation and management;
      • access, copyright laws, legal deposit, etc.

      More informations and application : http://www.iccrom.org/fra/01train_fr/announce_fr/2009_11SoimaIND_fr.shtml

      Journée d’études de l’AAF : « Les données personnelles, entre fichiers nominatifs et jungle Internet »

      La prochaine journée d’études de l’Association des Archivistes Français aura lieu le 17 mars 2009 à Paris.

      Différents aspects de la problématique des données personnelles seront abordés :

      • le contexte juridiques en France, en Espagne et au niveau européen;
      • des exemples de fichiers exceptionnels;
      • la question de l’utilisation des données personnelles, sur Internet ou dans le cadre de recherches.

      Plus d’informations sur le site de l’AAF : http://www.archivistes.org/article.php3?id_article=736