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A discussion by archivists of long-term preservation of digital government information

There is an excellent post relevant to government information over at ArchivesNext. I recommend this highly.

Kate does an excellent job, in my opinion, of analyzing the NARA decision to not do another web harvest of agency web sites at the end of the current administration. For example, she says, “For archivists, these web harvests should be troubling because they dispense with the process of appraisal. In effect, anything on the top four levels of an agency’s web site was determined to be of permanent value.” Kate also includes links to articles about the issue and the NARA response.

It has excellent and informative comments that include, but go beyond, the specific issue of NARA and web harvesting. I found these comments particularly useful because they are mostly from the perspective of archivists and give insight into long-term preservation issues. Some of those making comments are well known in archival circles and speak from experience and with authority. Christine says that “it is very difficult to do item-level appraisal of web files, because the pages are usually so interconnected.”

Of the original blog posting at .govwatch that started off the controversy and its claim that NARA is “Quietly Destroying Millions of Documents,” Thomas E. Brown says “Nothing could be father the truth” and backs up what he says with facts.

Maarja discusses information gaps created when dynamic records are overwritten and not preserved. I found this comment by Maarja particularly interesting:

Depending on the agency, decisions on how best to share information might have been driven initially by technological factors more so than long term capture of knowledge. From reading records managers’ forums, I gather that in some agencies IT more so than RM may have driven adoption of solutions for dealing with electronic records.

No two organizations are going to have exactly the same culture and organizational climate. So it’s hard to predict how preservation of electronic information is going to play out throughout the government.

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