email archive

Learning from a long-running digital archive effort

Sen. Tim Kaine's (D-Va.) four-year term as governor of Virginia concluded almost seven years ago, but the process to create online public access to a digital archive of his administration at the Library of Virginia is still ongoing. 

“Once we got the records, we realized that [dealing with personally identifiable information] was not going to be the biggest challenge,” Roger Christman said during a May 23 webinar.  “It was actually the poo, the junk that was in the collection.”

Christman, the senior state governors’ records archivist at the Library of Virginia, outlined two key strategies to make digital records preservation as smooth as possible.

First, he encouraged state CIOs, archivists and human resources employees to work together to make sure that the digital records preserved are relevant to government operations.Of the 553,000 emails that have been reviewed, Christman said, 67 percent of the materials were non-archival records.  “We thought that this dataset was being managed, but it clearly wasn’t,” he said. 

While Kaine’s administration committed to keeping digital archives, Christman said the meetings and trainings didn’t actually occur until nearly two years into his term, when the electronic records policy was made public in December 2007.

Second, Christman encouraged having the state CIOs, archivists and HR staff all trained on what actual information needs to be preserved for digital records.

“When you start the job, you should be trained on how to manage your own material,” he said.  “Otherwise, you are going to end up with a lot of [email] down the road that no one is going to want to go through.”

The Library of Virginia released the latest batch of emails from the former governor’s administration in October 2016. So far, 156,000 emails have been put into the searchable database as part of the library’s digital preservation project.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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