Tag Archives: Electronic Records

Electronic Records Day 2018: “Back to the Repository” and Storage Structure

[This blog post was written by Jamie Patrick-Burns, Digital Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina]

It’s October 10 and that means Electronic Records Day! Sponsored by the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), Electronic Records Day is an opportunity to share how we manage our state’s digital resources and raise awareness about best practices for electronic recordkeeping and preservation. The State Archives of North Carolina presents the short film “Back to the Repository.”

Repository structure was fresh on our minds as we have recently restructured our digital repository. The principles below guided our planning and can apply to any file management system at home or in the office. Think about structure and file/folder names that will age well and be clear in the future. A folder or document called “Minutes” might make sense for a couple of weeks if you can remember what the meeting was about and when, but in one year or 20 years you won’t remember! A better title could be “20181010_board_minutes” to include the date and the group that had the meeting.

  1. Hierarchy: organize folders in a hierarchy that is natural to your organization. For the
    Series of boxes indicating a file structure

    Example folder hierarchy

    archives, state agency records are organized by record group (office), series, item number (used to track a particular group of records, e.g. Director’s Correspondence), and accession number (number assigned when records are officially taken into archival custody). Special Collections are arranged by unit, collection number, and accession number. The hierarchy uses identifiers that are well-known to all staff in the Records Center and the Archive, rather than an individual user’s schema. Learn more about record groups, numbering, and retention schedules on our website at https://archives.ncdcr.gov/government/retention-schedules.

  2. File paths: the file path is the full path the computer must navigate to open a document including drive, folders, and file name, for example C:\My Documents\Budgets\2018_budget.xlsx. File names should be descriptive but concise, as some operating systems have a limit to how many characters the file path can be. Microsoft cannot open files with a path longer than 255 characters. In order to avoid long file paths, we use standardized abbreviations in the repository. For example State Records is “SR,” local/county records is “CR,” the Audiovisual Materials unit of Special Collections is “AV.” We also use a numbering system from the catalog that assigns numbers to record groups and series, so that rather than spelling out “Department of Insurance” or having a number of variations such as “Dept. of Insurance,” “Dept of Ins,” etc., the number 00009 is assigned to that department. Numbers have five digits to leave room for expansion and to sort properly in the file system, and we have an index of materials in the repository to help users navigate the abbreviations and numbers. There are also certain characters that should not be included in a file name as they can cause confusion or problems for the operating system: \ / : * ? “ < > | [ ] & $ , . These characters mean something in an electronic environment – for example, the forward slash / indicates folder levels for Microsoft, and a period . denotes a file extension, so if they are in a file name the computer may not know how to interpret them. For more information, see our documentation on best practices for file naming: https://archives.ncdcr.gov/documents/best-practices-file-naming.
  3. Finally, good governance of a repository includes policies for appraisal and collecting.
    Cover of the Managed Storage Guidance for Archival and Permanent Materials

    Cover of the Managed Storage Guidance for Archival and Permanent Materials

    Having clear guidelines on what will and will not be accepted (retention schedule, in-scope documentation, etc.) prevents a “let’s collect everything” attitude or spur-of-the-moment decisions, so that space is not wasted, materials can be found, and you and future users know why something is in the repository in the first place. The State Archives of North Carolina’s repository includes digitized and born-digital records from state and local government as well as special collections. From email to GIS data to PDFs and Word documents, the repository contains records of North Carolina history and activities in electronic format. We all do our best with the knowledge we have, and no one can know the future. But we do our best to have a repository with policies and practices that will stand the test of time so that in another 20 years, digital archivists will be able to find what they’re looking for and won’t have (too many) reasons to say, “What were they thinking?”

Happy Electronic Records Day!

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Electronic Records Day – Text Messages as Public Records

This entry is cross-posted from the G.S. 132 Files, the official Records Management blog of the State Archives of North Carolina.

In recognition of Electronic Records Day 2017, sponsored by the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), the State Archives of North Carolina presents the short film “The Texting Club.” This video was created for educational purposes only.

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Sunshine Week 2017: Text and Instant Messaging Guidelines Update

Visit our records management blog for an update on text and instant messaging guidance.

The G.S. 132 Files

The State Archives of North Carolina has released an update to its Best Practices for Electronic Communications Usage in North Carolina: Text and Instant Message document. Released in February 2017, this document is an update to the 2012 guidance document for state agencies using text and instant messages in the workplace, including employee responsibilities according to general statutes and records retention and disposition schedules.

IM and texting are methods of communication that can make communication fast and easy regardless of when or where the participants in a conversation are. They can be quick exchanges to arrange meeting for lunch, or they can be long exchanges about complex topics. But while IM and text messaging can make day-to-day communications easier, when they are used in the conducting of public business—and therefore the creation of public records—they can also make records management more complicated. GS 132 defines public records by content, not…

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Night of the Living Bit Rot and Other October News

It’s Halloween, which means it’s a good time to remind you to prepare for the Bit Rot Apocalypse.

This short film was created by State Archives staff as part of Electronic Records Day, along with several blog posts. They are among the many new items available online this October, including:

Several recent posts from our records management blog may be of interest to History For All the People readers:

In other October news, last week the State Library of North Carolina announced that NCpedia is getting a new look. They invite members of the public to help test the redesigned website and give their feedback.

Electronic Records Day 2015

October 10 (10/10) is Electronic Records Day!

Electronic Records Day 2015 logo

Sponsored by the Council of State Archivists, Electronic Records Day is intended to raise awareness among state government agencies, the general public, related professional organizations, and other stakeholders about the crucial role electronic records play in their world.

To learn more about what records managers can do to help preserve electronic records, see this post on the G.S.132 Files blog.

If you are on Twitter, you can follow the conversation about Electronic Records Day via the hashtag #ERecsDay.

The staff of the Digital Services Section has also created two Vine videos to remind everyone that digital preservation takes time and planning.

Preservation Week Quiz: Saturday’s Question of the Day

As part of Preservation Week 2015, the State Archives is partnering with the State Library of North Carolina on a Preservation Week Question of the Day – a series of questions related to the preservation of materials both physical and electronic. See the State Library’s blog to see their question of the day posts.

What kind of computer can open the files on this 3.5” floppy disk from 1990?

Dysan floppy disk

  1. Any modern Windows or Mac computer, as long as you buy an external floppy drive.
  2. A Windows computer from around 1990 running MS-DOS and having a working floppy drive.
  3. A modern Windows computer with special hardware installed inside the computer, plus an external floppy drive, plus special software to emulate a 1990 computer.
  4. There is no computer that can read the disk, because the insides of the disk have definitely deteriorated too much by now.
  5. There’s no way to tell. You can’t be certain about whether the data has survived or what it will take to access the files until you start experimenting with different hardware and software.

Do you know the answer?  Find out below the cut.

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Making Digital Memories Persist

[This blog post was written by Kelly Eubank, head of the Digital Services Section.]

A whole generation has grown up with their lives recorded in digital form–photos, videos, class assignments, social interactions. For the digital files that are important to last, the creator must actively manage them. Digital files are vulnerable to loss from either human error (failure to be vigilant), natural disaster (hard drive failure or bitrot) or just plain neglect—unstable file formats, poor file naming, or failure to have multiple copies or move a file from a device before replacing that device.

People get new phones and new devices on average every two years. In order for digital files to persist, people can take some common, relatively painless actions. Firstly, because machines or devices may break, you should always keep multiple copies of files on different devices. If your phone has an option to back up your files to a cloud provider e.g. icloud or GoogleDrive, you should opt to do that. Additionally, we suggest you back up your device to a computer. As you run out of space on your device, you can transfer those to another machine that to delete them from your device. Second, not all file formats are equal. In the world of digital persistence, some file formats are more universally supported and can be read by different types of machines while others are closed and require a specific piece of hard ware and software to read them. For a list of recommended file formats, please consult our guidance document, “File Format Guidelines for Management and Long-Term Retention of Electronic Records.”

Last, when a machine or device saves a file, it typically either assigns it a name or will ask you to name it. If you don’t consciously name it something that will make sense to you now and in the future, you risk losing important files because you cannot remember the name of the file. This is particularly true with digital photos which inherit the name assigned to it by the SIM card. By renaming the file and organizing it according to function or event, you will better be able to discover it in the future. For more guidance on File Naming, please consult our guidance materials, “Best Practices for File Naming” or video tutorials on File Naming at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hi_A4Ywn4VU&feature=youtu.be.

For more tips and tricks, we invite you to take a look at our Digital Preservation Best Practices and Guidelines website at: http://www.digitalpreservation.ncdcr.gov/