Archival Robustness

Christopher A. Lee
2019 The American Archivist  
A major part of the archival enterprise is conveying meaningful information between contexts over time. 1 This process is never free. It requires resources (human, technical, financial). Ensuring a steady flow of resources over time is difficult. At any given time, dedicated individuals and informal groups play vital roles in the provision of resources that perpetuate our documentary legacy (collecting, organizing, storing, and sharing information in which they have an interest). Commercial
more » ... iders of information systems also play a major role, by furnishing the platforms upon which consumers create, manage, and share information. It is risky to rely solely on individuals, informal groups, and commercial information system providers for the long-term stewardship of archival materials because those parties often do not have the capability or incentive to effectively allocate resources over long periods. The two primary responses to this issue are: 1. Systematically channel resources through the individuals/groups/providers (e.g., training, donations, new business models). This category includes what the archival literature refers to as "community archives." In addition to the potential practical benefits of caring for records close to where they were created or received, community archives can also advance the autonomy and sense of identity of specific communities. 2 2. Transfer responsibility for stewardship of the information to third parties. Traditionally, those third parties have been "memory institutions," including libraries, archives, and museums (LAMs). Whoever is responsible for records must deal with an ever-changing social and technical environment. It is impossible to predict what the specific changes will be, especially over long time periods. This makes it dangerous to optimize approaches to a particular set of assumed conditions. Instead, it is wise to aim
doi:10.17723/0360-9081-82.1.3 fatcat:vepmne55lvexfczvbwqwd6i5be