Electronic Records Processing

26 10 2015

When most people think of an archive, they naturally gravitate to images of faded photographs, journals of soldiers from past wars, silent film reels, and the like. And it’s true – the Archives here at Michigan State University is full of such vital remnants of our cultural legacy.

However, our society is now generating another type of legacy – a digital one. One made up of computer files and digital media. What’s surprising to most people is that this legacy and these digital items are actually in danger of disappearing far sooner than your grandmother’s photographs from the 1930s.

How is that possible?

One of the biggest reasons, and the one that I am going to explain here, is obsolescence. This is a subject familiar to anyone over the age of 30 who grew up playing video games and waxes nostalgic over the old Nintendo cartridges, or even Dreamcast discs, that can no longer be readily played. Obsolescence occurs when new technologies are developed, making the older ones, well, obsolete.

As the rate of changeover between newer technologies increases, as we have seen it do over the past few decades, digital materials created on older technologies can become lost when their media can no longer be accessed or if the software they were created with is no longer supported.

I’ll give you two examples in one. Your father wrote a book on his Mac twenty years ago and saved it to a floppy disk. If you wanted to scrounge up that book and launch your father to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list, you’d have a bit of work ahead of you. First of all, you’d have to find a machine or use an adapter to read that disk. Computers nowadays don’t even have floppy drives. Second, the program that he used to write that book was probably discontinued fifteen years ago. The file will need to be converted if a newer program cannot read it.


Examples of older media that we work with at the Archives. The most iconic is probably the 3 ½ inch floppy disk

This is where Electronic Records Processing comes into play. A lot of what we do at the University Archives is to rescue old files from media, and take steps to make them accessible in today’s technological environment.

These are some of the tools used to “rescue” files from obsolete media. The Mac laptop has an old OS on it to help us access files on older disks, usually using the blue floppy reader beside it

These are some of the tools used to “rescue” files from obsolete media. The Mac laptop has an old OS on it to help us access files on older disks, usually using the blue floppy reader beside it

In addition to saving old files from old media, we also proactively take current files and, if necessary, put them into formats that industry professionals believe will be usable for some time. Once that is done, we store them in accordance with established preservation standards. Consequently, we also work with files from CDs, DVDs, downloads from the web, and flash drives. Because of the ephemeral nature of digital formats and platforms, taking steps to safeguard files created today is just as important.

Some potentially more familiar media. We work with files from these types of objects frequently. Increasingly, we are receiving downloaded or transferred files and sometimes do not have any physical object at all

Some potentially more familiar media. We work with files from these types of objects frequently. Increasingly, we are receiving downloaded or transferred files and sometimes do not have any physical object at all

So what can you do to preserve your information, thereby aiding in the safeguarding of our own cultural history? (It’s not bombastic; our photos, files, letters, papers, etc., are the stuff that history is made of!)

There are a few simple actions anyone can take. The first is to back up your files! One threat not mentioned so far is us – our own mistakes; things just sort of get deleted and then that’s it. They often cannot be saved. Accidentally deleting your one and only hard drive (if you aren’t a forensics whiz kid), is the equivalent of burning down your file cabinet in the “old days”. Take care!

Second, proactively labeling, dating, and organizing your files makes keeping track of, and migrating them, much easier. Going in, checking on your files, and copying/moving them to updated media every few years will also help to protect them from degrading over time.

For more general information on Electronic Records Management at UAHC, check out our website, Electronic Records Management.

Written by Courtney Whitmore

American Archives Month 2010

4 10 2010

October is American Archives Month.  Not sure what that means?  Archives are places that store information that are described by firsthand facts, data, and evidence from letters, reports, notes, memos, photographs, audio and video recordings, and other primary sources.  In other words, October is the month where we celebrate the records that tell us what happened in our own history.

To celebrate American Archives Month, the University Archives & Historical Collections will be holding several events.  We encourage participation by people interested in archives.

Trivia Contest

Once again we are holding an American Archives Month Trivia Contest.  The contest is open to MSU faculty, staff and students; MSU alumni; and the greater Lansing community.  This contest opens on Monday, October 4 and will end on Friday, October 29.  Three winners will be chosen at random from among the correct entries and will be notified the following week.  This year’s prize is a color reproduction of a class rivalry poster.  To learn more about the class rivalry and see poster samples, see our previous blog post.

Good luck and thank you for playing!!

Lifelong Library Faculty Emeriti Program

On Friday October 8, Public Services Archivist Portia Vescio will be speaking to the MSU Library’s Lifelong Library Emeriti Program.  The title of Portia’s talk is,The Legacy of the Past: Faculty Collections in the University Archives & Historical Collections.” In this session emeriti faculty will learn how the University Archives & Historical Collections maintains the history of MSU with a focus on the collections of former faculty members.  You will see some of the treasures from the collections and discover online sites about MSU history.  You can also learn how your own faculty experience can become a permanent part of MSU history.

The event is taking place in the North Conference room on the 4th Floor, West of the Main Library from 10:00-11:30am.  Seating is limited, so for to reserve your place, you must register by calling Lisa Denison at 517/884-6449 or emailing her at denison2@mail.lib.msu.edu

Michigan Archival Association Fall Workshops

On Wednesday, October 13, MSU is hosting the Michigan Archival Association Fall Workshops.  Two SAA webinars will be presented at the Michigan State University Main Library from 1:00 to 5:00 pm.

The sessions are Thinking Digital… Practical Session to Help Get you Started and Electronic Records: Preservation of PDFs. Cost for the workshop is $10.00 for one session or $15.00 for both. These are the same sessions that would normally cost you $370.00 to access.

To register, utilize the registration form or call Whitney Miller at (517) 884-6437 or visit http://miarchivists.wordpress.com/ for more information.

Email Management Basics Class for MSU Staff

On Monday, October 18, Director Cynthia Ghering is conducting a presentation on Email Management Basics to the Administrative Data Users Community (ADUC).  The presentation will take place  1:00pm – 3:00pm in 145 Comm Arts Building.

In this presentation, University Archives director, Cynthia Ghering, will review several techniques for managing email correspondence, regardless of individual software systems. In addition, Cynthia will review the university’s current retention schedules applicable to business records commonly found in email systems …so that ADUC members can identify university business records in their email inbox. Cynthia will demonstrate how to set up an email folder structure according to the retention schedules and how to store and preserve these records outside of common email systems. Our goal is a practical workshop that ADUC members can go back to their office and implement immediately!

This presentation is open to members of the Administrative Data Users Community (ADUC).

Spartacus showing at the East Lansing Film Festival

Did you know that in 1959 crowd cheers for the movie Spartacus were recorded before an MSU home football game?  Actor John Gavin, who played Julius Caesar in the film, came to campus to lead the crowd.  In honor of the 50th anniversary of the release of the film, on Wednesday, October 27, the University Archives is sponsoring a showing of the movie Spartacus through the East Lansing Film Festival.  The movie will be at 7:00pm in the East Lansing Hannah Community Center.    The archives will be there with prizes and giveaways.

Webinar on Disaster Planning for Electronic Records

26 05 2010

The University Archives & Historical Collections is hosting a Web Seminar from the Society of American Archivists on Tuesday, June 22, 2010.  The webinar is on Disaster Planning for Electronic Records and is being taught by William LeFevre of Wayne State University.  The time of the webinar is 2:00-3:00pm and the location is the South Conference Room on the 4th floor of the MSU Main Library.

The workshop will teach the participants to assess electronic records systems infrastructures in both an active and archival setting; identify potential disasters affecting electronic records; plan for and respond to a variety of potential electronic records disasters; and understand the difference in disaster planning for electronic records and paper records.

Michigan State University Archives is underwriting the registration cost associated with the seminar, so attendees will only need to pay their own transportation cost and parking. Please contact the MSU archives at 517-355-2330 or email mgrace@ais.msu.edu to let us know you wish to attend.

To get directions to the seminar location, you can view the maps on www.msu.edu or call the MSU Archives at 517-355-2330.

Summer update

10 06 2009

Summer is starting to heat up at the MSU Archives. Last week archivists Ed Busch and Portia Vescio attended the Kedzie Alumni Reunion Days for the 50th anniversary reunion for the class of 1959. The archives had a booth at the Vendor Emporium where Ed and Portia handed out special postcards featuring images from the 1950s. They also used the opportunity to try to raise funds to get the past yearbooks digitized. Cost for digitization of each yearbook is about $5000 for labor and supplies. Funds collected from the reunion will go toward the digitization of the 1959 Wolverine.

This week Director Cynthia Ghering spoke at the MSU IT Conference about best practices for maintaining electronic records. Her presentation examined electronic records management in a university environment, including technical requirements for the management and preservation of records and practical guidelines for campus units.

Upcoming summer events include the workshop, “Essentials of Digital Repositories,” on June 19, the Ag Expo on July 22-23, and the Great Dairy Adventure on July 22.