People are fundamental to every aspect of an archival project. They commission projects, provide resources, support (or challenge) projects, and produce results. People deliver projects as managers and team members, and others influence projects as sponsors and archival project stakeholders. How people behave and feel about the project influences its success.
Project managers are expected to be both good managers and leaders. Leadership is one of the most critical competencies a project manager must have. Leadership in archival projects is demonstrated through setting the vision for the project and supporting strategy, and creating a shared vision with the team. Archival leaders create an environment that encourages the best in team members, allowing them to develop and learn.
Project managers for archival projects have a wide variety of responsibilities. They oversee activities, serve as liaisons between departments, and facilitate meetings. They hire staff, attend professional development activities, and review instructional materials. This post covers characteristics of effective archival project managers.
Most archives repositories find it a challenge to keep a balance between meeting the needs of their users, their administration, and their collections. The hands-on tasks involved in the daily management of ever-growing collections of digital information leave little time for conceptual planning of the digital preservation program.
Appraisal and selection for digital artifacts are similar in the broadest sense to the appraisal and selection of physical archival collections. The framework that each institution uses to guide its selection process is influenced by the scope and subjects of the collecting agencies.
The sustainability of digital materials depends on standard file formats that will last for the long term. As technology changes rapidly, archivists and other information professionals need to use a narrow set of sustainable file formats to retain information between systems and programs. As new formats develop, sustainability must become part of the design process from the beginning to make the efforts of digital preservation successful.
While digital preservation efforts are being led by members of the cultural heritage community working at institutions traditionally responsible for saving materials, the challenges of digital preservation require the involvement of new participants.
Digital preservation is a series of managed activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital materials for the highest utility—and for as long as possible or necessary. Archivists work to save bits and bytes beyond the limits of media failure, software obsolescence, and technological change. The phrase “digital preservation,” however, has been questioned because it may not sufficiently describe what needs to occur for digital materials to be accessible over time.
As our understanding of digital preservation, curation, and stewardship matures, archivists and other information professionals have begun to question some of our assumptions about preservation. To address current needs, the practices we have developed and taken for granted for decades are transforming in the digital environment.
As with many archival projects, large institutions lead the way to new discoveries, workflows, and practices. Discussions about digital preservation have been too frequently (but understandably) presented in terms that apply only to large, well-funded institutions.
The archival field lacks people with the expertise needed to extend the digital preservation agenda. Formal training opportunities for digital preservation are still rare, so much is learned on the job. New archivists may be uncertain as to where to acquire specific skills, and seasoned archivists need to broaden their knowledge or expand their roles professionally.
The Information Age spawns questions for the future. How will we ensure long-term access to information, growing exponentially every day? How will we migrate data as technology moves from one medium to the next? Who determines what’s saved, and what criteria will be used to make those decisions? Most importantly, what is the cost of preservation? Who will pay for it?