free hit counter

Not Otherwise Classified

Look here for writings that don’t fit under either of the other headings.

in reverse chronological order

Note : Some of this content also appears on the RCRG : Records Continuum Research Group website

Conference Musings postings to the archives-and-records (Google Groups) list (2018)

In this year, I attended three conferences and for some reason took to posting on the Archives and Records (Google Groups) Listserv about sessions that took my fancy. Here they are:

From Washington (DC) SAA Conference

  • Technical Debt
    A useful concept
  • An idea whose time has come?
    Draft DACS guidelines embrace entity/relationship model
  • The only earthly certainty is oblivion (Mark Twain)
    David Bearman and the bubble reputation
  • GLAM and the Search for Truth
    In the Age of Trump, can we become Guardians for Truth?

From Glasgow (SCO) ARA Conference

  • Community Archives
    Examples of good work being done in the UK
  • Outreach
    More examples of good work being done in the UK
  • We have met the enemy, and he is us
    What prevents us from making better use of technological advances?
  • What Skills Do Archivists Need?
    What, if anything, is an archivist?

From Perth (WA) ASA Conference

  • Directory of Archives in Australia Project
    Muddle, muddle, toil and trouble
  • Replicating the Replicants: Do Archivists Dream of Downloadable Sheep?
    Ubiquity vs structure
  • Wikipedia Loves Archives; Archives Should Love Wikipedia, Too
    The future lies with Wikidata, or something very like it?
  • Description: Quo Vadis? (in 5 parts)
    Series System, RiC, Co-operation and diversity. Where are we heading?

What, If anything, Is records management?

Paper presented at the Records Management Association of Australasia Conference held in Canberra, 12-15 September 2004

In September, 2004, I gave papers at two conferences in Canberra in the same month. The experiences could not have been in greater contrast. The RMAA (as it then was) was welcoming, supportive, and congenial. I was treated as an honoured guest, my registration was complimentary, and the audience appreciative. This is the paper I presented to them. The ASA, on the other hand, having invited me to speak (the last such invitation I expect to receive from them), proceeded to treat me like pariah. I was offered no registration, so I didn’t stay around – just came, spoke, and went. They subsequently attempted to suppress my paper by accusing me of defamation. That paper, which appears elsewhere as Archivists and accountability (2004), was published – first on Mike Steemson’s RIMOS website, then on the Monash RCRG site, then (after a titanic struggle, much vexatious correspondence, and expensive legal advice that ridiculed the ASA position) in Archives and Manuscripts.

Where have all the archives gone?

Paper presented at a Symposium on Business Archives, Noel Butlin Centre, Australian National University, 24 October, 2003

Less than six months after taking up a position as Manager of the Commonwealth Bank Archives in Sydney, after a lifetime working in government archives, I received an invitation to speak at a seminar on business archives. The Noel Butlin Archives was a collection of business and union records attached to the ANU. It had very nearly disappeared and survived only because of a determined campaign by historians, unions, archivists and businesses to persuade the university to retain it. It has continued to sponsor gatherings like this as part of its renaissance. I was uncertain whether I could do justice to the topic, but it turns out, as I say in the paper, that being a business archivist has much in common with being an archivist anywhere.

Cabbages and Kings

Keynote Address to TRIM Users’ Forum (TUF 10), at the Atrium Hotel, Mandurah, Thursday, 11 September 1997

This was presented at a two-day live-in workshop for Tuffies - users of the TRIM records management software.

Bob’s little helper : a playlet in three scenes (1997)

I did this to lighten the mood at a conference I was asked to address in Melbourne. An expanded version of this script was later used by Monash University to produce a video for teaching purposes.

Beating the French

First published: Archives and Manuscripts, 24 (1) 1996.

As we struggled to come to grips with electronic records and the functional requirements for recordkeeping, the idea got about that corporate recordkeeping was all that mattered and that personal recordkeeping could not come within the ambit of the rethinking that was going on. Adrian Cunninghame organised a session on this at the 1995 ASA Conference. Three papers were given and this is mine.

Achieving more with less – challenges and opportunities

Paper to Records Management Association of Australia, 8th National Convention, Darwin 1991

The speaker delivered this paper to the 8th RMAA National Convention in Darwin in September. The Convention Organising Committee asked that the session should "raise delegates' awareness of the sort of general working environment in which they need to operate and for which they must adjust and cater both now and towards 2000". Contracting resources means competition within an organisation between programmes. It is not enough to "lift our game" by doing the same things with fewer dollars or increasing productivity if what we do is not valued. How each programme fares will depend upon management's perceptions of its value to the organisation. We must either change those perceptions favourably towards us or change what we do to fit in with them. Either way we must keep abreast of contemporary corporate values. This involves much more than keeping up with technological development in records management areas and delivering a "good product". The paper advises records managers not to be complacent in developing cost-saving arguments as a basis for promoting their function. Such arguments cannot be expected automatically to win management support.

The view that management should be "market" oriented rather than "product" oriented is examined. On this view, market forces, unrelated to technical considerations, will dictate how an organisation conducts its business. The organisation's needs (which records managers must meet in order to survive) will be defined by perceptions of market demand. In practice, this means adapting ourselves to constant change. Information is still seen as a crucial organisational resource. Rapid technological development combined with a climate of organisational change causes managers to look to product specialists and technologists for solutions. This is a process which records managers must control or with which they must compete.

The paper examines some aspects of the records manager's "competitive edge" in meeting organisations' information needs in this environment. It then returns to the issue of management perception and how this is to be won. A "good image" is necessary but it must build on real strengths. The current emphasis on organisational change is linked to the idea of "corporatisation" in which units within the organisation are given greater autonomy. Centralised regulatory or service units which do not have an external client base become "business centres" within the organisation. They are left to thrive or shrivel depending upon demand for their services. Responsibility is delegated, procedures become less "bureaucratic" and more flexible, the system rewards or punishes programmes depending upon their success in meeting the needs of their client programmes within the organisation.

The paper concludes by developing a hypothetical case study as a model for survival of records management units in a climate of organisational change and shrinking resources. It looks at the issue of secondary storage within government positing the following parameters : user pays, privatisation, and corporatisation. The paper examines the use of intra-governmental charges in pursuit of the user pays principle. Controlled use of commercial storage facilities in combination with government owned/managed facilities is explored. This example is used to suggest how the problem of sustaining and developing a records management function must be approached in a "managing with less" environment.