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Preserving Historical Documents—Emails

by Dian Schaffhauser

Campus Technology

Article excerpt

E-Mail Gets Archivist Attention

While the capture, preservation and access to other forms of digital expression have been figured out to some degree, e-mail is a different animal — resistant to efforts at preservation. Among the obstacles: the many processes required to acquire and appraise collections, sort out the individual records, address privacy and legal considerations, preserve messages and attachments and provide access to researchers.

Our take

Holding On to Those Emails

It’s not something that most of us give much thought to, but we probably should. Who is making sure that important documents in electronic form (e.g. emails) are being preserved for the edification of future generations? A group funded by the Andrew W. Mellon foundation and including well-known universities like Harvard, Stanford and Yale, and organizations like the National Archives and Records Administration and Smithsonian Institution Archives, is looking into the issue.

With the majority of communication these days taking place in electronic form, the risk of losing important historic documentation is great. Without a strategy, or plan for how to identify, archive and protect digital messaging, schools are at risk of losing important intellectual property and insights for future generations. The work of this group may yield best practices that your school can review and incorporate into its own email archiving practices.