Tag Archives: Digital Repository

1010: Electronic Records Day 2019

Electronic Records Day 2019 logo

We are happy to be joining our colleagues around the country to celebrate another Electronic Records Day! 

What is a born digital record?

Simply put, something is “born digital” if it was created on a computer, not as a physical format. It could be printed out, but most likely it will never exist as a hard copy. Born digital content is different from content that has been digitized. Examples of born digital content include word processing documents, spreadsheets, emails, and original images produced with digital cameras.

Why are we discussing born digital content?

Born digital content is the future of records management and the future of archives as well. According to research done by the New York State Archives 90% of today’s records are created electronically (born digital) and 70% of paper records were also created electronically and printed out. 

With this in mind, archivists and records managers across must make plans to address these record formats, including word processing documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, databases, scanned images, email and attachments, presentations, photos, websites, social media, audio recordings, videos, electronic publications, Geographic Information System (GIS), Computer Aided Design (CAD) and more.

How do records managers and archivists preserve these born digital records created by these varying media systems? 

The same way we preserve paper documents: with care and knowledge of the medium. One of the challenges found in preserving born digital records is how quickly new technologies are born — and die. These born digital records must be monitored. Documents may need to be migrated to new equipment and/or file formats, or they risk becoming inaccessible, unreadable, or obsolete and lost to the world.

Other challenges archivists and records managers are facing in the struggle to preserve born digital records.

Digital record loss posterStorage — It may take up less physical space, but digital space is not free! It costs money to store such vast quantities of data on servers, just as it costs money to store paper records now. 

Continuous Changes — Some applications require constant updating and changing, like websites, social media and GIS. How then do we keep up with media that are almost always in flux? The Wyoming State Archives (WSA) does have a strategy for capturing state websites.

The WSA is partnering with the Internet Archive’s Archive-It Program to selectively capture, preserve, and make accessible websites created by Wyoming’s state agencies and officials. The Archive-It Program allows the capture of relevant web content and ensures its long-term access through the Internet Archive’s website. The Archive-It Program selectively crawls either web domains or individual web pages, taking a snapshot of the page, and storing a copy in the Internet Archive. The web page is then made publicly accessible on the Archive-It partner page. The web content collected reflects the administrative functions of Wyoming state government.

Bit Rot — Digital data is susceptible to loss, called “bit rot”. Much like the deterioration of paper or photographs, this loss degrades the quality of files and images, sometimes to the point that they are no longer readable.

How does the WSA manage born digital records?

Our archivists work with state agencies and county governments to help them maintain and preserve records, both paper and born digital. The born digital records include state websites, word processing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, reports and a plethora of other documentation. These documents and more can be found within the Wyoming State Digital Archives. The State’s emails and attachments are maintained by ETS (Enterprise Technology Service) the State’s IT department,  not by the WSA.

The process to incorporate born digital records for state agencies is simple. As long as the various state agencies follow their records retention schedules then they will know when to either pass the records onto the WSA or to get rid of the records. Agencies can also transfer inactive records to the Digital Archives first and then our records managers delete them when their retention period is up. Born digital records also come to us in all forms: floppy discs, CDs, via email, on servers, hard drives, USB drives, etc. When sending in born digital records our preferred formats are:

  • Image: jpeg, jpeg-2000, tiff
  • Text: txt, html, xml, PDF/A, Open Office XML
  • Audio: afif, wav
  • Video: mp4, avi
  • Databases: xml or convert to csv

Governor Gordon’s Office and Digital Records

Governor Mark Gordon’s office understands the challenges of born digital records. The Office of the Governor has reached out to the WSA for tips on how to manage and preserve the records being created every day in the course of the Governor’s work for Wyoming. Soon, the Governor’s staff may begin uploading digital files into the Wyoming Digital Archives for preservation – right from their own computers to the WSA.

Looking to the Future

Born digital records are the future of records and archives. This means records managers and archivists must plan and act now to ensure these records are properly cared for and accessible to future generations.

The Federal Government has mandated that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) cease accepting paper records from the various Federal Agencies after December 31, 2022. While the State of Wyoming has not officially made this leap, that day will come. And the work we and other stakeholders do today will ensure that the Wyoming State Archives will be ready when it does.


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Filed under Archives Month 2019

It’s Electronic Records Day: 10.10.16

Do you create documents on your computer?  Your tablet?  Do you write texts and posts on your cell phone?  Then you are creating electronic records.  Think of all the files you create in a week or a year.  Then, imagine how many such documents are created by Wyoming state employees in the same amount of time…  Where are they all kept?  How do we know that we will be able to read and have access to them in the future?  These are the knotty problems that your State Archives staff wrestle with every day.

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We are participating in Electronic Records Day 10.10.16 this year by telling you about how we are solving those problems via the Wyoming Digital Archives, our system for preserving digital files created in the conduct of state business.

Why do electronic records need special attention?

Consider this tongue in cheek answer from the Council of State Archivists, “Managing electronic records is like caring for a perpetual toddler: they need regular attention and care…”

On a more serious note, they add,

With the increasing reliance on information technology, the challenge to manage, preserve, and provide access to digital records and information continues to grow. Action must to taken to ensure future access to electronic records.

Paper records stored in good conditions can be read centuries afterwards. Typical electronic file formats have a life span measured in decades at best.

Rapidly changing software and hardware environments can leave electronic records virtually inaccessible after just a few years if not monitored.

Electronic records require proactive management. The best time to plan for electronic records preservation is at the time records are created, rather than when software is being replaced or a project is ending.

State Archivist, Mike Strom, says he is most happy that the Wyoming Digital Archives shows how the state of Wyoming is involved in e-records in a substantial way.   He says it is good to work with agencies to manage records so that they’re kept the right amount of time, according to our records retention schedules.

The State Archives is already working with fourteen state agencies that are entering their records into the Digital Archives – which contains over 300,000 individual records so far.

Strom’s goals for the future include seeing that all state agencies are engaged in some way with this project.  A broader goal is ensuring the long-term preservation and accessibility of all of the state’s records regardless of their format.

Can the public see these records, too?  Yes, the Digital Archives has a public access feature so that records which you might be able to see by contacting a state agency (like incorporation or other state reports) will be accessible through a portal on the State Archives’ web page or by a link to that portal from the state agency’s website.

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The State Archives operates a Records Center which has rows and rows of boxes, shelved fourteen levels high and served by staff with forklifts.  The Wyoming Digital Archives will soon house the same amount of records, but we won’t need a forklift to find the right box or file.  We will use online searching to find the information that agencies need to conduct their business – and that you, the public, need to find a court file or school transcript, write a research paper, or dig into your family history.

Still wondering what to do with your own personal digital files?  Here are some great tips from COSA. We also hope you join the staff of the State Archives this Thursday, October 13th as we present  recommendations on how best to store and preserve all types of family records, including electronic records.

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Filed under Archives Month 2016