Tag Archives: electronic records

The WSA Celebrates Archives Month with 5 Million Documents in the Wyoming Digital Archives

Just in time for American Archives Month in October and Electronic Records Day (October 8), the Wyoming Digital Archives has exceeded 5 million documents uploaded! This milestone comes less than 2 years after the 1 millionth document was added in February 2020. 

We've uploaded our 5 millionth document to our secure digital archives

In 2010, the Wyoming State Archives (WSA) and Wyoming Legislature began the search for  a solution to the expense of physical storage, need to increase accessibility and searchability of records, and to aid in managing records with a keen eye to laws, regulations, and best practices, while  maintaining the validity and authenticity of electronic records. This journey led the archives and legislature to create the Wyoming Digital Archives to preserve and manage born digital and digitized records that tell the story of Wyoming’s government and its people. 

The WSA added its first document to digital archives in November 2013. Since then, it has grown exponentially. 

As of June 2021, the digital archives includes 189 users. And hosts records from 19 different counties. The records originate from three City Clerks offices, 12 County Clerks offices, one School District, and three County Treasurers. The most recent partner to the digital archives is the City of Meeteetse, Wyoming.

The Digital Archives success can be attributed to its ability to meet archival best practices, the support of the archives staff, and ease of use. The Digital Archive is able to preserve and make accessible files in a multitude of formats. In fact, the digital archives include audio visual materials, PDFs, JPEGs, and many other formats. The typical types of records found in the archives are plats, minutes, land and motor vehicle records, city ordinances, zoning records, and licensing board files, to name a few.

The Digital Archives is built on the premise of LOCKSS (Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) with an emphasis on security. The files  are backed up daily, weekly, and monthly. There are multiple copies with at least one stored in a geographically diverse location in case of natural disasters. This allows the Archives to quickly recover from any potential data loss. The 99 levels of security controls and privileges are especially important to maintaining the confidentiality of  restricted records such as birth certificates or hospital records preserved in the system.

The digital archives also includes the ability to set up notifications and semi-automate the process of records retention, making it a popular choice for many users. Records can be coded so that they align with the records retention schedules approved by Wyoming State Records Committee. These retention schedules help guide decisions on how long documents are kept and what happens to them after that. The Wyoming Digital Archives can handle both permanent and non-permanent records This allows administrators to more easily track the amount of time a record should be kept and when it should be destroyed. This natural destruction cycle for short term records is important for risk management and allows more space and resources to be devoted to the preservation of permanent records. 

As technology continues to advance, the way society interacts with information evolves. For this reason, the archives profession must continue to adapt. “The WSA continues to tackle key issues relating to preserving significant documents,” says State Archivist Sara Davis. “We provide guidance for the management of government records at all levels and educate our community about the volatility of digital files. We offer the digital archives as a solution to mitigate risk of data loss. Into the future, we strive to continue to meet the needs of our community through use of the Wyoming Digital Archives as well as traditional archival methods such as storage recommendations for physical and digital materials and ways to make materials accessible. We also eagerly anticipate seeing/celebrating the 10 millionth document uploaded in the near future.”

American Archives Month is an annual collaborative effort by professional organizations and repositories around the nation to highlight the importance of records of enduring value. Archivists are professionals who assess, collect, organize, preserve, maintain control of, and provide access to information that has lasting value. They also help people find and understand the information they need in those records.

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Filed under Archives Month 2021, Digital Archives

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.


Additional Resources

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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.

electronic records logo_2015

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.

src-wall-of-boxes-pallet-of-boxes-with-pallet-jack-7-22-2013

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.

preserving-not-just-veggies-flier-no-blurb

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Filed under Archives Month 2016

Happy Electronic Records Day!

What is so special about 10/10? Well it looks a lot like 1010 (or 10 in binary). But mostly its special because today is Electronic Records Day!

electronic records logo_2015_native

On the off chance you hadn’t noticed, our world is becoming increasingly more digital, and this includes the records and documents we all create in the course of our day.

As we lead more of our lives online, rather than on paper, the historical record itself is seeing a shift in format. Stacks of personal letters are giving way to emails, texts and tweets. Boxes of negatives and prints are transforming into stacks of CD, SD cards, external drives, and seemingly endless folders of digital photos on our computers, phones and in our “clouds”. Tax records, bank statements, school report cards, and even utility bills are all available online now as companies push cost- and clutter-saving “paperless” programs.

But regardless of format, the question remains: what do you keep, for how long and how do you ensure its survival. The Council of State Archivists (CoSA) and archives around the country are joining together to raise awareness of the importance of caring for your digital records.

As with your traditional paper documents, not all digital records are worth their bytes. And just because you can find it using a search bar does not mean that it is easily accessible. Would your family know where to start looking for the important stuff or would they have to wade through TBs of junk? This also means that the “historical” records of to day will most likely take up more bytes than shelf space, so the more we learn now about proper electronic records management, the better prepared we will all be to care for this brave new world of historical documents.

Learn more about personal electronic records management at:

 

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1010 = Electronic Records Day!

10 reasons for e-records 2013

Today, October 1010th (that is 10 in binary code), has been designated Electronic Records Day 2013 by the Council of State Archivists (CoSA) to raise awareness of digital records and the need to manage and preserve them.  What is so special about digital records? Let us count the ways…

10 Reasons Why 

Electronic Records Need Special Attention

1. Managing electronic records is like caring for a perpetual toddler: they need regular attention and care in order to remain accessible.

2. Electronic records can become unreadable very quickly. While records on paper can sometimes be read after thousands of years, digital files can be virtually inaccessible after just a few.

3. Scanning paper records is not the end of the preservation process: it is the beginning. Careful planning for ongoing management expenses must be involved as well.

4. There are no permanent storage media. Hard drives, CDs, Magnetic tape or any other storage formats will need to be tested and replaced on a regular schedule. Proactive management is required to avoid catastrophic loss of records.

5. The lack of a “physical” presence can make it very easy to lose track of electronic records. Special care must be taken to ensure they remain in controlled custody and do not get lost in masses of other data.

6. Shared documents can be hard to authenticate. It is easy to create copies of electronic records and share them with others, but this can raise concerns about the authenticity of those records. Extra security precautions are needed to ensure e-records are not altered inappropriately.

7. The best time to plan for electronic records preservation is when they are created. Don’t wait until software is being replaced or a project is ending to think about how records are going to be preserved.

8. No one system you buy will solve all your e-records problems. Despite what vendors say, there’s no magic bullet that will manage and preserve your e-records for you.

9. Well managed electronic records can help ensure the rights of the public through greater accessibility than ever before. This can only happen if creators, managers and users all recognize their importance and contribute resources to their preservation.

10. While they may seem commonplace now, electronic records will form the backbone of the historical record for researchers of the future. 

Remember, archivists and records managers are here to help you tackle these difficult problems. Contact us here at the Archives if you have questions or would like to learn more about our current digital repository project.  Through this project, we hope to ensure that electronic records created today by Wyoming State government offices remain accessible for generations to come!

(Thank you to CoSA for this top 10 list and for sponsoring 2013 Digital Records Day)

P.S. Wondering how digital records are important to the individual and how to mitigate risks to your personal files? Check out this great video from the Library of Congress.

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Filed under Archives Month 2013