Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Archivists as "Data Storage Specialists"

I was interested to read a letter from my old colleague, David Ryan, published in that 'Bible' of the IT industry Computer Weekly a couple of weeks ago. David's letter serves to remind both the IT industry, and perhaps equally importantly we as professional archivists and records managers, that our professional skills in data storage are greatly - an increasingly - needed in the digital world. The question is, why aren't we better at promoting ourselves in this way and what can we as a profession do to address this?

David's letter is reproduced in full below.


Dear Sir,

Re: Storage Reports in Computer Weekly, 22 May 2007

Having been a qualified Archivist, and therefore, a Data Storage Specialist, for over twenty years, I was bemused at your recent reports on the alleged lack of career definition in data storage and the legal issues surrounding storage. I have been within the last decade Head of Information Management for a major pharmaceutical company and more recently, Head of Digital Preservation at the UK National Archives, where I designed the PRONOM file format recognition system and, with colleagues, built TNA's Digital Archive.

I, like many other archivists, have written on the topic on data retention. In 1997, ten years ago, the Records Management Journal published an article by Steve Bailey and myself on the uses of a retention schedule database. This was based on practical experience. It may be useful for your readers who are dealing with the ever growing volume of data their organisations produce, to consult not only their in-house counsel but their local Records Manager or alternatively, seek advice from the Records Management Society or Society of Archivists. The members of these two bodies are dealing with the selection of data for long term storage in all formats on a rational basis every day of their working lives.

David Ryan

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