Educating Archivists and their Constituencies
Please note that all references and content information can only be considered current as of May 2003. It is your responsibility to verify the materials and update them as necessary.
Welcome to the Educating Archivists and Their Constituencies web site. Here you will find resources to help archivists reach their partners through full-day workshops and two-hour briefings on two topics of widespread application to information resource management: metadata and eXtensible Markup Language (XML). These sessions impart a general, high-level, non-technical knowledge of the subject to participants so that they will have the confidence and resources to learn more on their own. The materials are aimed specifically towards archivists, librarians, and records managers, as well as members of information technology-related fields.
As more and more information is created and stored in digital formats, the properly considered management of such resources has become increasingly important. Digital objects such as electronic records are of particular concern as they must remain trustworthy and accessible for as long as they are needed for operational, evidentiary, and historical purposes. Metadata and eXtensible Markup Language (XML) are two tools for dealing with this problem.
Because electronic records are only accessible through some configuration of hardware and software, metadata is absolutely essential for their description, discovery, evaluation, and management. Metadata is often defined as "data about data," including such information as creator, date, keywords, file location, and format. As long as you have a reasonable volume of records, and as long as no one else needs access to them, an informal approach to metadata will work. But as the volume of records multiplies across your organization and you need to share or re-use that information across the enterprise, then only commonly understood and accepted metadata standards will help you manage records.
Metadata may help you manage information, but it won't necessarily help you use it: to do that, you probably will want to take records created in one application and put them in another. That is especially the case when you are preserving records over time. In very short order, your hardware and software will change or even become obsolescent, so you will need information in an infrastructure-independent format in order to keep it useful. XML allows you to create a standard syntax for describing and structuring information. It gives you the potential to preserve the value and functionality of information, independent of the application which created it, and make it useful in many different configurations of hardware and software. That, however, is no easier than it sounds. Basically, XML is a tool for creating a language and, as with any language, you will need a grammar, a vocabulary, and a syntax to make yourself understood.
The full-day workshops and the two-hour briefings offer very different experiences to participants. During a full-day session, they are exposed to very detailed information in an interactive setting. In contrast, the two-hour sessions are less interactive and only touch on the highest levels of the topics, although pointers are given to additional resources. Analysis of your goals for offering education on metadata and/or XML will help you determine which type of session will meet your needs. Questions to ask yourself include: Who is my target audience? What is their level of experience with the topic? Are they management or hands-on staff? Am I trying to impart a specific message or information about a project, or do I just want to introduce them to the topic, setting the stage for later offerings?
This web site and all related materials are the products of a two-year grant to the State Archives Department of the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). Work on the "Educating Archivists and Their Constituencies" project began in January 2001 and was completed in May 2003. The project team gratefully acknowledges the contributions of its partners at the Delaware Public Archives, the Indiana University Archives, the Ohio Historical Society, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and the State of Kentucky, as well as the assistance of Advanced Strategies, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia, and St. Paul, Minnesota. More information on the background to the project, its goals, and process is available at http://www.mnhs.org/preserve/records/workshops/edarchivistsproject.html
This web site and all related resources are maintained by the State Archives Department of the Minnesota Historical Society. Comments, suggestions, and questions are welcomed; contact information is below.
For those not wishing to undertake the workshops on their own, MHS staff are available for consultation or teaching services on a fee basis. For more information, please contact: