Email Preservation Guide Teaser

On July 6, 2011, in Research, by Chris Prom

Here’s the first draft of the intro to my upcoming report on email preservation:

In 1965, Tom Van Vleck and Noel Morris sent what were perhaps the world’s first electronic messages to each other, using the mail function that they developed for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Compatible Time Sharing System (Van Vleck 2010).  Those who used the mail command in CTTS and its successor system, MULTICS (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service), embraced the technology with fervor ( n.d.).  However, a late 1960s memo in the archives related to the project noted that “ [t]he memos seems to have been superseded by email.”  After that point, the documentation that has survived and been accessioned to the MIT archives thins out in both quantity and quality. (Morris 2011).  And of course, the first actual email messages exchanged by Van Vleck and Morris have  long since gone missing.

Forty-six years later, a relatively small number of institutions have acknowledged that email should be preserved for historical purposes or to ensure cultural memory. A subset of these instituions have embraced the responsibility to preserve it, and an even smaller number have developed policies, implementation strategies, procedures, tools, and services that can do the job. This report reviews those efforts and offers recommendations for archivists, librarians, and records creators at various sizes, as well as for individuals who may wish to preserve their email correspondence and deposit in a cultural heritage institution.
[to be continued. . .]


Reference List:

Bearman, D., 1994. Managing Electronic Mail. Archives and Manuscripts, 22(1), pp.28-50.

Cox, R.J., 2008. Chapter Seven: Electronic Mail and Personal Recordkeeping. In Personal archives and a new archival calling : readings, reflections and ruminations. Duluth, Minnesota: Litwin Books, pp. 201-42.

Marshall, C.C., 2007. How People Manage Personal Information Over a Lifetime. In Personal Informaiton Management. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, pp. 57-75.

Morris, E., 2011. Did My Brother Invent E-Mail With Tom Van Vleck? (Part Three). Available at: [Accessed June 23, 2011]., Multics History. Available at: [Accessed July 6, 2011].

Pennock, M., 2006. Curating E-Mails: A life-cycle approach to the management and preservation of e-mail messages. In DCC Digital Curation Manual. Digital Curation Centre. Available at: [Accessed June 2, 2011].

Van Vleck, T., 2010. The History of Electronic Mail. Available at: [Accessed July 6, 2011].



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