I am getting ready to move into a more active posting phase, as I am working on a research project over the summer: writing a Guide to Email Preservation for the Digital Preservation Coalition’s Technology Watch Series. It is one of several reports that have been commissioned by the Digital Preservation Coalition and Charles Beagrie, Ltd. I’ll be posting drafts and working notes as I move along. Later today, I hope to post an initial bibliography.
The project doesn’t aim to create any new software, but to survey current practices, tools, and policies. It will make technology and (to a lesser extent, policy) recommendations for institutions both large and small, that have a need or desire to preserve email over the long term.
My initial impression: there really has not been as much published as one would hope, particularly in peer reviewed journals, concerning this topic. Archivists and a few other seems to be operating under the assumption that email has archival value, but no one systematically makes the case as to why it might include records worthy of preservation for historical reasons. Coupled with this, there have been relatively few projects to develop a policy framework and technology infrastructure to capture and preserve it, outside of a few government archives. While much good work is going on and quite a few effective tools exist, much of the work is taking place without much impact beyond the local level, or in a way that can be easily generalized across different repositories or sectors (e.g. corporate, academic, personal.)
As a result, it seems to me that we (as a profession) can and must do much more to make a case that would convince people a) that certain types of email should be preserved for historical purposes and b) archives and libraries have both a policy framework and tech infrastructure that will ensure that it is preserved in accordance with sound professional practice, including appropriate protection of IP/copyright and, potentially, the privacy rights of donors or third parties.
We’ll see how much I modify this off the cuff, probably unwarranted, generalization, as I dig into the topic in more detail.
Administrative Note: I added Disqus as a commenting system, which should make it easier to comment on postings, and I have also added Google Analytics to the site, to track aggregated usage stats. If you don’t like Google Analytics, you can opt out by following these instructions. I may also update the theme, if it does not cause me too much hassle, since the site has looked a bit stale for a while now.