Archiving is a general term for the range of practices and decisions that support the long-term preservation, use, and accessibility of content with enduring value. It is not a one-time action, but is instead a process and an investment that connects directly to your projects’ goals.
Information is archived when it has enduring cultural, historical, or evidentiary value. Preserving information has the potential to support the protection of rights, to seek redress, and to support reconciliation or recovery in damaged societies. If archiving is a step in the data lifecycle of your information, it is important to develop a responsible archival plan.
Planning for your data to be archived
- Try to identify as early as possible that you want archive, what you want to archive and where you want to archive. When you are at the closing stage, it may be overwhelming to solve all arising problems, while having limited time before you need to move on.
- Ideally you will identify the metadata that you need about the information you are collecting so that you don’t need to collect too much and you don’t collect too little.
- Try to store data to be archived in popular (=interoperable) formats which are likely to be used in future (for example, they are used by popular software). Over the course of a few years formats may go out of use and software systems become unable to use the data.
- Keep in mind that videos can be very large, so you need to make sure that you have the infrastructure or support in place to accommodate this data (see potential archive partners below).
Where do you archive?
If you archive data yourself, you will need to consider the cost, time and skills that will be required to maintain the archival system. Include data storage capacity into your long-term organisational strategy. The Archive Team has tips and advice for backing up data and a list of warning signs for a website that you shouldn’t trust to backup your data.
Alternatively, it might be useful to partner directly with an archive that will help you in the public interest, such as:
- The Open Society Archives
- Duke University Human Rights Archive
- Human Rights Web Archive at Columbia University
- University of Texas Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative
- Archivists’ Guide to Archiving Video (WITNESS) and a video on this topic.
- New Tactics online discussion on archiving for human rights advocacy, justice and memory
What have been your archiving experiences? What lessons can be reflected on and shared? What additional resources exist for practitioners interested to learn more about responsible archiving? Share your experience, knowledge and ideas below in the comments!