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Electronic Records Program 1995-1996 Report

Introduction

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The Electronic Records Program of the State Archives has now reached the midpoint of its four-year pilot. In the last two years, program staff have examined and evaluated methods for preserving and providing access to the state's electronic records of historical value and provided assistance to state agencies. The outcome of this work has been the development of partnerships with data, forms, and records professionals, a growing archives and records advocacy role in statewide technology planning, a base level of competence in using computer technology, an emerging custodial capability for electronic data, and a growing electronic records research agenda.

But there is still much to be done. The impact of digital technology on recordkeeping is profoundly changing how state agencies and local governments do business. Institutions that, until recently, kept both paper and electronic data now keep only electronic, increasing the risk of loss and the custodian's responsibility to ensure continued access. State agencies and local governments, as they increasingly rely on electronic systems to meet recordkeeping requirements, must be guided by coherent policies and technical standards, and provided assistance.

Digital technology is also changing the nature of Wisconsin's historical record. Access to historical information may be enhanced through the use of online databases and the Internet, and rare documents can be better preserved if they are digitized and originals removed from frequent handling. But the use of technology to improve access and preserve historical records requires an ongoing commitment to migrate the digital record to new technologies as old ones become obsolete. To preserve properly the electronic historical record, archival programs must have sufficient resources and management procedures that have been developed and tested.

The Electronic Records Program

The Electronic Records Program was established in July 1994. During the first year of the Program, staff focused on the areas of data management and administration, service and outreach, and establishing the Electronic Records Program Advisory Group. The product of these initiatives was improved access to electronic records managed by the State Archives, draft procedures and guidelines for agency submission of electronic records to the State Archives, and new partnerships with records and technology professionals.(For more on the outcome of the Program's first year, see the Electronic Records Program's First Year Report [August 1995] available from the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.)

In August 1995, the Advisory Group met to discuss the direction of the Program's work. The Advisory Group recommended that the Program reassess its goals and objectives as well as develop specific guidance in the area of preserving electronic records. In response to these recommendations, Program staff developed and implemented a strategic plan and began work on a preliminary plan and guidelines for preserving state and local agency electronic records of ongoing value. Three of the products from this year's work are included in this report.

The 1995-1996 annual report consists of a brief summary of accomplishments for the year, a preliminary preservation plan, and two appendices. The appendices include a plan of work for the final two years of the project and a report of an unsuccessful attempt to obtain electronic records. At the completion of the pilot program in 1998, a comprehensive plan for the protection, preservation, and accessibility of electronic records of permanent historical value will be submitted to the Governor, Legislature, Department of Administration, data, records, and forms professionals, state technology groups, and all other interested parties.

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