background image
DigiCULT
.
Info
11
O
ne subset of e-documents is digital
images. It is possible that the current
formats (for example JPEG) may become
obsolete in the future, giving us a finite
timeslot to migrate the data into a new for-
mat, before the old one becomes unread-
able. The principle is the same for text in,
for example, Word format, or for audio for-
mats. These different subsets of records may
need to be changed at different times. For
these reasons it is important to watch tech-
nical trends in the market to identify as
soon as possible when migration might be
necessary and to plan and budget for this
time. There is some flexibility, of course: if
you miss one rung of a ladder, you'll still
be able to climb it, but if you miss three
rungs... it is too late, it will be technical-
ly and financially unfeasible to rescue the
data from its old format. Digital archives
are in more danger than paper archives in
this sense; it is very easy to lose them to
progress. However, they are often so much
more supple and useful than their analogue
equivalents ­ these advantages must be bal-
anced with the constraints.
A
ll French archives are free (naturally,
with a small charge for services such
as photocopying). It costs a lot of money
to provide appropriate assistance to the
public on a one-to-one basis. The differ-
ent modes of access across time and space
allowed by networked delivery of e-archives
will change usage so considerably over the
next twenty years that it will again alter the
role of the archivist. The physically small-
er e-archive repositories will be accessed
in a widely dispersed number of locations
and times. The next generation of archivists
won't ask for money for new shelves or a
bigger reading room ­ they'll ask for more
powerful computers and more technically
qualified staff. Archivists must become part-
ners in the new electronic administration,
assisting the state in addressing the legal
frameworks of the developing electronic
society. Our records need to be authentic
and be seen to be authentic, and therefore a
trusted third party is required to handle, for
example, digital signatures ensuring security
for the materials. These issues are related to,
but not the same as, the traditional record-
keeping role of the archivist, changing and
developing our roles into the future. Of
course, for a professional body to reflect
these changes, it may take even longer than
another twenty years!`
Catherine Dhérent, Chef de
la mission pour la gestion de la
production documentaire et des
archives, Bibliothèque Nationale
de France
From her office in the East tower of
the famous Bibliothèque Nationale
building in Paris, Catherine Dhérent
explained her work preserving the
administrative records produced by
the library.
`
The Bibliothèque Nationale has 2800
workers, who are dispersed over seven
different sites, three of which are outside
Paris. As a public institution, we have a spe-
cial legal status, making the need for good
administrative record keeping even more
important. The President of the library
was aware of the need for better manage-
ment of archives than we previously had in
place, and wanted to improve our knowl-
edge of what and how documents are used,
by putting tracking procedures in place.
Until the end of 2003, no one knew who
was responsible for keeping each file or
document, or even where they were held.
Archiving was not consistent, with some
departments setting up their own specif-
Jean-Pierre Teil demonstrates the formats used for storage in the Centre des
Archives Contemporaines
©
Daisy
Abbott,

HA
TII,

Uni
v
er
sity
of
Glasgo
w
,

2004
Fontainebleau Castle
Catherine Dhérent
© Daisy Abbott, HATII, University of Glasgow, 2004
`It is important to remember
that this library is not only a
repository for knowledge, but
that it also has its own history
to manage.'
©
Daisy
Abbott,

HA
TII,

Uni
v
er
sity
of
Glasgo
w
,

2004