Annual meeting session recommendations, courtesy of ERS

Having trouble deciding between two tantalizing-looking sessions at the Society of American Archivists annual meeting this year? Looking for some recommendations that might tip the scales? Look no further!

The Electronic Records Section has produced a schedule for this year’s conference through its online scheduling tool, Sched. Now you can see the session that may be of interest to ERS members in one place.

The Electronic Records Section mega-schedule is available here.

See something we may have missed? Comment below or email bloggERS! at!


Get to know the candidates: Brad Houston

The 2016 elections for Electronic Records Section leadership are upon us! Over the next two weeks, we will be presenting additional information provided by the 2016 nominees for ERS leadership positions. For more information about the slate of candidates, you can check out the full 2016 ERS elections site. ERS Members: be sure to vote! Polls are open July 8 through the 22!

Candidate name: Brad Houston

Running for: Steering Committee

What made you decide you wanted to become an archivist?

A combination of two things: 1) A summer internship with the Truman Presidential Library, which introduced me to the work of an archivist and made me realize that said work was something I could see myself doing. 2) My subsequent experience researching for my senior History thesis, much of which took place in small town historical societies and other poorly-described and poorly organized repositories. This experience elicited a vow: “I want to help make sure other people don’t have to work this hard to find what they’re looking for.” (I hope I’ve been doing a good job on both the description and reference sides of this!)

What is one thing you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time on the steering committee?

While chair of the Records Management Roundtable, I helped institute a semi-regular series of Google Hangouts, which give our members a chance to hear about archival and records management issues from various experts in the field and interact in real-time to ask questions or work through examples. I think this is a model that would work well with a lot of the content put out by ERS– Hangout facilitators could walk people through using a particular tool or workflow as discussed previously on the blog, for example. The hangout format offers more interactivity than a webinar or Twitter chat (though incorporating elements of both!) and it seems like a great opportunity to expand ERS’s educational engagement with its members.

What is your favorite GIF?


Get to know the candidates: Dorothy Waugh

The 2016 elections for Electronic Records Section leadership are upon us! Over the next two weeks, we will be presenting additional information provided by the 2016 nominees for ERS leadership positions. For more information about the slate of candidates, you can check out the full 2016 ERS elections site. ERS Members: be sure to vote! Polls are open July 8 through the 22!

Candidate name: Dorothy Waugh

Running for: Steering Committee

What made you decide you wanted to become an archivist?

The glamour.

What is one thing you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time on the steering committee?

I’m excited about the many opportunities for a group like the Electronic Records Section to engage practitioners working in this dynamic and fast-paced field. To give just one example, I’ve been really impressed by the Section’s development of bloggERS! during the past couple of years. The site has fast become a go-to resource in which to share ideas, address challenges, and celebrate successes. Should I be elected to the steering committee, I would be keen to support the ongoing growth of the Blog as the online hub of the ERS community. Taking a lead from what’s already been achieved, I’d like to build out the types of content that we provide and encourage active participation from both members of ERS and our close colleagues—I’d love to invite contributions from researchers who are using born-digital materials, for instance. In particular, I’m interested in identifying content that is not available elsewhere. I’ve always thought, for example, that the informal nature of a Blog makes it the ideal venue for a regular “It Didn’t Work” column, focusing on real-life examples of failure in digital archives and inviting collaborative (and good-natured!) problem-solving. If elected to the ERS steering committee, I’d like to build on the momentum of the work already underway and help the Blog become a forum for discussion, a home for shared resources, and a welcoming and inclusive space in which to ask questions and work towards solutions.

What is your favorite GIF?


The ERS annual meeting approaches!

The Electronic Records Section will meet at the SAA annual meeting in Atlanta on Thursday, August 4, 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm. Following a short business meeting, the session will feature a presentation from Mike Strom, Wyoming State Archivist, who will provide an update on Council of State Archivists’ State Electronic Records Initiative (SERI) and the PERTTS (Program for Electronic Records, Training, Tools and Standards) Portal.

Following the business meeting and presentation, the Electronic Records Section will break into an interactive unconference-style small group discussion.

This is where we need your help! Do you have an intractable electronic records problem you would like to discuss? Or a hot new topic in digital preservation that you’re excited to share with like-minded archivists and electronic records professionals? Add your ideas to the list of discussion topics for the unconference!

Session topics are being collected here:

Submissions will be considered until the day of the section meeting, where participants will select discussion topics.

Have any questions? Email ERS Chair Dan Noonan at noonan[dot]37[at]osu[dot]edu.


Electronic Records and E-Recs Related Pop-Ups at SAA!

For anyone who would like to see some electronic records pop-up sessions at SAA this year, voting is currently open. Each member can vote for up to five sessions. The ERS Steering Committee has reviewed the list of proposed sessions, and we think that these pop-up sessions address issues of importance to ERS members (and anyone interested in electronic records). Although this is not a formal endorsement, we would like to spotlight these eight proposals:

  1. Archival Records in the Age of Big Data (Richard Marciano and Bill Underwood)
  2. Archives and Digital Inequality (Myles Crowley, Samantha Winn, and Katharina Hering)
  3. Audiovisual Digital Preservation and Access: The Archive of Public Broadcasting (Karen Mariani)
  4. Developing Descriptive Metadata Best Practices for Archived Websites (Jackie Dooley, Allison Jai O’Dell, and Penny Baker)
  5. Fancy Awesome EAD Exports from ArchivesSpace (Mark Custer and Melissa Wisner)
  6. Improving Finding Aid Visibility: What Are Y’all Doing? (Amelia W. Holmes and Eileen Heeran Dewitya)
  7. Practical Options for Incoming Digital Content (Jody DeRidder and Alissa Helms)
  8. The Bits in the Field: A Survey of Digital Forensics Work (Melanie Wisner)

Voting closes Monday, June 20th, so if you haven’t voted there is still time! Vote here.


Electronic Records Section call for nominations

Election season is fast approaching, and the Electronic Records Section has some exciting opportunities for service, both in elected and appointed positions!

The ERS needs to elect a new Vice Chair/Chair Elect and 2 Steering Committee members. We are also looking for a volunteer to serve as Communications Liaison. All nominations must be received by June 1st!

Vice Chair/Chair Elect (1 position open)

The Vice Chair serves a 1-year term beginning immediately following the 2016 Annual Meeting. Their responsibilities are to assist the Chair in leading the section and representing the section in the absence of the Chair. Upon completion of the Vice Chair’s term, the Vice Chair assumes the position of Chair, at the conclusion of the incumbent Chair’s term. Upon completion of the 1-year term as Chair, he/she serves one final year as Past Chair.

Steering Committee (2 positions open)

Steering Committee members serve for a term of 3 years, beginning immediately following the 2016 Annual Meeting. Their responsibility is to assist the Chair and the Vice Chair in leading and organizing section activities.

Communication Liaison (1 position open)

The Communications Liaison facilitates communications between the Steering Committee and the Section membership and other audiences, including but not limited to the SAA microsite, electronic mailing list, blogs, social media, and other forms of online communication not yet in use by the Section. This role is open to all eligible Electronic Records Section members. The appointee will serve a renewable one-year term. Note that this role is appointed and not subject to election.

How can I nominate someone?

To nominate yourself or someone else, or to volunteer for appointment as Communication Liaison,  please send to Marty Gengenbach (martin[dot]gengenbach[at]gmail[dot]com):

  • the nominee/volunteer name,
  • contact information, and
  • position (Vice Chair/Chair Elect, Steering Committee, or Communication Liaison)

Important dates:

June 1All nominations must be received by this date. The steering committee will review and confirm nominations the following week.

June 15 – Candidate statements due.

July 1 – Supplemental information such as candidate photos or biographies due.

For more information on Electronic Records Section leadership, please see the ERS section bylaws.

Digital Preservation System Integration at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library

By Michael Shallcross

At SAA 2015, Courtney Mumma (formerly of Artefactual Systems) and I participated in a panel discussion at the Electronic Records Section meeting on “implementing digital preservation tools and systems,” with a focus on “the lessons learned through the planning, development, testing, and production of digital preservation applications.”  

The University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library is in the midst of a two-year project (2014-2016) funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to integrate ArchivesSpace, Archivematica, and DSpace in an end-to-end digital archives workflow (for more information on the project itself, see our blog).

Artefactual Systems is responsible for the development work on the project, which has involved adding new functionality to the Archivematica digital preservation system to permit the appraisal and arrangement of digital archives as well as the integration of ArchivesSpace functionality within Archivematica so that users can create and edit archival description in addition to associating digital objects with that information.

Continue reading

Introducing NEW Steering Committee members!

We are happy to announce the results of the Electronic Records Section elections for 2015:

Chair-elect/Vice Chair: Kyle Henke (DePaul University)
Steering Committee: Ann Cooper (College of William and Mary)
Steering Committee: Carol Kussmann (University of Minnesota)

In order to get to know them, the bloggERS! sent out a three-question interview to each new member:

1. What made you decide you wanted to become an archivist?
2. What is one thing that you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time on the steering committee?
3. What is your favorite GIF? 

Kyle Henke (DePaul University), Chair-Elect/Vice Chair

Q: What made you decide you wanted to become an archivist?

KH: My interest in archives came from an uncertain search result. As an undergraduate student at San Diego State University, majoring in History, I made a cursory search using the Library ILS and found some results that gave me a location of “Special Collections and Archives; Non-Circulating.” Having no idea what this meant, I sought out the object and had my first experience in an archival reading room. It was awkward, entering a closed-off room unsure of what I was doing. Luckily, the staff was courteous and helpful, making the process manageable. I found using primary sources was enthralling and continued to come back for nearly every paper I had to write, utilizing any primary resource I could that was relevant.

From there I took a second job in the Archives where I was treated like an intern, given projects intended to see varying aspects of the field to see if this was a profession I wanted to pursue. Some of it was routine, but always mentally engaging. Fairly quickly, I was pretty certain this was the right place for me. While content is always king, I find myself interested by the properties and structure of objects. Preserving the continuity and integrity of the object became the prevailing goal, whether it is the physical properties of a paper document or the digital properties of an mp3 file.

Q: What is one thing that you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time as chair?

KH: For a number of years now I’ve worked in archives, focusing on digital content and systems. I’ve managed digital repositories, cross-walked metadata, developed policies and workflows and so much more. The pivotal component to my growth in the profession has been collaborating with colleagues in the field. I see the purpose of this group as a method to facilitate communication and encourage collaboration across the profession. I would like to continue developing methods of outreach and education for those within the profession and those on the outside. I like the direction the ERS blog (BloggERS) has gone and would like to promote and use this resource to directly involve our community and gain a wider audience.

Additionally, I’m interesting in investigating a way to connect one another to a project or idea that would contribute towards collaboration. I know I’ve had ideas for presentations or workshops that are halted as I become uncertain of the next steps or outcome. However, having informal talks with colleagues at work or at conferences allows fresh and different perspectives. Perhaps these informal collaborations could possibly lead beyond discussions and to outcomes such as posters, evaluations, speaking sessions, tutorials, workshops, instruction, etc.

Q: What is your favorite GIF?

Ann Cooper (College of William and Mary), Steering Committee

AC: I decided to become an archivist because my interests and professional strengths fit a lot better with this field than they did with being a history professor. I haven’t regretted it and I’m happy doing what I do now.

Q: What is one thing that you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time as chair?

AC: I’d like to see us develop and make available some guidelines for training staff in working with electronic material in specific situations or some sample training materials for archivists to use.

Q: What is your favorite GIF?


Carol Kussmann (University of Minnesota), Steering Committee

Q: What made you decide you wanted to become an archivist?

CK: As with a fair number of people I run into, I am an accidental archivist. My previous dream job was working in a museum; I was the Assistant Registrar at the Spurlock Museum and I loved every minute of it. One day the archives called and were looking for information on a photograph in their collection. After doing a bit of digging I found the information they were looking for. It is that problem solving that I love. I soon found myself pursuing a Masters of Library and Information Science. After an out-of-state move, I started working with electronic records on the Minnesota Historical Society’s NDIIPP project around preserving and providing access to state government records. It was my job to research, explore and problem solve many different topics relating to digital preservation. After the grant was over, I worked with the Minnesota State Archives to develop their electronic records program.

Once during an annual review focused on electronic records I was asked, “What was something you didn’t do correctly and how did you handle it?” I answered that there were many things we tried when exploring tools to use to assist with electronic records processing, but if it didn’t work, it wasn’t a failure–it was part of the learning experience. You learned from it and moved on to keep looking for a solution to the problem you were trying to solve. It is that exploration that I love and being able to put the successes into practice in my new dream job as a Digital Preservation Analyst at the University of Minnesota Libraries.

Q: What is one thing that you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time on the steering committee?

CK: I think that many of us are in the same position – we are doing a lot of exploring. We need to share our experiences with each other. Often times we wait until we are done with a project before sharing, and then usually only the “successful” parts of the exploration are shared. We can’t be afraid to share the whole experience. Facilitating ways to do this would be something I would like to see the ERS accomplish. The listserv and blog are good steps, but other methods that allow people to talk more freely or share things that are still in progress would be useful as well.

Q: What is your favorite GIF?

CK: It’s not a GIF, but…


Thank you to all who voted in the 2015 election for the Electronic Records Section Steering Committee members, and thanks to former Steering Committee members whose terms have ended!

The current ERS leadership roster is available here.

Retention of Technology-Based Interactives

The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gallery One blends art, technology, and interpretation.  It includes real works from the museum’s collection as well as interactive, technology-based activities and games.  For example, Global Influences presents visitors with an artwork and asks them to guess which two countries on the map influenced the work in question; and crowd favorite Strike a Pose asks visitors to imitate the pose of a sculpture and invites them to save and share the resulting photograph.

It’s really cool stuff.  But as the museum plans a refresh of the space, the archives and IT department are starting to contemplate how to preserve the history of Gallery One.  The interactives will have to go, monitors and other hardware will be repurposed, and new artwork and interactive experiences will be installed.  We need to decide what to retain in archives and figure out how to collect and preserve whatever we decide to keep.

These pending decisions bring up familiar archival questions and ask us to apply them to complex digital materials: what about this gallery installation has enduring value?  Is it enough to retain a record of the look and feel of the space, perhaps create videos of the interactives?  Is it necessary to retain and preserve all of the code?

Records retention schedules call for the permanent retention of gallery labels, exhibition photographs, and other exhibition records but do not specifically address technology-based interactives.  The museum is developing an institutional repository for digital preservation using Fedora, but we are still in the testing phases for relatively simple image collections and we aren’t ready to ingest complex materials like the interactives from Gallery One.

As we work through these issues I would be grateful for input from the archives community.  How do we go about this? Does anyone have experience with the retention and preservation technology-based interactives?

Susan Hernandez is the Digital Archivist and Systems Librarian at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Her responsibilities include accessioning and preserving the museum’s electronic records; overseeing library and archives databases and systems; developing library and archives digitization programs; and serving on the development team for the museum’s institutional repository. Leave a comment or contact her directly at

A Little Too Personal

The following is a post by John Rees, Archivist and Digital Resources Manager at the National Library of Medicine, based on a breakout session at the ERS meeting of last year’s SAA annual meeting.

One of the breakout sessions at the 2014 ERS section meeting convened around the topic of identifying and redacting personally identifiable information (PII) and personal health information (PHI) from born-digital content. The premise I proposed was, “Health sciences archivists working in the paper world have a relatively easy time of identifying/restricting PII/PHI content. As we move to born-digital collecting we are especially in need of tools and techniques that will allow us to easily identify/restrict/release similar data in electronic form.”

Of course this issue has broader relevance beyond the health science archives, and as we transition from paper-based models of archival processing to data processing models, machines should be able to interpret and act upon various content rules in an automated fashion. The healthcare industry is ahead of the curve in this area, building tools to anonymize any of the nineteen identifiers HIPAA defines as PHI in electronic health record data systems.

Archivists arguably face greater challenges than healthcare workers, sifting through the variety of semantic and unstructured PII found in the various formats traditionally referred to as personal papers, such as recommendation letters, correspondence with sensitive content, publication peer review commentary, etc. Human cognition can learn what these data are and identify them fairly easily during physical processing of paper material, but this requires more effort when triaging unstructured data on poorly labeled media—reading a list of filenames is not sufficient due diligence.

In general, the group felt confident in our ability to collect born-digital material but was much less confident in our ability to provide unmediated access to these records on the open web. Our discussion started off by sharing any tools we knew of that purport to locate PII/PHI in digital archival materials—the list was short:

The strength of these tools is that they can easily and quickly identify logically formatted PII such as social security numbers, email addresses, credit card numbers, phone numbers, and bank account numbers. Their weaknesses include too many false positives, expense of stand-alone proprietary software, narrow use cases, too much item-level manual intervention, and steep learning curves.

The group then talked about access protocols. Identifying PII to restrict requires significant effort, but models for access are almost nonexistent, which complicates the issue when management wants collections to be as immediate and open as possible, the common refrain being, “It’s already digital, so why can’t we put it on the web as soon as it’s acquired?”

The breakout group agreed that from a risk management perspective, outside of manual review and item-level redaction of surrogates, limiting access to data was the easiest solution. Methods of limiting access include:

  • On site-only access via read-only physical media or a disk image
  • On site online access via un-networked computer
  • Authentication paywalls or read-only virtual reading rooms on the open web

In the end we recognized the problem is complex and there are no magic solutions. However, each participant went away with the goal of making incremental progress toward a solution this year.