NARA to lay out steps for digital archives

Tuesday - 11/29/2011, 1:39pm EST

Paul Wester, chief records officer, NARA

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By Jolie Lee
Web Editor
Federal News Radio

The federal government's growing reliance on online communications is presenting challenges in agencies' records keeping. It's the National Archives and Records Administration's to set out the governmentwide framework to address these challenges.

This week, President Obama issued a memo that recognized the importance of improving archives of emails, tweets and other electronic communications.

NARA has been archiving electronic records since the 1960s, but now the scope of electronic communications is greater than ever before.

"The challenge is the volumes of records being generated at agencies is increasing enormously and the number of formats agencies are using is increasing exponentially," said Paul Wester, chief records officer at NARA, in an interview with Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris.

The President's memo directed agencies to appoint a senior official in a month and for the official to review the agency's records within the next three months. These officials will work with the Archives to identify the specific challenges in archiving e-records, Wester said.

NARA is also working with the Office of Management and Budget to develop the steps for records keeping. One challenge is to identify "harvesting technologies" to archive e-records like tweets, Wester said.

Wester pointed out that agencies must only archive "permanently valuable content — not every tweet that every federal employee generates."

The Archives' goal now is to meet with agencies and other interest groups to develop best practices, Wester said.

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