Workbook on Digital Private Papers > Appraisal and disposal > Practical solutions advocated by the Paradigm Project

Practical solutions advocated by the Paradigm Project

Encourage best practice at the start of the record cycle

Archivists working with businesses, organisations and governmental bodies are encouraged to become involved in the design and implementation of electronic record keeping systems. This is not an option for institutions dealing with the records of individuals. However, it is possible that projects such as Paradigm can raise awareness of the issues through the publication of guidelines (see Appendix B: Guidelines for creators of personal archives) and by encouraging the appropriate professional bodies to issue codes of practice. If creators can be encouraged to curate their own personal digital archives to some extent (including some basic appraisal), then the appraisal of personal digital archives by archivists at the time of deposit will be much simpler.

Sample advice archivists might offer creators

Digital photographs

Ask creators to save photographs in folders rather than randomly in 'My Pictures' folders. If all pictures from a visit to Berlin in April 2005 were stored in a folder called 'Berlin 2005' this would assist the archivist immensely, even if the photographs retained the filename generated by the camera (usually a random, meaningless string of characters). If the creator wanted to be more helpful, they could include a plain text file in the folder, which included details of the visit to Berlin, when it occurred, why it occurred and whom it involved.

Emails and Office files

Creators should be encouraged to file their emails and documents in folders with meaningful titles and to delete routine emails and documents that obviously have little value.

Obtain contextual information from record creators

The records survey assists the archivist in understanding the functions undertaken by the politician and their staff. It also generates information about the kind of records created by the office and the record keeping practices employed. In addition to surveying and interviewing key records-creators, the survey process also includes obtaining documentation created by the offices themselves, such as manuals for archiving systems, or job descriptions. This background information on roles, tasks and procedures will be useful during the appraisal and the cataloguing processes. Such information is also likely to be of interest to future researchers.

Eliminate duplicates

Duplicate documents should be eliminated by comparing the checksums of digital objects.

Eliminate standard operating system and application files

Generally speaking, application and standard operating files (e.g. Clipart) can be routinely destroyed as such digital objects are not archival or pertinent to the personal archives of an individualand may require licences to retain. Archivists may wish to retain some software (where licences permit) to assist in future data extraction processes.

n.b. The 'encapsulation' approach to preservation would recommend the retention of all system files.