Records: Old, new, archaeology

From the Washington Post, The Amateur Sleuth Who Gave the Archives a Red Face. The story is about the researcher who discovered the questionable reclassification of documents in the National Archives, and it gives a good summary of the events that have occurred since the discovery. An important question that the story didn’t ask is a pretty basic one: So what? It’s interesting that a lot of people assume that the importance of records and archives is well understood by everyone, but I’m no longer so certain. An older story from the Post does a better job of answering this question, and this Slate article goes even further. Altering records and access to records affects history. It affects the transparency and running of our government. Removing records because they are embarrassing (as the Slate article alleges) is wrong. Any national security argument that proposes otherwise is ludicrous. Arguing for secrecy removes oversight.

Michael Schiavo is currently involved in a records issue. Namely, according to Florida law, his email while working for the state of Florida is considered a public record under Florida’s Public Records Law, and a newspaper has requested and been unable to obtain access to these emails. The article appears to be somewhat hostile towards Schiavo, but it very much illustrates some of the common problems involved in electronic records retention as it applies to email. These problems are not unique to Florida (although Florida does have some very interesting cases for some reason).

Finally, when it comes to electronic records, is there a more definitive source than the Onion? A story reports that recently discovered email gives hints as to what life was like back in the mid90s primitive Internet society. Truly, we are living in marvelous times.

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