Abstract of presentation to be given by Dr. David Willcox

Transferring born-digital records to The National Archives: Challenges and opportunities for UK government

Dr David Willcox, session 2

This presentation will consider the impact of born-digital records on existing processes for transferring records to The National Archives and their availability to the public. The change to the Public Records Act legislates that records should be transferred to The National Archives no later than 20 years after creation. This means that born-digital record transfers will become business-as-usual from next year. This brings new challenges for appraising and selecting records due to the anticipated large volumes and less structured format of born-digital records. Once the selection of born-digital records has been completed, the challenge of balancing openness with sensitivity review to ensure compliance with the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act will need to be addressed.

The digital world brings not only challenges but also opportunities to embrace new technology to assist in the management and interrogation of digital records collections. Work to date shows there is no technological silver bullet to address the challenges but The National Archives is focusing on incremental steps to support departments in the short-term whilst also investigating the possibilities of longer-term solutions.

Beyond technical considerations, fundamental questions remain to be explored. How can legislative requirements and risk appetite be reconciled to achieve the right balance when releasing born-digital records? Does the pervasiveness and accessibility of born-digital records present unique issues not experienced in the paper world? Will these considerations mean that existing policies and processes will need to be amended or will the review and release of born-digital records require an entirely new approach?


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