Thursday, November 03, 2016

Formation of Task Force for Email Archiving

Mellon Foundation and Digital Preservation Coalition Sponsor Formation of Task Force for Email Archives. Press Release.  November 1, 2016.
      The task force has been created and is charged over the next 12 months to assess current frameworks, tools, and approaches being taken toward these critical historical sources. Personal correspondence is an essential primary source for historians and scholars across and helps "future generations understand and learn from history, providing evidence of the functions and activities of governments, businesses, nonprofit organizations, families, and individuals".  Today's correspondence is digital and emails especially are far more difficult to gather and preserve in an accessible format. "This is a topic of deep concern.  Preserved correspondence helps students of the past develop a nuanced understanding of events, much more so than published or other widely circulated sources." Email has remained resistant preservation efforts at preservation and is currently not systematically acquired by most institutions. 

"As archives include more born-digital collections, the complex technical issues around preserving email are more prevalent and increasingly important. The technical issues around email preservation are compounded by the sheer scale of the collections." Solutions need to be community supported, large-scale with preservation options.  The task force will focus on these three issues:
  1. articulating this technical framework, 
  2. suggesting how existing tools fit within this framework,
  3. beginning to identify any missing elements.
Preservation of email cannot be a single, comprehensive solution, but the "interaction of a variety of solutions covering the entire range of archival activities, from appraising the research value of email to helping researchers discover and use it." It requires an inter-operable toolkit.

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