Digitizing Records: Documentation

Digitization project at Archives 1. National Archives Identifier: 184341402

This is the third in a series of posts supporting the publication of 36 CFR section 1236 subpart E – Digitizing Permanent Records. All of the posts have been collected under the 36 CFR Section 1236 category.

Digitization has become a crucial component of record-keeping for government agencies. With the rise of technology, the need to preserve valuable records and documents in a secure and easily accessible manner has become more pressing than ever before. However, with digitization comes challenges and complexities, particularly when it comes to documenting how records were digitized.

When digitizing permanent source records, agencies must retain required documentation in association with the digitized records. This is necessary to ensure that the records remain accurate, accessible, and secure. The required documentation includes a defined project plan, a copy of the applicable agency records schedule(s), any related finding aids, indexes, inventories, logs, registers, or metadata schemas the agency uses to manage the records, and a quality management (QM) plan that ensures the project meets the quality assurance (QA) objectives and quality control (QC) inspections procedures.

The project plan is particularly important as it identifies key details about the digitization process. This includes information about the record series or file units, the naming method for digitized records, the estimated date range of source records, any missing pages, gaps, or missing records, the estimated volume, media types, dimensions, physical characteristics, and condition of the source records, the digitizing equipment and software being used, the estimated digital file storage requirements for the digitized records, any access or use restrictions, and the method to capture relationships between source records once they are digitized.

In addition to the project plan, agencies must also retain a copy of the applicable agency records schedule(s). This guides how long records should be retained, what their disposition should be, and what kind of metadata is required to properly manage the records.

Any related finding aids, indexes, inventories, logs, registers, or metadata schemas the agency uses to manage the records can also serve as sources for required metadata. This information is critical for ensuring that the digitized records can be easily searched and retrieved and that they remain accurate and complete over time.

Agencies must have a quality management plan in place to ensure that the digitization project meets the necessary quality assurance objectives and quality control inspection procedures. This includes ensuring that the digitized records are accurate, complete, and properly stored and that any necessary metadata is correctly associated with each record.

Documenting what you digitized means that your agency will be able to explain how digitized records were created, long after the project is done and the players have changed. Some information contained in the documentation will be needed when the digitized permanent records are eventually transferred to NARA. The documentation may also be useful for future potential e-discovery or legal actions.

In conclusion, the process of digitizing permanent source records is an important task that requires careful planning and attention to detail. By following the necessary documentation requirements, agencies can ensure that their digitization projects are successful and that their valuable records remain accessible and secure for years to come.