A-Z of Information Management

Domesticated Zebra

Z is for domesticated zebra (CO 1069/135/36)

If like me you’re an avid reader of The National Archives’ blog, you’ll have by now hopefully noticed the sheer variety of work we get involved in.

So when I was asked to write a blog that summarises the work of my department I was suddenly at a loss. How do you bring together all those strands that show how we are working to collect, preserve and make available the history of UK government?

Well if you’re even slightly more familiar with the internet than I am, you’ll probably be aware of a website called BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed aims to provide a snapshot of the best current ‘viral’ web content, and uses some editorial selection to summarise the things that you (as the internet user) may wish to read.

What this means in practice is a lot of lists involving funny videos, images and cats. Well, I’d like to harness this idea, minus the cats of course, to summarise what we do.

So here goes: 26 awesome things you should know about the Information Management and Practice department.

A is for… Appraisal. Appraisal is the process of understanding the value of your information so that you can manage and dispose of it appropriately. Our Information Management Consultancy service is responsible for providing advice and training, with details online.

B is for… Blogging! There is a wealth of information management blogs on our website, along with others where you can discover more about the work of other teams within The National Archives.

C is for… Cataloguing. Information Management and practice is responsible for quality assuring the cataloguing descriptions of all transferring records before they are listed on Discovery. We publish  further guidance on how to catalogue records.

D is for… Digital continuity. The risk of losing the ability to find, open, work with, understand or trust your digital information.

E is for… Electronic records. Public records can appear in any format, and we are currently working to ensure that not only can government manage electronic records to ensure they survive, but can also be appraised and transferred as with paper files.

F is for… Freedom of Information. Our FOI Centre responds to requests to provide information from within closed archival files and corporate information.

G is for… Guidance. We are gradually redesigning our guidance pages on the website so watch this space…

H is for… History. Our core function is to collect records so that they are preserved for history, and the Information Management Consultancy service works to make sure that the selection of records for transfer to The National Archives is supervised as per our Records Collection Policy.

I is for… Inquiries. Information Management and Practice work with Public Inquiries to ensure that historically valuable records are preserved. 

J is for… Jargon. There’s a lot of it around us, we’re working to reduce it in our guidance to make it more accessible to a wider audience. Also see our blog on word related confusion.

K is for…Knowledge. They say that knowledge is power, and managing knowledge can be just as important as managing the information that it supports. We work to support government in maintaining context around their records by using appropriate knowledge capture techniques.

L is for… Liaison. Our department helps support a network of information professionals across government, including with liaison group meetings at The National Archives. My colleague wrote an excellent blog last year about who we liaise with and how.

M is for… Master of the Rolls. Chair of the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Council on National Records and Archives. Read about the role of the Council.

N is for… Newsworthy. Records selected for preservation and transferred to the Archives often make the news. Information Management and Practice are responsible for working with a number of teams to ensure that records are made available in a timely manner.

O is for… Operational Selection Policy. Which records get sent to The National Archives? OSPs establish the enduing value of a range of material, and go out to public consultation.

P is for… Public Records Act 1958. The primary piece of legislation governing the collection of records into The National Archives. There is a neat history of the act and how it applies on the website.

Kew is where to find us! See what I did there…

R is for… Records Transfer Report. A biannual publishing of statistics as part of the transparent approach to implementing changes to the 20 year rule.

S is for… Sensitivity Review Quick Reference Guide. A key step in the transfer of records from government departments to The National Archives.

T is for… Training. The National Archives hosts a range of training sessions on the information management as well as appraisal and transfer of records.

U is for…UFOs. nationalarchives.gov.uk/ufos/

V is for… Volume, Velocity and Variety. The National Archives collects public records in all formats from paper records to videos and websites and makes them accessible through our Discovery system.

W is for… Web archiving. We work to identify and collect public records in all formats, and websites are extremely important to capture as both a primary record of government and as a mechanism to routinely archive important records published online.

X is for… XML. One of the many many formats of digital records which we are working towards preserving. The National Archives’ Digital Preservation team has guidance on suitable file formats for transfer, and our department is concerned with supporting digital continuity and selection of those records.

Y is for… Yoda. Mix Star Wars and information management and what do you get?

Z is for… Zoos and Zebras. You didn’t think I’d manage anything for Z did you? Well the beautiful thing about the records which our department processes into The National Archives is the sheer variety of what we see! Zoos and Zebras included…

Bringing me back nicely to the point I was making about the variety of our work. Yes I might have cheated slightly within the rules of my own game, but I hope you’ve found this interesting. There is genuinely a wealth of information on our website, so please do follow those links above if you’d like to know more.

As usual if you have any questions, or indeed if you have better suggestions for the A-Z of The National Archives, then we’d love to hear from you via the comments section below.


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