Preparing 'paper minds' for electronic records

Hans Scheurkogel


The introduction of ICT brings about crucial changes for the archival profession. At first, archivists were convinced, that the introduction of computers in business administration would not influence their traditional activities. When it was considered a matter of concern, it was believed to be primarily a question of preservation. Only recently, archivists have come to realise that ICT is indeed challenging the very foundation of the profession – concepts, methods and techniques – and that, if they want to survive, they have to change their very behaviour. In what way the digital revolution is challenging professional behaviour is briefly demonstrated in three major areas: description, appraisal and management.
This growing awareness of the importance of the digital revolution reflects itself in the way the archival profession has responded. At first, there were individual archivists who acquainted themselves with the new soft- and hardware. In a later stage, courses were organised by archives schools and professional bodies to teach archivists how to catalogue what digital records were produced in government bodies and how to organise their secure transfer to archival institutions over time. Since the 90’s some archives schools have started to experiment with courses that were not devoted to practical guidelines but were designed to discuss the conceptual issues involved.
The growing awareness of the need for training on a more fundamental level – and the didactic difficulties that were experienced by archival teachers on this matter – have only recently resulted in what can be called a ‘third generation’ of course development: course development by international co-operation. The internationalisation of communication, facilitated by e-mail and the Internet, and the sheer magnitude of the issues involved in designing courses have given birth to educational projects in which several European institutions are joining. One project that looks very promising, the E-term project, is presented as a case in point.

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