The Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA) and the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) are engaged in a collaborative three-year project to develop, test, and share the technology to preserve digital documents with other non-profit organizations. SIA and RAC will develop and test electronic records preservation, focusing on e-mail, that will draw on the SIAís more established framework for developing methodologies, and that will draw on the RACís network of donor institutions for testing the preservation system and strategies. Working together they expect not only to achieve much more than they could accomplish separately, but they expect to develop a model that should have implications for a broad range of nonprofit and philanthropic institutions.

Archival institutions, which provide permanent access to information deemed vital to understanding the history of individuals and organizations, are encountering the loss of digitally-created information before it even crosses their thresholds. Given modern digital forms of information, the long-term preservation of electronic records, particularly e-mail, will be critically important for scholars looking at the first decade of the 21st century, as well as for organizational accountability.

Yet few institutions have taken significant steps toward preservation, in part because there are few accepted standards for such preservation in the archival world. Much of the electronic information created by institutions now becomes inaccessible or is intentionally destroyed within a few months or a few years of creation. This is true for the offices and organizations for which the Rockefeller Archive Center and the Smithsonian Institution Archives have archival responsibilities, as well as for virtually all other nonprofit institutions.


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