Thank you to Belinda Battley from the Auckland University Tramping Club for her considerable assistance writing this resource, as well as providing links and reviewing the finished product. If you or your club wants to add to this resource, or assist us building resources about any topic for the Outdoor Community, then drop us a line!
An archiving plan can be simple or complex, but it should at least address the following questions.
- Where are the clubs artefacts now?
- What artefacts are to be archived?
- Who is responsible for archiving the artefacts?
- When will artefacts be archived?
- How will the archives be catalogued?
- How will the artefacts be stored?
- Where will the artefacts be stored?
- When will the archive be reviewed?
- Who has permission to access the artefacts?
These questions often have different answers, depending on whether the artefact is physical or digital.
It’s worth having a good understanding of the whole process before beginning; it’ll save you time and energy from focussing on artefacts which are not suitable for archiving.
Where are the clubs artefacts now?
The first step to archiving is to begin a process to find all the artefacts that could be worth saving.
For physical artefacts, talk to committee members past and present, check out the nooks and crannies of your club rooms, gear sheds, club huts and the like. Put notes in your club communications, asking for others to do the same and get in touch if they have material which might be relevant. Remember, archiving is about saving for future reference, material that isn’t currently being used; don’t try and archive books or magazines which people often refer to.
For digital artefacts, find and then have a look through any old club hard drives, CD’s DVD’s or USB sticks. Have a browse on your club website, talk to your club’s webmaster and the newsletter editor. Take a look at your club’s social media pages, email lists or bulletin boards. There are lots of programs and methods to help archive web based artefacts, so don’t despair if it seems overwhelming at first.
At this stage you don’t have to gather all the artefacts, just make a record of who has what and where, so you can keep track of what artefacts have been processed and which are still to be considered. A spreadsheet is a reasonable way of recording this information.
What artefacts are to be archived?
Archivists call this process appraisal.
This is probably the most difficult part of the process; deciding what to archive and what to discard. Groups or clubs with prolific creators of artefacts will have an incredible amount of content to consider. Rather than judging the merits of keeping any one artefact, it is more helpful to consider what categories of artefact should be archived, then make a commitment to archive all the artefacts in that category, and discard or return everything else.
Answering a few questions may help you to decide:
At a high level, what kind of artefacts do we have?
A good start is to brainstorm all the categories of artefact your club might have. There’s an excellent list on the national library website, but here’s a shortened list relevant to clubs to get you started.
- Bespoke publications (recipe books, song books, club histories, guidebooks etc..)
- Committee meeting minutes
- Discussion documents
- Club policies
- Incorporation documentation
- Financial records
- Trip reports and photographs (of official trips and of members private trips)
- Newspaper clippings which feature the club
- Club trophies
- Old outdoor gear (famous member’s ice axes??)
Do we need to keep these artefacts for legal, or financial reasons?
Generally, you can assume that records relating to minor financial transactions not related to the core business of the club can be disposed of after the legal period for retention has passed (it depends, but you are generally safe after 7 years). Here is a link to Recordkeeping legislation in case you want more detail: ).
What value does this category of artefact have for the club or group?
Appraisal is a matter of thinking about what the aims and purposes and key activities of the club are, and what is important to club members, and then thinking about how the artefacts reflect this. Also, some artefacts that look unrelated actually have significant stories or customs attached to them.
Many of these ‘regular’ artefacts, such as newsletters, journals, committee meeting minutes, will generally be selected for archiving. However it is much more subjective when deciding whether ‘non-regular’ artefacts, such as photos, newspaper clippings, discussion documents should be kept. The answer to this will be different for every club, and only club members will be able to decide.
Who is responsible for archiving the artefacts?
As you consider your archiving plan, it’s worth thinking ahead for ‘keeping current’ in the future. Rather than have the archivist be responsible for everything, consider delegating the archiving of artefacts to the positions who either create or are generally responsible that type of artefact.
This is generally easier to achieve with digital artefacts; A newsletter editor may be responsible for archiving each issue at the same time as they distribute it to members, the secretary may be responsible for uploading a copy of the minutes to the archives after each committee meeting. Just ensure they are aware of the cataloging and naming requirements (which we’ll discuss soon), and that the archivist keeps an eye on what they’ve done from time to time.
Physical archives need specific care for long term storage; it’s best left as the responsibility of the club archivist.
Get support from the club executive to delegate these responsibilities, and formalise them in your archiving plan.
When will artefacts be archived?
As touched on above, the ‘when’ depends on the ‘what’ and the ‘who’.
Archiving is generally considered to be for items which are no longer in current use; but with Digital artefacts, you can create and archive separate copies at any time; leaving the ‘current’ ones available for easy use elsewhere.
By this stage, you should already have decided on the types of artefacts you’ll archive during the appraisal stage. So as soon as the final version of an archivable artefact is made official (by publication on a club website, emailed or posted to members etc) a copy should be entered into the archives.
Archiving it as soon as it is official will help to set a culture of archiving among those with the responsibility, and will guard against those folk, putting off the task, and then forgetting it later. A good archivist will keep an eye on how well this is working on a regular basis (at least quarterly) so that any backlog won’t be too hard to fix.
It’s trickier to decide when to archive physical artefacts, because there is often only one original. Creating digital copies (via scanning and or photographing) can help to preserve the information, even though the original artefact might be irreplaceable.
The ‘test’ for when to archive is when the item is ‘no longer in regular use’. This could also be considered as when the item is likely to be needed for ‘research’ rather than ‘routine’ purposes.
Does that old pile of printed club newsletters at the club rooms actually get read more than a few times a year? If not, then perhaps it’s time to archive them for their preservation.
Perhaps there’s an old club trophy, embroidered patch, or club member’s old ice axe at the club rooms, which adds to the character and history of the room. Unless the club room is a good place for preservation (which is unlikely) then it’s worth asking; “Is having it there in the present, more important than having it preserved long into the future?”
These questions are often good to be asked when the archiving plan is reviewed. We suggest annually, and discuss this more later in the article. There’s no easy answer for such questions, and they could well spark debate within the club. Whatever decision is made, it’s worth ensuring the decision makers are aware of the issues about archiving and preservation.
How will the archives be catalogued?
There is not much use having an archive if no one knows how to find the information they are looking for.
Preparing the information to enter in a catalogue is what archivists call arrangement and description. Basically, the idea is to describe records in way that relates them to their context of creation and use, so people in the future can understand their provenance and purpose. This then allows them to be searched and/or cataloged effectively.
You will need to decide the degree to which you will catalogue your artefacts. The more information you record, the easier future searching will be, but the more time consuming it will be during the archiving process.
Physical artefacts require the description information to be recorded separately in a catalogue, which can then be used for searches. Digital artefacts have the advantage that searchable description information (which is known as metadata) can be included in the artefact (file) itself.
A trained archivist would recommend that digital artefacts still feature on a catalogue, it is a time consuming process to enter all the information, and the inherent searchability of digital files will probably suffice for most clubs.
For smaller collections such as those held by clubs, a digital and printed catalogue should be kept by a few key people in the club committee as well as the club archivist. These catalogues should be afforded the same storage and preservation considerations as the actual artefacts. These people should hand over these lists to whomever takes over from them, along with a copy of the archiving plan.
These should be given meaningful file names and follow a naming convention. If you use the date in the file name, then use the format yyyymmdd (eg 20180109 is the 9th of Jan, 2018). This allows the computer to easily sort and group the files by date.
There are a number of programs available for download online which will allow you to bulk re-name files with more meaningful file names, but if you establish a naming convention and get your club to follow it, you’ll make it so much easier to keep up to date with archiving more recent artefacts.
As well as being able to search for a meaningful file name, you can usually search for text within most documents using inbuilt search functions on your computer or online storage tool.
An exception are Portable Document Format files. PDF is a popular format for records; the files are small and they prevent unauthorised modification. But to do a bulk search for text within a whole folder of records, you need to search using the inbuilt advanced search function of ‘Adobe Acrobat Reader’. To use the advanced PDF search option, you can choose Advanced Search from the Edit drop down menu or press SHIFT + CTRL + F.
As you review or create digital records, it is recommended to embed metadata into the files, such as headers and footers in documents that describe dates of creation, versions, creators etc.
Photos are usually created with some metadata (such as date, time, type of camera, exposure etc) but you can use photo management programs to add extra metadata which can then be helpful when searching. This would be using descriptions of the location, activity, club, huts, events and names relevant to the photo;
Aspiring National Park, Tramping, Upper Clutha Tramping Club, Young Hut, Christmas trip, Joe Tramper.
You should also create a convention for the metadata that you use. It is counter productive if one person adds “Aspiring National Park” and another “Aspiring”. When you come to search, you might only get one or the other when you actually wanted all photos from that area. That way, when all of your records are consistently tagged with the right metadata, you have a powerful ability to search and get just what you want, very quickly and accurately.
The best way to do this is as the photographer downloads their photos onto their computer; It’s time consuming to add the metadata later on.
Just do your homework to ensure the program you select does actually embed the metadata into the photo file, rather than just into the program; If you update the program, switch to a new one, or give files to someone else to research, you want the metadata to be in the file!
For cataloging digital artefacts, you would identify the folder it was kept in, or use a persistent ID for items online with a cloud provider.
Each artefact needs to be described in the catalogue in a way that can be easily searched and then found. The catalogue doesn’t have to use any fancy software; a computer spreadsheet is more than adequate.
It’s important to be consistent with the categories so you can sort and retrieve items easily. However, if the categories stop being useful or meaningful for the club, they can be changed – provided you document what change has been made and keep a copy of the old list. The categories should be whatever suits the club’s understanding and terminology best. You should also give each item a unique number, to be able to find it again later. When you have decided on categories, you can start listing the items individually.
For example, when cataloging its original photos, the AUTC has chosen photographer’s name, date (sometimes just year), place, description, names of any people in photo, and a unique reference number.
You also might want to classify records used for different club purposes separately, for convenience, if the club has a lot of records – the archival term for this is dividing them into series.
One series might relate to the work of the trips organiser, and another to publications, and another to minutes of meetings, or whatever way the club divides up responsibilities.
You can describe the series separately if this is helpful, giving a different number or other identifier to each series, and then the series number can be added to another column in the list (which helps if things belong to more than one series). If each thing only belongs to one series, then you can list them in separate lists if this is helpful, but best to keep it all as simple as possible.
The main headings used by Archives NZ for their lists are:
agency (creating or transferring organisation), series, box, item, description, open year, close year, format, and then information about any access restrictions (usually for reasons of personal privacy).
If people are keeping physical items in boxes (which is the recommended option) you would also want to record the box number in the list.
How will the artefacts be stored for the long term?
Archivists refer to this area as preservation. This is the nuts and bolts of archiving and it’s not a small topic..
Physical artefacts require many considerations in order to preserve them for the long term. The National Library has a very detailed resource which explains how to care for your collection.
But in summary, you should keep records on shelves, not on the floor as flooding can happen anywhere. Put things in sturdy archive boxes, either acid-free or waxed. Make sure the items are protected from light, humidity, big changes in temperature, rodents, insects, fire etc. You can use acid-free tissue to protect photos from dust and light and damage from sticky fingers. Do not laminate anything as this causes acid damage. Soft plastics are not good for records as they leach chemicals that cause damage, but oven bags are good, stable and cheap. Acid-free folders are also useful to support individual papers that would otherwise be loose in a box. Best not to use ring-binders long term as they take up heaps of space and often rust.
Digital records are quite vulnerable to the passing of time. As programs are updated, and new formats come into popularity, old files may no longer be able to be accessed with contemporary software. The same goes for hardware; 10 years ago people were burning archives onto DVD’s, and these days it’s common for a computer not to have a DVD drive…
Digital artefacts need to be checked each year, to ensure they can still be opened, and that the technology in use is still compatible. In the transition to new technologies, there’s always a period of overlap with the old technology, which you would use to update your formats and storage media. There are a lot more resources here: https://digitalnz.org/make-it-digital/preserving-digital-content
Where will the artefacts be stored?
Many club archives are tucked away into a deep, dark corner of a club members’ home, often to be neglected or forgotten about and therefore at risk of degradation or loss.
There a number of libraries who specialise in the keeping of archives and it is worth considering transferring your club’s archives to them for professional, long-term storage. This relieves the burden of preservation off the club member, but does relinquish some control over the archives which are transferred.
There are a number of publications which are actually required by law to have copies archived by the national library. The list of legal deposit items covers virtually anything that is published in NZ, including newsletters, annual reports and yearbooks. Legal deposit provides an established avenue for club publications to be held and preserved professionally.
Specifically excluded are “In-house material such as training manuals, teaching or course notes and minutes of meetings” which form much of the items that clubs may wish to archive. All is not lost however, as agreements can be made with libraries for them to take responsibility for the long term storage and preservation of club records.
Generally, a library will only accept donations of records if it is likely to make their collection more interesting. A ‘transfer agreement’ would be drawn up in liaison with the library, which outlines the rights and responsibilities of each party, including whether or not ownership, copyright etc is transferred or retained, and how the records may be accessed by the donor or general public in the future.
When considering whether to approach a local public library, a private library (like the NZAC library) or the national library, you should take into consideration the trade off between ease of access for members and researchers and standard of preservation offered.
Digital artefacts can be as vulnerable to damage, decay or loss as physical artefacts. The advantage however, is that you can create multiple copies of the data and store it in separate physical locations.
There are a number of backup and archiving programs which allow selected folders to be automatically backed up to multiple places. Generally you would want to keep at least 2 copies of your archive; one on the archivists’ computer and another on an external hard disk drive stored somewhere else.
Using a cloud storage system is one option for ‘somewhere else’ and allows the club members to have read-only access to the club digital archives. However, remember that everything in the cloud is in reality stored somewhere physical, so make sure the cloud provider is reliable:
Also, as soon as data goes online, it is also subject to the possibility of malicious threats, such as hacking. Although this is unlikely, it is possible, and it is something to consider when thinking about how many copies in how many locations you will store your artefacts.
There is much to think about with digital records. The simplest way to preserve is “Lot of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe” and make sure you check regularly that the records aren’t degrading, by using Checksums. If you don’t know how to, then you should store your long-term digital records with an organisation that does, such as the national library.
You can donate your stand alone digital collections for long term storage in the National Digital Heritage Archive, as well as nominating for your website to be ‘harvested’ (archived)
When will the archive plan be reviewed?
The archive plan should be reviewed annually. The review should check that the right strategies are in place, and that the material is infact getting processed and archived correctly.
If you hold the artefacts within the club, visit the storage unit to check for any early signs of damage. Find the club hard drive and check a number of files, purchase a new hard drive every 3-5 years and transfer all the data across.
A good time to review the archive plan is annually, before the AGM. The archivist can then report to the club that the plan is working (or not) and seek assistance to continue to implement the plan.
Who has permission to access the artefacts?
With cloud storage systems, it is relatively easy to provide read-only access to the clubs digital archives for any member (of the club, and/or the public) who wishes to search them.
For example, OTMC has set up a publically accessible online photo archive Southerntramping.com
A small number of people on the committee, including the archivist should have administrator permission to add/delete files as required.
But as soon as files are publically accessible, they become vulnerable to compromise (‘hacking’). It’s unlikely that someone would specifically target a tramping club, but there are many automatic virus type programs which could indiscriminately wipe or corrupt your archives online. This is another consideration for when we discussed the pros and cons of cloud storage as one of your archiving locations.
Access to physical artefacts should generally be in the presence of the archivist, who can give advice on how to correctly access and research through the artefacts without damaging them.
If you or your club wants to add to this resource, or assist us building resources about any topic for the Outdoor Community, then drop us a line!