In Ireland 1922, Free State forces led the occupation of the Public Records Office of the Four Courts as part of the Battle of Dublin. As a result of the battle, there were explosions in the building and historical documents were lost to the fires. Ernie O’Malley, deemed the leader of the group, was quoted as saying “Better to have a nation without her history than have history but no nation.” This interesting information came to us from The Irish Times in their article, “Peter Charleton: National Archives permits us to learn from mistakes.”

Fast forward 60+ years, the National Archives Act 1986 requires public bodies to preserve records for the National Archives. The traditional policy has been to “print to file”, but that no longer works. Files as they once were no longer exist. The file may be on several computers in several iterations.

Many departments are well on the way to doing all business digitally and see a need to manage these electronic records. Some branches of the public service have led the way in the hunt for paperless administration.

Where does that leave the archives of the future? Many people pass the National Archives building without knowing what happens there. Although there is a deluge of data, not every record needs preservation. The digital age demands regulations and standards.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Data Harmony, a unit of Access Innovations, the world leader in indexing and making content findable.