6. Records in Electronic Form (Table of Contents)


Most archivists, particularly in smaller institutions, will not deal with electronic records on a regular basis.

Presently the RAD manual directs users to the chapter of RAD relevant to the specific class of material involved (textual, graphic, etc.). This is only satisfactory up to a point. To be considered as "records in electronic form", records must be preserved on a physical carrier such as a tape, disk, hard drive, etc., and have been created with the "intent and capacity of being communicated." [15] Except for the storage medium, electronic records are no different from any other record, including their general and specific material designations, edition, scale and series information, administrative history etc.

Because this chapter of RAD is currently (September 1997) under review, it would not be appropriate for this Guide to try suggest ways in which to deal with them. Two alternatives are presently available: waiting until RAD is revised to deal with electronic records in a more detailed fashion (this should occur relatively soon) or creatively adapting the rules from other chapters. It is likely that the one area that will need to be most carefully examined is the "Extent" element. The other difference noted by RAD is in the title. If you are using the optional General Material Designation (GMD) in the title, list the relevant GMD, add a "--" and add "electronic" before closing the brackets.

Title: Smith Brothers fonds [textual -- electronic].

We do suggest that when making lists of electronic files, if it is at all possible the following format be used:

File TitlesDateSize (bytes)Explanation
contacts.doc18 July 1997 9,864 non-SCA addresses
filelist.doc 03 July 1997 5,838 list of hard copy files
inv-001.doc 28 July 1997 12,471 July 1997 invoice
inv-002.doc 25 August 1997 7,994 Aug. 1997 invoice
july-rep.doc 7 August 1997 4,959 progress report to SCA
log-aug.doc 21 August 1997 1, 256 task diary, August 1997

This is because the "8-characters-plus-3-character-extension" file titling format used by DOS-based systems often leads to highly idiosyncratic, thoroughly incomprehensible file titles. A short explanation may save much confusion down the road.

Finally, in many cases electronic documents may be printed to paper and saved in that way. This is not appropriate for many types of records but is probably the simplest and most effective means of handling basic textual material (ie., word processor and e-mail products).