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Monday 17 September ,2018

The Book: “How to Prepare and Apply the Modern System of Documents and Archives”

The Book: “How to Prepare and Apply the Modern System of Documents and Archives”

Publisher: The National Archives, 2017, 1st Edition, 258 pages of large size

Prepared by: Dr. Al Munsif Al Fakhfakh

This book, which was published recently by the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates, sheds light on the modern archive system entailed by the information, knowledge, and electronic environment's age, and its principles, basis and Archives' management methods in its different stages, namely: current, intermediate and historical. It provides examples of archive management adopted tools and forms. The book aims to identify the primary principles of this specialty and to disseminate benefits among all the archives field stakeholders.

The UAE National Archives’ interest in this book stems from the large volume of documents created by the public entities, their diversity, rapid flow and need for their disposal. It has become necessary to control this huge amount of documents and information for the benefit of their issuing entities at the first stage and for that of the society and future generations at the second stage. This applies to traditional documents: paper, audiovisual and electronic documents as well. Many difficulties and problems resulted from the documents creation momentum, most important of which is document accessibility or retrieval in due time, to assess its importance for research and studies at the time when its issuer no longer needs it, and to determine its final destination. The National Archives realized that in the information and knowledge age there is an urgent need for documents control and management in accordance with audited policies and programs.

The archivist's work environment has witnessed a remarkable development in terms of use of modern information and communication technologies and their resulting media. And in view of the continuous growth in information volume, the complexity of its issuing institutions structures and the diversity of its utilization methods- it became essential for all those dealing with documents to adopt an archiving system that responds to the modern era’s needs. This system must be based on scientific rules and basis. Archiving practice expedited the emergence of several work methods and systems that were affected by the political and administrative environment in which they were established and by archive’s role in the society and its associated concepts. However, the current era imposes several needs and trends in the documents and information field which entailed the archivist to seek appropriate solutions and to improve his archiving work methods.

The archivist profession developed meagerly in most of the Arab countries due to the prevailing concept that archives are of no benefit to the society; since their documents were used in official or private bodies to perform their associated work. Accordingly, they think they are currently of no use, whereas the Modern concept of archives is based on the link between the time when documents were issued in official, private bodies or by individuals for the performance of a particular function on the one hand, and the following period, where documents pass through various merged stages through which they should be well preserved and managed. The term archive applies to all these stages.

The book “How to Prepare and Apply Modern System of Documents and Archives” bridges a gap in the Arab professional library and meets the needs of the Arab Departments. Hopefully it will contribute in developing the archiving profession under the electronic environment, and in response to the globalization imposed requirements, the spread of modern information and communication technologies and the international specifications of this field.

The book consists of six chapters: Basics of Archive System, Preparation and implementation of the Archive System, Management of Current and Intermediate Archives, Management and archiving of Electronic Archives, Management of Permanent Archives and Document Maintenance. These chapters are followed by 27 appendices and a number of archival terms, endnotes and an epilogue.

Chapter I of the book focuses on the basics of the archive system and reviews the archival concepts, the need for a modern Archiving system, and the traditional concept as opposed to the modern concept of document management. It defines the Archive as: the total documents created or obtained by each natural or legal person and each public Facility or public or private entity during the performance of its work activity, no matter of which date, form and media these documents are.

Chapter I lists the theoretical basics of the archive, namely: the principle of adhering to origin and archive holdings, the theory of the three stages documents go through, the concept of initial value and the secondary value of documents. These principles have evolved gradually since the 1950s and are still debatable as the field witnesses changes due to the advent of electronic environment and the establishment of information and knowledge society.

Chapter II focuses on the development of the archive system. Its meaning and significance has changed according to its prevailing modern concept and the adoption of current and intermediate documents management.

The book lists the documents' types and characteristics; as they vary according to their media and functions as follows: common documents found in all institutions, exclusive documents of each entity and the basic and confidential documents. This chapter depicts the general organization of a governmental institution, and addresses the classification, its objectives and types, the form of preservation tables and the creation of structures for the current and intermediate documents.

Chapter III deals with the management of current and intermediate archives, which are defined as the total documents no longer used in the current time in the offices for the purposes for which they were originally established. Some documents may be destroyed or disposed of after their current periods expires.

In this chapter, the book identifies the objectives of intermediate archive's management and the achievements it accomplished in human and financial resources and others.

Chapter IV sheds light on the management and archiving of electronic documents, it explains the elements of electronic document management and includes a comparative table comparing between electronic document management system and electronic archiving system.

Chapter IV also deals with permanent archive management, this archive includes important documents that have been selected for permanent preservation after being deemed no longer needed by the party who had created them or had acquired them to perform a certain work activity. It is considered a small part of the documents that have been created. The permanent archive is the part known most to the archival profession society. It is mainly associated with paper documents, but currently includes several other documents types, such as audiovisual documents, photographs, maps and electronic media.

Chapter V explains that private archive documents are collected in both public and private institutions and the foreign archive of concern to the country. Then it explains how the transformation to the final archive is done, how the archival description is laid down in accordance with the International Council on Archives’ standard and how indexing is carried out in archiving. It indicates that indexing technology is used as an aide in archival description to facilitate documents retrieval.

Chapter VI of the book “How to Prepare and Apply Modern System of Documents and Archives” deals with the archive maintenance which aims to prolong the life of documents and save them from damage. This chapter reviews documents media: paper, parchment and the materials associated with some documents media and informs about audiovisual and electronic documents. It lists the damage factors such as temperature, humidity, light, air pollution and the biological factors such as insects, germs and microbes. It also deals with the documents restoration and the serious damage to archives and their holdings caused by disasters of various types.

In conclusion, the book “How to Prepare and Apply the Modern System of Documents and Archives” urges on keep abreast of the great development in the field of archives, which requires documents management from inception, through all stages they undergo, and the rapid transformation that leads to the establishment of digital society; as human production of information, knowledge and science is largely digital now in addition to the abundance of information and the relatively easy access to them. Moreover, the fate of human memory is at stake; since long term preservation of electronic documents is still facing difficulty.