First Meeting of the
Corporate Archives Forum
Cincinnati, Ohio
June 18-19, 1998

Meeting Notes

A group of archivists from Fortune 500 corporations met on June 19-8-19, 1998 at Procter & Gamble Headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss in depth in a small group two issues of mutual concern: electronic records and the globalization of corporations.

The following individuals were present:

  • Elizabeth Adkins, Ford Motor Company
  • Mary Edith Arnold, Motorola
  • Susan Box, AIG
  • Kathleen Collins, Bank of America
  • Jean Elliott, Chase
  • Amy Fischer, Procter & Gamble
  • Claudette John, Cigna
  • Paul Lasewicz, IBM
  • Phil Mooney, Coca-Cola
  • Ed Rider, Procter & Gamble
  • Becky Tousey, Kraft Foods

Gregory S. Hunter of Long Island University served as facilitator for the meeting and prepared these notes.

Thursday afternoon was devoted to a sharing of issues and concerns around the two major themes of the meeting. Friday was devoted to summarizing best practices and shaping potential solutions. At the very end of the meeting the group focused on where it would like to go from here as a group.

Because of the frank nature of the discussions, the group agreed that the meeting notes would not identify specific corporations by name.

Thursday Afternoon

The main points raised in the discussion were:

  • It is difficult to capture electronic documentation in a global organization. Most corporate archives have a "mission without mandate" -- everything is based upon informal networking.
  • Mergers have led to new bosses without archival awareness. They also have raised issues about how to merge collections.
  • Electronic records are created without much thought -- they are more "informal" than other records. One consequence is that the archives does not get the same kinds of records from the chairman’s office because of the use of electronic systems.
  • There is a lack of training. Records management does not offer training in how to create and label boxes.
  • The archives has boxes of unappraised records. We can’t keep up with the processing of paper records.
  • The organizational placement of archives and records management is an issue. Often they are placed in the Facilities area. This means the archives only is involved with appraisal at the end of the life cycle, at the time of destruction notices.
  • There is a need for more training of staff in various departments.
  • Our issues are not the company’s issues; the company has a short-term focus.
  • To summarize the context of corporate archives: small staffs, mission without mandate, stacks of unprocessed records; heavy reference load, and a shortage of space.
  • The corporate Intranet is a way to reach out internationally.
  • One corporate archives has tracked print and media advertising. Should they track advertising on the Internet? Can they move beyond just printing out and filing copies of Web pages?
  • One company uses a software "web whacker" to capture corporate sites and all of the links. They store this on a Zip drive.
  • It is impossible to stay on top of electronic technologies.
  • Space is a big issue.
  • There is a transitional nature to business -- employees turn over quickly.
  • Intranets are being used for more types of information: general distribution of notices, press releases, policy and procedure statements, etc. In fact, these may be easier to collect via an electronic distribution list: we can collect them from the start.
  • One strategy is not to preserve an entire Web site, but rather the records behind the site.
  • In the last ten years, corporate acquisitions have changed. Corporations now take a more active approach.
  • How computer-savvy are corporate archivists? They need to get more conversant with the technology.
  • In terms of overseas operations, how can we document them without more money or people?
  • How do we define what we are doing as archivists? Is it really an "international archives," or are we a "North American archives with an international component." Electronic systems may allow more international documentation.
  • The central question is: What will be the shape of the archives in the future?
  • How/what do we collect now? Fewer manuals and policies are being received.
  • We can view interest in the impending millennium as a stepping stone and opportunity to increase budgets. We need to deal with electronic records now or we with have nothing to deal with in the future.
  • "Documenting" can be more expensive and labor intensive in electronic form. There also is a great deal of error and misinformation in the Internet.
  • What does your management expect you to be preserving? Do we need to do a better job of communicating our mission?
  • What are the "business needs?" Do the business units even know their needs?
  • Electronic records can be an opportunity to think globally, rather than an obstacle.
  • One corporation has issued a directive that electronic media will be the official storage medium. Have all the implications of this policy been considered?
  • Corporate archives tend to be strong in executive correspondence and weak in documenting other areas, like manufacturing. The latter often is done in technical libraries.
  • Is there an "official corporate language?" Some corporations are very decentralized and globally dispersed. One company is a holding company for over 2,000 separate, decentralized companies.
  • Staffing issues are crucial: how does an archives get additional full-time staff?
  • Corporations only spend money on profit centers. Most profit centers don’t have records managers.
  • Poor description of boxes stored in the records center is a problem.
  • Some companies only have one Intranet; others have multiple Intranets. Are the problems of documentation different in these two cases?
  • We seldom ask the question: What kind of information technology do the majority of employees have? Can all employees access electronic information? For example, does everyone have speakers on PCs?
  • Can there be a "records management function" without a real records manager? Sometimes as archivists we have to "go around" an ineffective records management program.
  • Some corporate managements "get it" in terms of archives; others don’t.
  • Does senior management use computers? This is important to know before trying to build support for an electronic records program.
  • Information Technology teams have a great deal of turnover. How do we build a long-term relationship with them?
  • A related issue is the electronic dissemination of archival materials.
  • Having everything, full text, on line is too much for end users. We still need archivists as filters/gate keepers. This is a value-added role for the archivist.
  • Many in our organizations are asking: "How do I access information about ...?" Archivists need to get out in front, to propose solutions, and to drive the process.
  • Recent mergers with various libraries within the corporation has greatly helped one archives.
  • In cooperative efforts, techies tend to overwhelm others.
  • It is crucial to align the archives on a regular basis with the computer professionals in the corporation. One successful approach has been to get an "IS liaison" appointed to work with the Archives.
  • An issue is records now only "born" electronically, like phone directories and press releases. These documents are no longer distributed on paper.
  • Archivists may be able to bring "political clout" to the table. We can offer this to Information Technology. Archivists should not be apologetic.
  • Archivists also speak for the end users in system design.
  • The "IS view" is short term while the "archives view" is long term.
  • Everyone now is focusing on solving the "Year 2000 Problem."
  • We need a partnership relationship with IS. One archives has an IS person assigned to its group. This IS person’s annual performance review is based in part on archives input. Archivists’ relationships with IS need to go beyond just calling the Help Desk.
  • Can we use alliances with corporate attorneys to move us forward with this?
  • One strategy is to establish a pilot project to preserve electronic versions of items previously preserved on paper. These items often are found on the corporate Intranet. One approach is to establish your own "archives server" where IS can migrate this data. This is a "custodial view" of electronic records.
  • If the records are electronic, do you even need an archives? We no longer need to move paper to the archives to preserve it.
  • At a minimum, the archives will be the custodian of the "metadata" whether or not it is the custodian of the records. We cannot fight the fact that corporations are getting more connected rather than less connected.
  • There probably are two choices:

Departments keep things electronically with the archives only providing pointers. The originator would remain the custodian for the foreseeable future.

Departments transfer records to the archives

  • We should consider a "Corporate Information Locator System" role for the archives. This model has been used in government archives for a number of years. One corporation already has a Global Knowledge Catalog into which the archives may be able to plug.
  • IS people may have money, but they don’t have personnel.
  • One corporation’s archival Web site has "frequently asked questions." This frees up the archival staff to do other things, more value-added services. Speechwriters were an important ally for one archives.
  • Another corporation’s archival Website has over 1,000 hits per month. It is important to document activity on the archives Web page. This corporation is trying to market the Web site to even more internal users. They are trying to get resources to people, rather than making them come to the archives.
  • A key issue is indexing images. Indexing is very time consuming. Another good pilot project would be to establish corporate standards for image databases, using archival images as the beginning point.
  • One archives is saving the corporation at least $40 every time a digital image prevents the duplication of a photograph.
  • Consumer products companies have found that brand managers want "content" for their Web sites. The brands have paid for the scanning and indexing of photos from the archives.

Friday Morning

During the Friday morning discussion, the attendees summarized and synthesized corporate strategies and best practices for electronic records. The beginning point was a summary document that Greg prepared following the previous day’s discussion.

The strategies and best practices were in three areas:

  • Preliminaries
  • Role of the Archives
  • Internet/Intranet strategies


  • Establish a partnership with Information Services (IS). Have IS appoint a "liaison" to the Archives so that we will have someone who understands archival needs in more depth.
  • Establish partnerships with others throughout the corporation who share archival concerns.
  • Determine what we want the role of the archives to be in the electronic environment. Clearly communicate this to management and staff.
  • Begin training archives/records management staff. Such training needs to be systematic, not piecemeal as is most often the case. Attendees recommended purchasing the new video "Into the Future" which deals with the preservation of digital information.
  • Begin to bring electronic records issues into general staff orientation/training sessions. In particular, use sessions on e-mail to talk about broader electronic records concerns.

Role of Archives

  • The archives is the advocate for historical considerations. It is the repository for "lessons learned" that can be used for continual renewal. The archives can help instill pride during orientation sessions. An Intranet site for corporate history is a good idea.
  • The archives needs a "seat at the table" when new systems are being designed. At one corporation, the archivist is a member of the Intranet Team and the Year 2000 Team.
  • The archives can serve a role as the "corporate information locator." At a minimum, the archives should be the custodian of metadata, if not the actual archival records. There should be links both to and from the archives Web page.

Internet/Intranet Strategies

  • Selectively download and preserve record series that we know have historical value and that the archives previously received on paper. Start small.
  • Print out on paper as a "hedge" during this transition period.
  • If preserving records digitally, we need our own "virtual archives server," rather than trying to use floppy disks or CD-ROMs. We need larger storage capacity if electronic records will come to the archives
  • We need an easy way to move digital information into the recordkeeping system. One archives "cuts and pastes" into a recordkeeping system notices distributed via e-mail.
  • We need an easy way to capture snapshots of an entire Web site, including links. Two specific software packages were discussed.
  • It is important to keep statistics on "hits" to Web sites. You can benchmark the archives site against other sites within the corporation. One archives site receives the most hits of any site in the corporation. In addition, knowing the number of hits on other Web sites may help with appraisal decisions.
  • There is an obvious business value to developing and posting historical databases and timelines to the Intranet.

Greg also prepared a number of areas for strategic decisions that he phrased as a series of dichotomies:

Records "born" digitally


Records existing on paper

Think small


Think big

Go it alone


Work cooperatively




Keep digital


Migrate to analog

System design


Legacy systems

Evidential value


Informational value

Audit compliance


Don’t audit

"Ask" (guidelines)


"Tell" (policy)

Content preservation


Media preservation

Finding aids on line


Archival collections on line

Real documents


Virtual documents

"Simple" documents


"Complex" documents

IT perspective


Archival perspective

Employee education


Leave them alone

Identify valuable


Destroy worthless

Strong, centralized records management


Weak, ineffective records management


Other points made during the morning were:

  • The IBM Digital Library product does not yet have a "collection management" component. Paul may help them to design this using the corporate archives as a test case. You can find out more about the product by typing "digital library" into the search engine at the IBM Web site. The archivists at IBM, Microsoft, and other technology corporations can play a key role on behalf of the profession is getting archival concerns before system designers.
  • One corporation developed its own image library. This has turned into a profit center -- there is a direct return on the investment. This corporation may roll this model image library out to other departments.
  • Another corporation is developing a "Global Knowledge Catalog" for Intranets in cooperation with a software vendor.
  • "Clean out days" have been successful in reducing paper. Is there an equivalent way to do this for electronic files?
  • At least one corporation has linked external knowledge (competitive intelligence) with internal knowledge (archives, research & development).
  • One corporation has a directive that Web sites be updated regularly. There has been a discussion of the archives becoming the repository for "static" information Web sites. The archives would become the custodian of selected records that were slated to be removed from the corporate Web site because they had not been updated.
  • One corporation is saving the entire standard "desk top build" (look and software) on an annual basis to be able to reload information in the future.
  • Some archives are trying to add databases to Web sites. This is an indication that the archives is trying to share information, not keep it behind locked doors
  • No one is thinking of putting finding aids online with Encoded Archival Description (EAD). It is more important to corporate archivists to have user friendly finding aids with hierarchical menus, etc. The main point is to have "mission appropriate description." Users are overloaded with information.

Friday Morning

The Friday morning discussion focused on the globalization of corporations. It had two parts:

  • Documenting the global corporation
  • Serving the global corporation

Documenting the Global Corporation

  • The first question is: is documenting the global corporation part of the mission of the archives? Do we really have global responsibility? No one present had explicit language in his or her mission authorizing this approach, though at least one mission statement implied global documentation.
  • We need to clarify the expectations of management. Resources will flow from this.
  • In some countries there is a sense of regional identity. They don’t want someone from headquarters coming in to tell them how to run the business.
  • Some countries do not permit the removal of records because of the fear of loss of cultural legacy. Often there are legal and regulatory issues around the subject of cultural legacy.
  • One company has a very clear mandate from the CEO to document the international operations. The archives began with an oral history project in Russia. They are developing an "e-mail template" to send on a regular basis to country managers to collect information about key activities. They have asked the CEO’s office to preserve international reports that it receives. The archivists visit the Public Relations people in various countries -- these are the people who have the history. They collect ideas for exhibits and displays.
  • Some companies are changing structure. Instead of organizing by country, they are organizing by business unit across country lines. Maybe archivists should be assigned to specific business units?
  • There can be problems in regulated industries. Different countries have different retention and regulatory requirements.
  • One approach is to emphasize pride in international operations: "We don’t have much in our archives about your operations. We’d like to help you preserve it. Call us if you want to move forward on this."
  • One archivist visits corporate offices whenever traveling. This increases the knowledge of what exists internationally and puts a "face" on the archives.
  • One corporation is emphasizing making duplicates of photos and films rather than asking people to send their originals.
  • How can we best use our "clout?" Globalization will require big resources. We need to get top-level buy-in and support.
  • European terminology is different. When we say "archives," they think "records management." In addition, Europeans tend to think longer term when thinking about history.
  • As groups move into new markets, the heritage of the company is a way to distinguish it from the competition. Managers also are interested in previous activity in the country.
  • In one company there is no business justification yet (hard dollar argument) for collecting globally. In this company products tend to be introduced globally at the same time as in the U.S.
  • Direct access to the CEO is a two-edged sword. Can you complain over your the head of your boss? While there may be fewer levels now, we still need to go through the chain of command.
  • The archives needs a series of allies at different levels. It takes years of plugging away at these relationships.
  • How can an archives remain relevant to a global corporation if it does not document the global corporation? The same can be said for companies using electronic records extensively.
  • We need an endorsement of philosophy, but does management realize the implications?
  • We need to discover "pockets of global information:" advertising, brand management, etc.
  • With companies that have separate international components, we need the support and clout of the international leaders. One approach is to conduct oral history interviews with international leaders when they come to headquarters.
  • One company is considering establishing "satellite archives" around the world.
  • So much depends on relationships and relationship management.
  • Archivists should turn "reference activity" into "outreach/acquisition activity." You’re showing your value-added service.
  • The "top down hammer" is not the only way to build a system. Another way is to help people in the trenches solve problems. Use these examples to sell management on a larger project.
  • Centralized records management has lost support in many corporations. People in the corporations don’t understand the distinction between archives and records management. There is little training in records management. Almost no one is a corporation is evaluated on "records management skills," even when recordkeeping errors cost the corporation a great deal of money.
  • One company has an excellent records management program developed 15 years ago with archival input. It is called "information access," not records management. They have RM at all levels. Records coordinators are trained. Compliance forms must be completed. In terms of electronic records, each week everyone in the corporation gets a notice about their expired electronic files, with the option to retain or delete. Records analysts audit compliance.
  • We need to emphasize that records management is a line, not a staff responsibility.
  • In some companies, paper and electronic records management are not integrated. They may be managing "media" and "formats," but they are not managing "records."

Providing Service to the Global Corporation

  • Archivists need to develop tools for use: image management tools, Intranet sites, etc.
  • We can link through communication systems to sites that have never had access to archival resources.
  • The Web site makes visible the gaps in the archival collection – there is no hiding what the archives has or does not have when the finding aids are available on-line.
  • Are Intranet sites available worldwide, beyond headquarters? This is a huge opportunity. People are desperate for resource materials. Archival photos, in particular, are very popular. There are real cost savings associated with distributing photos digitally.
  • Everyone has gotten requests from international locations for support from the archives. The main requests are for images, especially in marketing-driven companies.
  • It is almost essential to have a scanner in the archives -- for quick requests from the press, etc.

Friday Afternoon Discussion

The discussion on Friday afternoon focused on where we go from here as a group. The following decisions were made:

  • This should be an annual event.
  • The purpose would be to define issues, publicize results, and solicit comments.
  • In order to encourage the kind of information exchange and sharing that happened at this meeting, the group should remain small. Participants also need a certain experience level in large, global corporations.
  • We will encourage other groups of business archivists to replicate the model: focused discussions among a small group of peers.
  • Elizabeth and Becky will make a brief report at the meeting of the SAA Business Archives Section.
  • We also may suggest program proposals for the SAA annual meeting. There also was the suggestion that the group prepare "occasional papers."
  • We will post results to the Business Archives Listserv. Greg also offered his Web site as a place for posting minutes or reports.
  • Next year we hope to meet in New York City with AIG as a host. One or two people may be added and we may also seek expert guest speakers.
  • Next year’s meeting will be two full days and will probably be limited to two topics. This will allow some "show and tell" time.
  • The group would like Greg to continue as facilitator.

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