Seventh Annual Meeting of the
Corporate Archives Forum
June 24-25, 2004
San Francisco, CA
The seventh annual meeting of the Corporate
Archives Forum was held June 24-25, 2004 in San Francisco, California.
Gap, Inc. and Bank of America hosted the meeting.
The following individuals were present:
- Elizabeth Adkins, Ford Motor Company
- Laurie Banducci, Gap, Inc.
- Bruce Bruemmer, Cargill
- Kathleen Collins, Bank of America
- Paul Lasewicz, IBM
- Phil Mooney, Coca-Cola Company
- Jane Nokes, Scotiabank Group
- Nicole Pelsinsky, Microsoft Corporation
- Ed Rider, Procter & Gamble
- Leslie Simon, CIGNA
- Deborah Skaggs, Russell Investment Group
- Becky Haglund Tousey, Kraft Foods
Greg Hunter of Long Island University served as
facilitator and note-taker.
To protect confidentiality, these meeting notes do
not attribute comments to any attendee or company.
The attendees are sharing these notes with the wider archival
community in the hopes of furthering the discussion of issues.
This year’s meeting included the following
- Sponsorships and Client Events
- Publishing Corporate Histories:
- Mission Statements and Collecting/Acquisition Policies
- Anniversaries: Project
- Global Archives Initiatives
- Surviving and Thriving on Change
- Privacy Issues in Oral Histories
- Informal Salary Survey
- Ideas for Next Year
Sponsorships and Client Events
Sponsorships and client events fall into what used
to be called “outreach.” This
term, however, is now too amorphous.
Sponsorships and client events are especially
important for archivists also responsible for art collections.
There were five parts to the discussion:
team, one goal
you bring to the table
levels and layers
for corporation and archives
Scope and Scale
Scope and scale can vary widely. One organization uses a “Sponsorships and Donations
Committee.” The archivist
nurtures and brings forth specific projects in the “arts, culture, and
heritage” area. The
archivist gets involved at an early stage with the proposals, even
helping to shape them.
Among the lessons learned are:
It’s a good idea to have models of sponsorship to roll
out. They have models for
small, medium, and large events.
Successful events spawn new events.
A successful sponsorship involves more than just giving
It’s important to have a team of specialists from inside
and outside the company (events planners, etc.)
You have to follow up an invitation with other items to
build excitement (newspaper stories, etc.)
In brief, the components of a success are:
a unique idea, a first class team, and a desirable product.
A special event can be a good way to connect with
clients and customers. Among
the key considerations are:
Know your base
Feed into their interests
Make sure clients have fun at the event
Give clients a gift that they can’t get elsewhere – it
keeps them smiling
It’s all about building relationships and then
working within the networks you’ve created.
One Team, One Goal
Each member of the team brings his or her own
strengths and weaknesses. The
key is to identify these strengths and to work with them.
What You Bring to the Table
Archivists bring several things to the table:
Knowledge about the corporation and its culture
Experience and expertise
The ability to talk to groups at all levels
The ability to think on our feet and handle crises
A tour of the archives as a client event
Involvement Levels and Layers
Political and time considerations are important.
“Involvement” is defined as having a network of individuals
upon whom we can call. Our
efforts are enhanced by having and using these contacts.
While teambuilding skills are important, we also
need “quarterbacking skills” to pull off large events.
Payback for Corporations and Archives
There is positive payback for the parent
corporation, the archival program, and the archivist.
The archives can have higher visibility because of the public
profile of special events. The
archivist also has involvement with key decision makers throughout the
The archivist initially may think that coordinating
client events would be a peripheral activity.
However, increasing demand may move this to a central – and
even indispensable – position in the archival program.
Publishing Corporate Histories: Lessons Learned
Publishing a corporate history can be a multi-year
project. It may take 10
years to bring to fruition. Some
of the questions to ask are:
Who is the audience?
New employees? Customers?
What is the voice of
the book? Internal or
external? Candid or public
relations? Only success
stories or also stories of failures?
These decisions will affect everything.
How big will the
book be? One publisher
capped the text at 400 pages, leading to the cutting of several
Who will be the
project manager? If the
archivist is the project manager, he or she will spend a great deal of
time managing payments, making appointments, etc.
The archivist also will need to navigate between the
historians-authors and the public relations department.
What will be the
review process? It is
common to have an “advisory committee” for detailed reviews. Some projects go beyond this.
One history involved over 200 reviewers of parts of the
manuscript. The archives
had to coordinate getting the comments back to the authors.
What time period
will the book cover? If
there have been previous books, how much of the new book will go over
What will be the
format of the book? Will
it be text or a coffee table book?
Will it be a straight chronology or take a topical approach?
Will it be published
internally or externally? This
can affect the credibility of the book in outside circles.
The following are among the lessons learned:
someone who’s already done this type of book before for the
audience you want to reach. You
need someone with a history background rather than just a public
relations background. Experienced
authors can help with all phases of the publication process.
your cost structure up front. This
will be an expensive project.
help. The archivist will need additional project staff and
the time to coordinate project activities.
will take a lot longer than you ever imagine.
One project was supposed to take 18 months; it took almost 5
years. Some of the
delay was caused by changes in focus the corporation requested.
a good publisher. Some
publishers will require outside peer review.
the unexpected. There
can be changes in top executives, advisory board members may leave
the company, etc.
ready for the fallout. Expect
very little praise but much criticism from all quarters.
No matter how careful you are, there will be mistakes in the
book and people omitted.
Is a published history worth it? In many cases the archives can build its collection and
conduct oral histories. The
archives also can tell more in-depth stories.
However, a brand-new archival program may not be able to
withstand the criticisms.
Mission Statements and Collecting/Acquisition Policies
The participants had a discussion of their
respective missions, collecting policies, and main archives clients.
One participant asked about the pros and cons of outsourcing
archival functions. The
group decided to put together a “Pros & Cons” analysis of
outsourcing solutions for historical archives in global corporations,
and to follow up with this discussion at next year’s meeting.
Immediate comments include:
It is necessary to have full participation and buy-in from
all of the corporate archives’ clients, especially those from the
legal department, compliance and risk officials, and the corporate
The archives is in a good position to know who the major
clients are, and should be sure that the clients are involved in any
Archives staff add value to the historical information
process, through their accumulated knowledge of a particular corporation
and their knowledge of the history and issues pertaining to the larger
industry. This value-added
component should be a part of any analysis.
Appraisal should be conducted by trained and experienced
archives professionals who are familiar with that corporation’s
specific business needs and specific business records.
If sound appraisal criteria are followed consistently, records
kept in the archives will reflect the historical information needs of
the corporation. (The topic
of appraisal of business records was proposed for next year’s
Compliance, information security, confidentiality,
litigation-research needs, controls over access to strategic and
proprietary information—all point to the importance of approaching
outsourcing proposals from a thorough legal, risk, and compliance
Three archivists reported their experiences
managing anniversary projects.
This corporation had recently undertaken an
across-the-board examination of its mission statement.
This coincided with a key anniversary year and there was
opportunity to leverage off the new mission and celebrate heritage in an
The proposed anniversary celebration was approved
by senior management and included a major history component that were
create a number of heritage resources that could be leveraged for
multiple events over a number of years, including traveling exhibits, an
expanded Web presence, and development of an historical timeline.
Everyone was on-board with the project but the budget was moved
outside the archive with the understanding that the archive would play
the role of consultant on what was considered an employee communications
project. Throughout the full one-year lead time, the archivist had to
continually follow up and escalate in order to access any of the
funding. Not all approved aspects of the heritage celebration were
completed and a heavy workload was placed upon the archives immediately
prior to the anniversary date. The
celebration was a huge success and senior management was very pleased,
but there were many missed opportunities and not all funding was
accessed, with no chance of getting refunded in the following year
without the anniversary.
This archivist learned the following lessons:
Keep the money in the archival budget
Bring problems to the attention of senior management
Control of the project is the key
Employee orientations offer an opportunity.
Human Resources departments have money, but the funds often are
earmarked for certain types of training (such as sexual harassment).
Several archivists said they had time during orientation
sessions, with one archivist having 45 minutes for a presentation.
Two archivists contact all new employees via e-mail.
After significant change it is even more important
to get everyone to understand the corporate culture.
It can be difficult to use examples from the past when the
corporation is trying to break with the past.
After Enron, however, continuity of values is “in” once
Many corporations build up an archival collection
in preparation for an anniversary or book.
What happens, however, when the project is completed?
Will the corporation discontinue the archives?
In a stable archival program, it is not bad to
collect just for a specific anniversary.
This can help fill in gaps in the collection.
This archives does not just collect for
anniversaries. They prepare
an annual “display and exhibition workplan.”
They exploit anniversaries on an annual basis – they have moved
beyond one-shot celebrations.
This archives was asked to help celebrate the
anniversary of a significant product.
The project developed quickly, with the archives being given only
3 weeks to find relevant information.
The corporation ultimately produced a book, video,
anniversary event, and expanded Web presence.
The archives was able to document visits to the Web site,
especially by customers. The
corporation experienced massive press and analyst coverage and was able
to document increased sales directly related to the anniversary
Some of the lessons learned were:
Start early in the budget cycle
Enthusiasm among senior executives does not always
translate into dollars for the project
Project management experience is essential.
If the archivist does not have this experience, it is better to
assist than to run the show.
Having archives staff perform extensive research early on
as a strategy for lessening the demands (and the stress!) the business
will place on the archives as the anniversary date nears will not always
work. The archives is still at the whim of business line issues like
budget, work overloads, and rush projects, any of which can lay the best
intentioned plans to waste.
Don’t sweat things too much. Something will come together.
People tend to set the bar lower than the archivist does.
Global Archives Initiatives
One corporation’s global archives initiative has
involved two phases to date: a
benchmarking survey and assessment/site visits.
They are riding the wave of a corporate movement toward
globalizing headquarters functions.
The benchmarking survey was conducted by an
independent firm. There
were 9 respondents to the survey. Among
the key learnings were:
The most common model is decentralized
Professional staffing is critical
Excellent programs have a link between archives and
The biggest challenges are electronic records and global
access to local records
The assessments/site surveys were done in Europe
and Australia. A total of 6
countries were visited. They
assessed challenges and opportunities and interviewed key stakeholders. Among the key learnings were:
The business has a need for sharing information across
There has been inconsistent management of historical
Assets are being lost, destroyed, or are inaccessible
Employees attempt to fill the void in the absence of an
Should a local archivist report directly to the
corporate (HQ) archives (in a different country) or report to the local
division manager (with only a dotted-line link to the corporate
archives)? There are pros
and cons to each approach. Another
option is to use a contractor for the project.
In this way, the archivist has greater control, especially over
Some recommendations coming out of this project
Build upon the existing base of decentralized local
Establish a network of local/regional archives
Centralize control of standards, policies, and procedures
Build a virtual global archives on the corporate intranet
Take a phased, evolutionary approach
Sarbanes-Oxley has increased interest in
and records managers can play a key role in compliance with
It is essential for a corporation to have clear
policies about records, policies approved at the highest levels.
Similarly, procedures must be approved and disseminated.
Sarbanes-Oxley has increased the importance of a
company following its own policies.
In one corporation, Internal Audit monitors compliance with
recordkeeping policies and procedures.
If Internal Audit finds deficiencies, they report their findings
to the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors.
While Sarbanes-Oxley has increased interest in
recordkeeping issues, it is only the latest in a string of regulations
with recordkeeping implications. But
Sarbanes-Oxley has upped the stakes in the consequences for
non-compliance, which has definitely made it a hot topic at the highest
levels of corporate America.
Sarbanes-Oxley has helped move a number of
companies toward combined archives and records management programs, and
toward having records management programs report to Corporate
Training is an important
component in any compliance program.
One corporation has an on-line training module for records
management developed by an outside vendor specializing in online
training in legal issues. All
employees are required to pass the module, which incorporates several
mentions of archival records. It
also is becoming common to link compliance with the annual performance
review process in Human Resources.
Surviving and Thriving on Change
Change is a hallmark of everything we do.
Archivists have to learn how to survive and even thrive on
change. Some of the
strategies discussed were:
relationships are the underpinning but they can be difficult to maintain
as organizations shift. The
best way to establish relationships is to perform well on a variety of
programs. Also, we should
not distinguish among requestors – they all are stakeholders in the
archivists gave examples of assisting low-level employees who eventually
were promoted and became executive champions of archives.
agreements also are “records agreements,” since they cover
disposition of records. The
archivist needs to be part of the merger team for this reason.
Corporate change also can affect the size of the archives staff.
The archivist needs to communicate openly with his or her staff.
integrity, and service” must be more than a plaque on the wall. In addition, standing still is not a reality today.
Today’s environment includes new corporate-wide projects and
teams (anniversary projects, records management, etc.)
There also are new departmental projects that we need to sell to
other people with funds. The
key here is: keep projects short; keep prices low; deliver what you say
you’ll deliver; plan early in the budget cycle; and take a phased
An annual planning process can be the secret of your success.
It is important to plan before even thinking of a budget.
There is where you dare to dream.
It is best to get the input of all of the staff.
The annual plan is a checklist and should be reviewed at the
half-way point. One
corporation’s framework includes:
operational, customer relationships, and finance.
Archivists don’t have good metrics to evaluate the quality of
service. In particular we
need “mission-based metrics” that we can communicate to resource
Privacy Issues in Oral Histories
One company has a legacy collection of more than
500 oral histories conducted by historians who never wrote a planned
book. Recent changes in
privacy laws led to a review of how to manage access to the oral
histories. One particularly good model was the oral history guidelines
published by the National Park Service.
Upon further review of the transcripts, the
archivist discovered that one of the historian/interviewers made
promises to several interviewees that the information would be used as
background for a book only, and that the interviews would not be
released to the public without the interviewees' permission.
Since the oral history project was stopped before the reviews and
approvals had been completed, most of the interviewees never had the
opportunity to consent to public release of the transcripts.
Therefore, the archivist came to the conclusion that ethically
the company could not release the transcripts to the public.
Informal Salary Survey
The CAF attendees took the opportunity to benchmark
a number of factors:
- Manager’s salary
- Principal assistant’s salary
Information was given anonymously to Greg, who
compiled the following totals:
Principal assistant’s salary
Principal assistant’s bonus
Manager’s stock received:
7 yes, 5 no
Principal assistant’s stock received: 1 yes, 11
Ideas for Next Year
During the course of the two days, the following
topics were suggested for next year’s meeting at the Ford Motor
Company in Michigan:
Relationship to information technology
Reporting structures (especially for global corporations)
Also, attendees discussed doing a more extensive
benchmarking survey in advance of the meeting.
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