Seventh Annual Meeting of the
Corporate Archives Forum
June 24-25, 2004
San Francisco, CA

Meeting Notes

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 topics:

  • Sponsorships and Client Events
  • Publishing Corporate Histories:  Lessons Learned
  • Mission Statements and Collecting/Acquisition Policies
  • Anniversaries:  Project Management
  • Global Archives Initiatives
  • Compliance
  • 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:

  1. Scope and scale
  2. One team, one goal
  3. What you bring to the table
  4. Involvement levels and layers
  5. Payback 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 money.

·        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 corporation.

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?  Scholars?

·        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 chapters.

·        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 old ground?

·        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:

  1. Hire 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.
  2. Understand your cost structure up front.  This will be an expensive project.
  3. Get help.  The archivist will need additional project staff and the time to coordinate project activities.
  4. It 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.
  5. Get a good publisher.  Some publishers will require outside peer review.
  6. Expect the unexpected.  There can be changes in top executives, advisory board members may leave the company, etc. 
  7. Get 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 secretary.

·        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 discussions.

·        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 meeting.)

·        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 analysis.

 Anniversaries:  Project Management

Three archivists reported their experiences managing anniversary projects.

Case 1

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 integrated way.

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 sooner

·        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 again.

Case 2

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.

Case 3

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 publicity.

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 records management

·        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 borders

·        There has been inconsistent management of historical assets

·        Assets are being lost, destroyed, or are inaccessible

·        Employees attempt to fill the void in the absence of an archives

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 the budget.

Some recommendations coming out of this project are:

·        Build upon the existing base of decentralized local records

·        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 recordkeeping.  Archivists and records managers can play a key role in compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley.

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 Compliance.

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:

·        Maintaining relationships.  Good 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 archives.  Several archivists gave examples of assisting low-level employees who eventually were promoted and became executive champions of archives.

·        Mergers and acquisitions.  Acquisition 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.

·        Corporate reality check.  “Strength, integrity, and service” must be more than a plaque on the wall.  In addition, standing still is not a reality today.

·        Programming change.  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 approach.

·        Action plan.  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.

·        Metrics.  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 allocators.

 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
  • Bonus
  • Stock

Information was given anonymously to Greg, who compiled the following totals:







Manager’s salary






Manager’s bonus






Principal assistant’s salary






Principal assistant’s bonus






Manager’s stock received:  7 yes, 5 no

Principal assistant’s stock received: 1 yes, 11 no

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:

·        Archiving e-mail

·        Appraisal

·        Succession planning

·        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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Updated September 19, 2004