Look forward, not back
Out of sight, out of mind
Unless you are a librarian or archivist, metadata in the context of archives will probably have received scant attention. When organisations consign content, data & its metadata to storage oblivion, they tend to forget those archives also include metadata (in varying degrees of health). Metadata is also data. It can be more valuable than the data itself. Metadata is, and ought to be, an integral part of any archive! Just ask a librarian!
However, some archiving solutions, in their pursuit of speed and shrinkage (in order to move entire databases into storage) actually sacrifice metadata!
The active archive
Any stored digital items, whatever the nature of the archive, are still part of your active knowledge domain, and still within scope of various data regulations. The fun starts once this penny drops, that archives are active, and a conscientious soul realises that hunting through uncurated archives is likely to tax their patience. For instance:
- Does your stored or historic data have metadata that makes it discoverable or targetable?
- Do you know if the archives contain any personal information which is non-compliant?
- How often are the archives accessed?
- How large are they?
- What medium are they stored on?
- Who uses the archives?
- How frequently are they accessed?
- Why do they access them? What for?
- By when is the information required?
- How important is that information?
- How successful were their queries?
- Where was the information located?
- What is your ‘hot data’?
- How costly is the overhead or opportunity cost?
- Who is responsible for curating the archives (management, classification, access, disposal)?
If those questions provoke uncertainty, doubt or simply cannot be answered at all, then we suggest that its time to pay more attention to your archives; to see them as active and understand where value & compliance can be improved or overhead saved.
Looking at the value of archives going forward, professional archivists or librarians are mostly concerned with preservation and integrity of the record and the ability to locate it themselves. Yes, provenance & lineage are in themselves part of the value of data, metadata & records, but that view is retrospective. It ignores the onward potential value of historic or comparative data and what end users may instead want from using those archives.
Data science, AI or ML programs are informed by historic data for comparative purposes. Unaware of that, some organisations have already destroyed many valuable archives in legacy or proprietary systems – a decision they may live to regret. Historic data is, by definition, impossible to recreate.
Change your perspective
If you still have archives, the question is then what to do about missing metadata to make them usable. Can you, should you, remediate? Does this invalidate any systems of record? Or is it possible to remediate certain subsets of content that are operationally-oriented?
Take our metadata sitrep which will help you decide whether you want to continue carrying the overhead or whether you want those archives to be an active part of your knowledge domain, curated for their potential value in your organisation.