This post is based on the original post on the Facebook page, “Archive of Tamils in Norway”, on 03rd July 2020.
Which record become the archive?
All records will not be archival material. Basically, a document created as a result of a transaction or a process become an archival record. In the Tamil organisation context: an organisation has decided to arrange an anniversary event. They want to publish a booklet at the anniversary to celebrate the growth of the organisation. A booklet team is formed with the organisation to create the booklet. The organisation publishes the booklet. Then the booklet becomes an archive. As well as all the other records regarding the creation of the booklet becomes also an archive for the particular activity. The common way of a transaction or a process starts when a citizen asks/ apply/ approach/ contact a governmental or a private body for a service/ help/ advice. For instance, when parents apply for a kindergarten placement for their child, or when a person sends an email to a travel agent to reschedule his/ her holiday.
In a Tamil context, a process or a transaction can start for example when a football club fill a form (paper or electronic) to participate in a tournament organised by a Tamil organisation. Then the football club will play with other football clubs. At the end of the tournament, the club will either lose or win a place at the tournament.
If an archive of this football tournament by the Tamil organisation is created and preserved, it will contain various documents that will tell different stories even after 50 or 100 years of that particular event. The archival material will give information at a detailed level (micro-level) of an event as well as a social level (macro-level). For instance, how many football clubs have participated, age group of the participants. It will give information about a period, social structure. It will be evidence for the football club and will secure their right to participation. It will be evidence for the organisation that it has functioned at a certain time and place for 50 or 100 years ago. These archival materials will tell various unknown stories of the past for future generations. The documents will reflect the art, culture, sports and life of Tamils. Apart from these, they can be research materials for sports or health students or researchers.
This is only possible, only if, the records are created, maintained, preserved and made available for public access. Sadly, these kinds of archival materials are in poor condition. They are isolated in the hands of private people. Other archival materials are thrown away, destroyed and lost. Many are worried if these archives are taken care of or even exist. But they knew that those records were created. On the other hand, organisations are unconsciously keeping on creating records in their daily activity. But there is insufficient understanding of the value of protecting them and giving them to the next generation. However, Tamil organisations have a general perception that only the publications by their own organisation or other organisations are the archive. Such as books, booklets, videos, cassettes, CDs, magazines, etc. Even these are also in worrisome situations.
Future: Even if you either create publications (book, booklets, etc) or create records of your daily activity of incoming and outgoing inquiries, please make sure to have the following elements to secure the authenticity of the archival material. 1. Origin – Who created the record, which organisation published it 2. Purpose – Why it was created 3. Context – date, time, description, process before and after
Concretize – Booklet: When a Tamil organisation creates an anniversary booklet. The booklet needs to include the following information. · Who created the booklet – a booklet team that worked · Who published it – the organisation · The content will tell the purpose of the booklet · Date, place of publication · Maybe an ISBN number – it will be easier for distribution at the libraries.
Concretize – incoming and outgoing daily records: I take my posts as an example. Let´s imagine that the “Archive of Tamils in Norway” is an organisation. My friend, in this case, a user of “Archive of Tamils in Norway” sent an inquiry to the organisation and asked for information/ advice/ guidance/ service. The process of creating a record starts once the inquiry comes in. The inquiry is being processed as Facebook posts. So, each and every post is a part of a transaction. To demonstrate organisational record keeping, I created the posts with the three elements.
1) Origin: The writer of the Facebook post, which is a document (K. Baheerathy). The publisher/ sender of the post (Archive of Tamils in Norway). It is necessary to mention the original creator/ publisher of other websites/ publications/ information that is uses in the posts. 2) Purpose: Archival awareness and information about archival work. 3) Context: The content in each post gives information about the context. For instance, “notes from the previous post”, and “date of the previous post”, “date and place for the current post”, “What is expected in the next post”. This information creates a context around a document. It can enable us to trace back and forth to related posts (here, the posts are documents). Thereby we can maintain continuity. In the end, these posts become archival material for the inquiry that was placed before the 13th of June. So, the record creator of this archival material will be the “Archive of Tamils in Norway”. When these archival materials are given to an archival institution, the materials will be preserved under the name of “Archive of Tamils in Norway”. However, for personal collection, the archive will be preserved under the name of the collector.
Metadata – information of data The information about the “Origin”, “Purpose” and “Contexts” is called metadata. They are important, especially in electronically created documents and digitalised documents to authenticate them. Governmental bodies and organisations do use a record-keeping computer program to secure the metadata in the electronically created records, digitalised and scanned documents of their incoming and outgoing inquiries. There are many Tamil organisations and individuals in digitalising activities. The three elements “Origin, purpose and context” are also important when digitalising. Please don´t forget that digitalising is duplicating the original in a digital form. I contacted a Norwegian archival institution to gather information about the procedure around digitalising: “It is important that they keep minutes of general meetings, annual meetings, board meetings and other professional documentation on what they are doing. By all means, do not throw paper originals even when scanning.”
To be continued…
Next post: What is «ஆவணம்» – part 6: Preserving archival materials in archives
Please do not forget that you are keeping a piece of Tamil cultural and historical heritage at your home. Please give the public access to that heritage.