What are Email Archives?

Email archives are the end product of a deliberate set of actions to capture, acquire, arrange, describe, preserve, and provide access to electronic correspondence.  They include anything from one message to an entire account–or an entire ecosystem of accounts.

If an archivist takes the right set of actions, users of the email archives will have confidence that what they are seeing is accurate and authentic.  They will be able to demonstrate that the content of the archives are trustworthy representations of the original messages as sent and received. And they will also be able to see that message as part of its original context of sending and receiving.

Email archiving is all about the ways that archivists work to preserve email’s value for the evidence it can provide about the past.  It is still an emerging practice, offering different approaches, and this grant seeks to help institutions build communities of that solidify those practices, making them part of the everyday work that archivists undertake as part of their role in meeting society’s needs for a trustworthy record.

For more information on the types of approaches that can be considered when building these communities of practice please review Preserving Email (2nd Edition), available at http://doi.org/10.7207/twr19-01

Previous Work

The Task Force on Technical Approaches for Email Archives, which was sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Digital Preservation Coalition, was created to help the library and archives community better preserve electronic correspondence that is of value for future scholarship and research. The Task Force generated The Future of Email Archives.  It provides a conceptual and technical framework in which current efforts to preserve email can operate not as competing solutions, but as elements of an interoperable toolkit.  Those seeking to submit grants under this program should become familiar with this report’s recommendations, and consider using it for guidance.

More Needs to be Done

The “Email Archives: Building Capacity and Community” program will enable archives, museums, and libraries to establish a baseline of email acquisition, processing, discovery, and delivery services. Providing other archives to process and provide access to email using community-supported tools, while also demonstrating the value of email collections for humanities, social science, or other research. The archives and library community will benefit greatly if a wider range of institutions are able to engage with the tools that currently exist, by developing workflows, interoperable systems, metadata pathways, and archival package structures, then sharing the results in forums that will help others build a similar capacity to preserve email.