Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who take injustice personally. With more than 700 staff spread across 20 offices around the globe, the archive of Amnesty’s International Secretariat needs to provide a comprehensive professional service to all its internal users regardless of location. Information is the organisation’s greatest asset and staff expect rapid recall of case files to support current working practices.
The service faces an additional challenge with increased amounts of digital data coming from social media platforms such as YouTube and Twitter. Furthermore, expectations are changing, users want a more instantly responsive service, and this was problematic for a single Archivist acting as a gatekeeper.
Prior to the development of a digital repository, the service was using a mixture of tools to enable access and discovery of the archive records. Digital Access was ‘scan on demand’ with no appropriate storage solution or sharing platform for these surrogates. They were then shared via email and often ended up being filed back in to current team/department folders, resulting in multiple duplications and loss of provenance.
In response to these challenges and with the aim of creating a service fit for purpose in a digital age, Bryony Hooper, Archivist – Information and Technology, put together a project proposal for a digital repository. To help justify the required investment in a solution, the archives drew on both the exponential growth in enquiries during 2017-18, which had increased by 255% and the rollout of Office 365 and SharePoint sites.
The first stage in scoping for a new system entailed gathering user requirements; which highlighted that internal staff were keen to access records in a single place, with discovery via a ‘Google style’ search and access wherever they were in the world regardless of the time zone. There was also an acute awareness of confidentiality as a key requirement with the need for content to be secure and authenticated access in order to preserve the integrity of the records.
Furthermore, the service is already using Axiell Calm software and asset management systems (SharePoint for official outputs and Asset Bank for audio-visual assets) to manage and catalogue records, so a solution that was compatible and integrated with the existing software was necessary.
Following a procurement process, which was driven by the need to find a system that would meet the 90+ identified requirements; Preservica’s Enterprise Private Cloud platform was selected.
- It’s been a steep learning curve, even though the digital preservation solution was ‘out of the box’ it will take time to familiarise yourself (and potentially other staff members) with the new tools.
- Get as many stakeholders involved in requirements gathering as possible. It is particularly vital to make sure IT is involved so that all of the considerations around existing in-house systems and security protocols are considered in the early stages.
- Do your research into the ongoing costs of subscription, support and storage. This is particularly important if you have additional security requirements, and integration needs. It is also likely that your storage costs will increase year on year.
- Never underestimate how long it takes, if you are a lone archivist it makes a significant impact on your workload. To allow adequate time to focus on the project delivery in Amnesty’s case, a partial closure of the archive enquiry service to non-urgent enquiries was necessary.
Top tip: Keep your stakeholders informed about what is happening – good communication also provides an opportunity to showcase the potential of the archive resources to senior researchers/decision makers.
The next important stage is User Acceptance Testing, which will involve stakeholders testing the portal for usability and to ensure it meets the original business requirements of having easy access to accurate records.
Alongside this a review of the organisation’s current retention schedules is taking place. This compliments the rollout of SharePoint and the move away from servers for current file storage, along with enabling the Archivist to identify born digital transfers to Preservica. The aim being to avoid duplication of content prior to ingest and ensure the records in Preservica are accurate.
Moving forwards, a comprehensive roadmap will be initiated to prioritise both the ingestion of born digital records and the digitisation of paper records. The roadmap will align with organisation wide strategy to enable internal users the ability to access Archive content that will support current Human Rights work.
While the project is still in development, the expected outcomes include:
- A secure digital repository that will preserve archive content and make it readily accessible to users
- An ability to assign access controls to enable the appropriate use of information assets
- Integration with current systems used by the International Secretariat, including SharePoint and existing archive catalogue to quicken archive processes such as accessioning and catalogue, enabling users better access to the organisation’s records.
With the new system Bryony Hooper hopes to be able to more strategically plan collection appraisal and ingestion, see what people are searching for, identify the gaps in digital content and decide how to enhance the archive – ultimately enabling more proactive collecting and a better experience for users.
Contact the project lead:
Bryony Hooper, Archivist for Amnesty International