Welcome to the Archives Lab.
Thirty-three years ago, The History Factory was founded to set a new, higher standard in corporate archiving. Over the years, traditionalists in the archival profession have been suspect of new processes and points of view. Fortunately, there has been a small cadre of open-minded archivists who have constructively pushed the boundaries of archival and library science in response to the needs of highly competitive organizations. A number of those use-driven professionals have come together to form the nucleus of today’s Archives Lab.
Every day, we are focused on developing great tools and methods for identifying, aggregating, processing and accessing information. Our mission is not about yesterday or today, but to help you make sure that your company is still here 50 or 100 years from now. On behalf of our entire team, we look forward to telling you more about the Archives Lab. If you see us at professional conferences, please introduce yourself. If you’re in the Washington DC area, we hope you’ll stop by for a tour.
Director, Archives Lab
The History Factory
The History Factory’s Archives Lab is a hybrid think tank and professional services organization. We are highly experienced, hands-on corporate archivists and library scientists. Our mission is to thoroughly research issues and trends in archival science and business, aggressively bench-test a wide array of content strategies and technology applications, and proactively engage with our clients to build high performance archival solutions to meet their current and future information needs.
The Founding Philosophy
The roots of the Archives Lab were planted at The History Factory’s founding in 1979. Challenged during the economic recession of the early 1980s, our clients turned to us to help them capture and preserve their history, in danger of disappearing in an era of aggressive cost-cutting and downsizing. By bringing together the perspectives of archivists, historians, communicators, and business-people, The History Factory revolutionized corporate archiving by pioneering a use-driven approach to archival collections that could withstand the scrutiny of the most ROI-driven management regimes. Our approach ensured the safety and security of archival materials while emphasizing the practical requirement to drive the use of content. This foundational experience established our view of archival sciences within the context of practical business challenges—a perspective that remains at the core of the Archives Lab.
The Archives Lab Today
The Archives Lab is strategically positioned at the intersection of archival science and today’s business reality. It’s where the most critical archives-related content challenges and opportunities are analyzed and addressed. Examples include:
- Alignment of historical content with the broader knowledge and content management systems to ensure that authentic brand attributes remain highly visible, social media programs are active, and employee communication programs are supported;
- Proliferation of e-communications that require that core content be available and pushed;
- Democratization of digital content creation that exponentially increases institutional assets;
- Demand for real-time access to core knowledge and content by a global array of users;
- Expectation that metrics inform continuous refinement of collection, access and use.
Viewed from the bottom-line perspective of creating business value, The Archives Lab helps organizations make sense of these trends, puts them into the context of organizational needs, and develops and implements compelling solutions that drive organizational goals while remaining grounded in the archival science.
Archives Lab team members are some of the world’s most experienced archivists. They are selected from corporate, government, academic and non-profit settings and are familiar with the particular nuances of a wide range of collections. Team members have earned master’s degrees in Library and Information Sciences from prestigious universities and meet the Academy of Certified Archivists' requirements for education, experience and knowledge. Many are fluent in multiple languages and have worked in repositories around the world.
Because the Archives Lab structure encourages them to perform the functions of processing archivist, reference librarian, researcher and consultant, team members develop an expanded skill-set that enables them to bring a unique vantage point and added value to any client engagement. A passion for problem-solving and devotion to client service set the Archives Lab team apart from traditional archivists.
Our Point of View on Archives in the Corporate Knowledge Ecosystem
The fundamentals of archival science are the theoretical underpinning of an effective archives program. However, the business context within which today’s archival programs must live has shifted so dramatically that traditional archival programs are often unable to meet the value-add demands of an organization.
Archives programs now exist within the broader knowledge ecosystem of an organization. Within this ecosystem, almost anyone can be a creator of unique content. Key “producers” then access and integrate content into “masterworks” such as e-newsletters, websites, blogs, social media videos, brand collaterals, event materials, etc. Ultimately these masterworks—which express corporate culture, experience, and brand—are consumed and applied by a wide range of audiences to the advantage of the organization.
Organizations have a myriad of stand-alone content and knowledge systems that facilitate the creation, access, and storage of millions of pieces of content. Within this environment, the critical role of an archives program is to distill from this vast sea of content and knowledge the small but critical percentage of institutional experience that embodies the heritage and essence of the organization. Once captured and made available to the organization, the heritage content becomes the building blocks for communications that tell authentic stories to key audiences to sell, drive change, grow, and achieve.
More than just ensuring compliance, safety, and security of physical and digital assets, the success of an archive program must be measured in terms of the satisfaction of the creators, producers, and consumers who make up the knowledge ecosystem. This means that archival systems and processes must efficiently and effectively meet the needs of the stakeholders. Simply, a successful archives is one that facilitates the organization’s ability to capture, pluralize (i.e. provide localized access), and promote reuse of distilled content required to:
- Authenticate and ensure consistency of brand voice and messaging
- Accelerate innovation
- Reduce product development cycle time
- Drive change/change management
- Increase productivity/value of work
- Reduced costs for duplicate efforts due to lost materials
- Preserve the culture/experience
- Strengthen employee alignment and engagement
- Provide content for milestone anniversaries and other heritage-content needs
The Archives Lab believes that an investment in corporate archives comes with a mandate to continually refine what is captured, accessed, and promoted for use. This includes systems and technologies that support activities such as user-driven metadata enrichment, social cataloging, and refined search. It also includes the data analytics that enable the archives sponsor to increase the value derived from the archives by informing the refinement of the types and quantities of content that need to be captured and accessed to drive business goals. Finally, archives programs should be subject to annual reviews to ensure that they are aligned with critical business objectives. By making continuous improvement a central tenet for our clients’ programs, the Archives Lab continues to reflect the founding philosophy of putting archives within the context of real business needs.
Services & Technologies
The History Factory Archives Lab’s services reflect our commitment to the proper collection, preservation, processing, cataloging, security and safety of institutional assets. However, our perspective regarding the broader context of knowledge management and business needs results in a combination of services that address the strategic and execution needs of our archives clients.
Strategy Services help organizations understand the demand their organization has for the distilled knowledge unique to an archives, and the systems and processes needed to capture, pluralize and promote use in ways that have the greatest value to the business. This includes:
- Vision and Alignment Sessions
- Physical and Digital Archives Master Planning
Program Execution Services that enable the efficient and effective development and implementation of archives-based content solutions. This includes services such as:
- Preservation, processing and cataloging
- Discovery/collection programs
- Targeted collection development
- Database development and access solutions
- Use/reuse metrics
- SAS archival systems
- Outsourced physical storage
- Outreach and eduction
Use Services that facilitate the application of archival content to support business objectives. These services include:
- On demand research
- Proactive asset identification to support communications programs
- Interpretive and creative services
Secure Storage Services of client archives within the Archives Lab environmentally controlled warehouse
The Archives Lab team, frustrated by the limitations of existing hardware-dependent archival software, and informed by their daily interaction with Fortune 500 clients’ research requests, collaborated with a strategic Web developer in a multiyear effort to develop LuminArc®, a cloud-based system compatible with advanced Web 2.0 standards for interconnectivity and interactivity.
LuminArc® is a complete Digital Heritage Management solution that encompasses the entire life cycle of the Archives Lab’s use-driven approach to archives It facilitates the discovery, conservation, cataloging, digitization, storage and systematic updating of an organization’s historical resources. Since the rollout of the first version in 2007, LuminArc® has become an integral part of our client’s information and communications systems, responsible for the administration of valuable resources used for strategic planning, advertising, public relations, development and litigation support.
The Archives Lab operates at the intersection of the analog and digital worlds. With a foundation built on several generations of hardware and software for scanning and digitizing physical records, we apply our deep expertise to the myriad opportunities and complex challenges of preserving, protecting and accessing electronic records. As early adapters of digitally archiving client websites in the mid-1990s, we recognized that archives weren’t just about history anymore.
In addition to the sea of digital assets that our clients create 24/7, today’s digital archives must take into account Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a wider world of social media. Over the past 30 years, the Archives Lab has scanned and digitized materials in all formats and conditions, in locations around the globe. When necessary, we work with specialized partners to ensure that projects meet the highest standards for safety, cost efficiency and quality.