The cardinal directions. Suits in a deck of cards. ABBA. Without all four individual elements, these quartets would be incomplete. The same goes for your company’s archives program: If it doesn’t have all four P’s (people, process, platform and place), it’s not truly an archives program—just an off-brand imitation.
What people, process, platform and place are to an archives system are what John, Paul, George and Ringo were to the Beatles. They’re what allow you to dive deep into your treasure trove of materials to find gems of yesterday you can leverage for today. They’re an interactive, interdependent system that, combined, set you up for archives system success.
For any archives program worth its salt, you need this supergroup from the very start. But before we get to the four P’s, perhaps we should take a moment to define what a corporate archives program looks like.
According to a recent survey conducted by researchers Green Target of 150+ archivists, archives users, and budget and technology decision makers from companies of various sizes, 61 percent of those surveyed believed they had a corporate archives program, while 25 percent believed they had one in development. Yet there was no clear consensus as to what a defined program looked like. At History Factory, we view an archives as an important tool for any organization. An archives is made up of unique heritage assets that contain the ethos of the company and can be drawn upon for any number of business objectives. It preserves institutional memory, so that the enterprise can use the value of its past to enrich its future.
Now that we’ve got that all settled, let’s come together and see what an archives program bolstered by the alchemy of people, process, platform and place is all about.
There’s a reason we talk about people first. There’s no such thing as a successful archives system without people. Pretty obvious, right? Robots don’t do everything yet (and spoiler alert, they’ll never take over archiving).
An archives doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t just come together when your team goes through your company’s files and mementos to internally create an archives or hand them over to another entity for safekeeping. And just because you save files to Google Drive or Salesforce doesn’t mean they’re safe and secure (or even accessible in the long term).
Archiving is an art and a skill that demands the hearts, hands and minds of professionals who specialize most commonly in library science and/or history. If you value preserving your company’s heritage (and of course you do), you wouldn’t want your materials handled any other way.
Ideally, you want an archivist armed with a certified archivist credential from the Academy of Certified Archivists to collect and protect your valued historical materials. But while you should always entrust your materials to a professional’s care, certified archivists aren’t the only ones who can make a successful archives system.
To get the most out of an archives system, you need a researcher who knows how to find the gems in your materials. Then you need someone to tell those stories. Otherwise, you’re not using what you’ve invested so much time, energy and money in preserving.
History Factory not only has a stacked staff of credentialed archivists especially interested in business history, but we’ve also got creative directors, curators, filmmakers, researchers, copywriters, editors, designers, production specialists, technologists, digital imaging specialists and account managers to boot. So if you don’t have all these pros under one roof, start assembling your A-team now; you’ll need the people power.
An archival program is an ongoing investment. Since it’ll be a lifelong program for your company, it’s going to need a lifelong warm place in your budget’s heart.
All of which is to say you need the right processes in place to decide what to keep and how to keep it (yes, you have options!). Without a sound plan, you risk compromising the quality of your assets over time, as well as storing items that aren’t worth keeping.
Here’s how to avoid wasting your resources:
1. Create a policy. Focus on the formulation and application of policy that aligns with your business objectives and your organization’s goals and priorities. This will safeguard your collection and its ability to contain everything you need and nothing more.
2. Establish what to do with your assets. Once you’ve started building your collection, you don’t want your saved assets to just sit there. Your need to prove your archives is relevant, vital and necessary as part of your organization’s larger communications arm. Initiate a process regarding how to promote and actively connect the content of your archives to practical applications. Once you get your archives up and running, you’ll find that it’s an integral part of your larger communication system.
3. Don’t forget to digitize. Your company has many more artifacts than pieces of paper—and you want to be able to access those artifacts with the click of a mouse. That’s why you need to incorporate digitization into your archives process. You should be able to scan an asset once and then repurpose it many times for broad use across a range of platforms. That means hiring a professional with the right equipment and digitization know-how, because no one has time to squint at a pixelated JPEG and wonder what they’re looking at. What’s cool is that History Factory has one of the best digitization companies, Pixel Acuity a division of Digital Transitions, working literally alongside us in our building.
4. Be judicious. Yes, the cloud is where you’ll access most of your archives material. But that doesn’t mean that material is floating around in the ether, not taking up any physical space. Whether your archives materials are analog or digital, you want to be judicious about what you save and how you save it. And make sure you protect your materials from the digital black hole!
Because every company has different goals and objectives, there’s no one-size-fits-all process. But rest assured that if you work with History Factory, we’ll guide you to the right process—one that’s economical, pragmatic and easy to use and understand. That’s the best kind, right?
If you’ve never had the right platform for accessing your archives, you don’t know what you’re missing. But here’s what you should have at your disposal: a system that is built on advanced, secure frameworks and technologies that leverage the best of what cloud infrastructure has to offer.
OK, we know. That sounds like a lot, but hear us out.
You need to be able to access your material at any given moment. Not only that: You need to be able to find it autonomously if you want, but with the help of a professional if you need it. You need to be able to directly search and retrieve your content and reuse it in the most efficient ways possible.
This means being able to access analog and digital materials all in one place. Practically speaking, that’s the combination of powers from an AMS (archives management system) and DAM (digital asset management) system.
This kind of technology is one-of-a-kind and in the final stages of development. And, spoiler alert, History Factory will debut it later this spring. (We can’t wait!)
No flash photography! No food or drink! No touching!
If you’ve been to a museum, you’ve seen the warning signs. They aren’t there to be rude; they’re there to protect the artifacts. Unfortunately, most items preserved in an archives are delicate in nature—and we’re not talking only about old materials but modern ones, too. To keep your company’s materials safeguarded from elements such as climate or light exposure, you need the right infrastructure.
Sure, you need the square footage, the storage and maybe even step stools to be able to reach the top shelves. But what’s really key to maintaining your archives is being able to control the climate, lighting and other elements that can wreak havoc on your collections if they go unchecked.
Simply put: Without the right archives-friendly environment, you’re taking a gamble on the management and preservation of your cultural heritage assets. The better option? Trust it all to a facility built and designed for archives—like ours.
You may not be new to archiving. You might have read this whole article and already known every detail. (Hey, History Factory superfan!) But did you know that even if you have one iteration of these pillars already in place, we can step in and help you develop others?
From consulting on your acquisition policy to strategizing your on-site archival operations, what we care about is making sure the assets your company cares about most are being preserved the right way and ready to use in whatever manner you choose.
We’ll empower you to become experts in your own organizational history and set your teams up for many countless years of archives diving.
The four P’s are the dream team, the supergroup, the IT factor that takes any iteration of an archives and transforms it into something relevant and revelatory—a sustainable, scalable collection that wows and wins for, well, ever.
But it takes you to use that dream team. And when it comes to your company’s history and heritage, why settle for anything less?