Designing the Archives in the 21st Century

To “design” an archive, implies something proactive, done with intent, from beginning to end. To have this kind of agency in their work, archivists need to be in-tune with an always-changing archival landscape. In designing our archives, which are increasingly digital, we have to be innovative and flexible, but we also have to understand what digital competencies are required of us and how best to develop them.

One way to hone our digital skills is through continued education and professional development. As our archives become more digital and accessible, our learning opportunities should follow suit.

In May, the ICA launched its first online course, “Introduction to Records Management”, through its Online Learning Platform.  This is the beginning of a strong online learning program, but we will continue to offer a range of training through different delivery methods, including face-to-face courses. 

We want to make these learning opportunities accessible to as many archival professionals as possible. The ICA wants to promote best practices and help build strong capacity in those archival professionals who are preparing themselves for these future challenges

As experts in your field, or “archival designers”, your professional network is another valuable resource throughout your career. Outside of formal training, we can exchange information at any given time with colleagues around the world. The ICA’s Programme Commission (PCOM) helps to enable and facilitate connections between archival experts.  Becoming more innovative, flexible and adaptable is made much easier when we invite advice and foster collaboration.

I think that successfully designing archives in the 21st century presents a slight a paradox: On the one hand, it calls for some level of planning and control while, at the same time, we have to stay nimble and be ready for rapid change. I know we are up for the challenge!

By Normand Charbonneau, ICA International Council on Archives – Vice-President programme, ADM Operations Chief at the Library and Archives Canada