The “middle archive” exploring the practical and theoretical implications of a new concept in Sweden

Publication Date20 July 2015
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/RMJ-12-2014-0047
Date20 July 2015
Pages149-165
AuthorAnn-Sofie Klareld
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Information management & governance
The “middle archive” exploring
the practical and theoretical
implications of a new concept
in Sweden
Ann-Soe Klareld
Department of Archives and Computer Science, Mid Sweden University,
Härnösand, Sweden
Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to study how the concept “middle archive” is related to the
Swedish archival theory and practice, by exploring its background and its practical and theoretical
implications. The overarching aim is to increase the understanding of the interrelations between the
archival theory and practice, with a special focus on changes occurring in the digital environment in
Sweden.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on a qualitative study of texts produced
between 2010 and 2013, which were read and analyzed iteratively. The research design and analysis is
inspired by Dryden (2014) who recommends taking the context into account. The three types of digital
repository developed by Millar (2010) are used as a comparison to further extend the understanding of
the concept of the “middle archive”.
Findings – The ndings indicate that the “middle archive” was introduced as a solution to practical
problems of managing digital records, and that there is a need to further discuss how the term relates to
existing theoretical, legal and administrative contexts.
Research limitations/implications The study is limited to contemporary Sweden. The
researcher did not follow the discussions and drafts which contributed to the development of the nal
denitions of the “middle archive”.
Originality/value – The study contributes to the research and development of archival concepts,
with a special focus on recent developments in Sweden. The paper highlights some of the challenges
relating to archives and records in the context of e- government development.
Keywords Sweden, Recordkeeping, Digital archives, Archival terminology, E-Archives,
Middle archive
Paper type Research paper
Introduction
In Sweden, the rules and regulations on records and archives are format-independent,
yet previous research indicates that practices have changed signicantly during the
period of e-government development (Kallberg, 2013;Svärd, 2011). The National
Funding and collaborative partners are crucial to promote purposeful research. The author would
like to thank the County Administrative Board in Västernorrland and Härnösand Municipality for
funding the Good Information Governance project (GoInfo) together with Mid Sweden University.
The author is also grateful to the Regulatory Network Västernorrland and the National Archives
of Sweden for participating in, and contributing to, the project.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/0956-5698.htm
New concept
in Sweden
149
Received 21 December 2014
Revised 21 December 2014
Accepted 9 January 2015
RecordsManagement Journal
Vol.25 No. 2, 2015
pp.149-165
©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0956-5698
DOI 10.1108/RMJ-12-2014-0047
Archives have concluded that a vast majority of state public agencies lack a strategy for
management and preservation of digital records (Riksarkivet, 2010b). This can prevent
citizens from accessing ofcial information. Incongruent information systems
complicate the re-use of information, risking the limitation of “[…] the function of the
archives as an integral part of the information resources […]” (Svärd, 2011, p. 113). To
address these challenges, the Swedish government has given a newly created agency,
the State Service Centre (SSC), in cooperation with the National Archives, the task
to create, a national common e-archive service for public agencies [Sweden
(Näringsdepartementet), 2014]. A pre-study report written prior to the decision had
concluded that substantial cost savings could be made through this arrangement
(Aspenfjäll, 2013). This type of e-archive is currently often called a “middle archive”.
The challenges of the digital era are not unique to Sweden. Public agencies all over
the world are increasingly shifting from paper-based to digital procedures. As a
consequence, scholars and practitioners are re-evaluating traditional recommendations
about creating, managing, preserving and providing access to records. If the benets of
e-governance are to be realized to their full potential, it is necessary to simultaneously
revise legal, administrative and theoretical frameworks. The archival community might
need to rethink some of their fundamental “truths”, which have been derived from
traditional procedures. This affects theory as well as practice. David Bearman has
argued that “[…] archivists have elevated pragmatic responses to the nature of physical
things to the level of ideology” (Bearman, 1996, p. 197). The ndings of this study
indicate that practices developed in the “paper world” have inuenced the denitions of
the concept of the (digital) “middle archive” in Sweden.
The paper takes a closer look at how the concept “middle archive” is related to the
Swedish archival theory and practice, by exploring the background to the concept and
its practical and theoretical implications. The overarching aim is to increase the
understanding of the interrelations between the archival theory and practice, with a
special focus on changes occurring in the digital environment in Sweden.
The concept of the “middle archive” was chosen because it is closely connected with
the challenges of information governance in the digital environment, which is currently
under discussion in Swedish public agencies. Three denitions of the concept are
explored, to understand how it has emerged and developed, how it relates to theory and
practice and how the concept is related to existing legal and administrative frameworks.
The concept is also compared to the three types of digital repository discussed by Millar,
and her list of requirements that a digital repository should meet (Millar, 2010).
Background
The Swedish holistic view of archives differs from that of most other countries in that it
requires proactive information governance for ofcial records. Sweden also has a
far-reaching freedom of information legislation (Sweden, 1949, p. 105, SFS). To make the
paper more accessible to an international audience, the legal/theoretical and the
administrative/practical background are explained here in relation to the concept of
the “middle archive”.
Since 1766, the Swedish constitution gives citizens free access to public records. The
general rule is that all records are ofcial from the point of creation, or receipt. The
constitution is further supported by the Archives Act, which declares that public
agencies’ archives are part of the national cultural heritage. Both “archive” and “ofcial
RMJ
25,2
150

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