Interview With Mark Myers on the Texas Digital Archive

ATF104, 2002, Photographs, Texas Governor Rick Perry Press Office Files for First Lady Anita Perry. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. E2015/117.

Devices used by Governor Rick Perry to create electronic records [1]

This is the first in a two-part series exploring the Texas Digital Archive (TDA) with Electronic Records Specialist Mark Myers of the Archives and Information Services (ARIS) division at TSLAC. Mark is responsible for ingesting electronic records into the TDA.

It’s interesting to ponder that just a few years ago TSLAC had no way of receiving and preserving the permanently valuable electronic records of state agencies and legislators. But in January 2015, the records of Governor Rick Perry’s administration were received by TSLAC. Among that accession were roughly 7 terabytes of data that needed a place to live. This unprecedented transfer of electronic records provided the catalyst for developing a repository for the long-term preservation of and access to the historic digital records of the Texas State Government. Thus was born the Texas Digital Archive. For more background on the creation of the Texas Digital Archive, see our previous blog post.

With the Governor Perry transfer complete, the TDA has been busy taking on more collections. I wanted to sit down with Mark and explore his ongoing projects and discuss ways that Texas state agencies and the TDA can assist each other in making more electronic records available.

At last year’s E-Records Conference, you unveiled the “TSLAC Wants Your Electronic Records (PDF)” campaign. Can you give us an update?

Mark Myers: TSLAC still wants your electronic records!  We have gotten a few small transfers from several agencies. We are still looking for larger transfers of electronic records and have been seeking out individual agencies to work with. If you are interested in transferring electronic records to the archives please contact me at mmyers@tsl.texas.gov or Laura Saegert at lsaegert@tsl.texas.gov. To date our biggest transfers have come from the Texas Historical Commission with the historic marker files and the architecture division files. We have also received records from several retiring legislators that are still being processed.

Since the Governor Perry transfer we are continuing to develop our infrastructure and processes for taking in electronic records. We have a set of transfer guidelines available for agencies on the Transferring Electronic Records page on the website. We have been acquiring the necessary equipment to deal with a variety of media from hard drives to legacy media (i.e. old media like floppy disks) that are still out there.

Which records is the Texas Digital Archive interested in?

Longview Train Depot 1940 [2]

MM: The Texas Digital Archive (TDA) is for electronic records of Texas state agencies that have been scheduled as “A” (archival) or as “R” (archival review). Basically, the same records that many agencies have been transferring in paper, but now exist in electronic format. If the records have an “A” designation they can be transferred to us directly. If they are “R” then an archivist needs to review and appraise the records prior to transfer.  Generally, agencies transfer “A” and “R” records when the administrative need ceases and the records are no longer actively used. State agencies can contact an archivist for review or contact Laura Saegert, Assistant Director for the ARIS division of TSLAC. For more information about the types of records for transfer see the FAQ’s for State Agencies or the FAQ’s for Legislators on the TSLAC website.

Does the TDA accept records of local governments (e.g. ISDs, municipalities, county offices etc.)?

MM: Unfortunately, TSLAC doesn’t take in records from local government agencies. However, we can help local governments with advice and assistance in how to preserve their long-term electronic records.

Can you describe some of the differences between accessioning paper and electronic records?

MM: The biggest difference between paper and electronic records is with electronic records we really need agencies to contact us first, so we can talk about what you have, the volume, and the best method to transfer the records. On the Transferring Electronic Records page on the TDA site we have an Electronic Records Survey for agencies to complete that helps us start this discussion. TSLAC can take records in virtually any format, but we do need to know about highly specialized formats, especially ones that require specialized software. Another issue, since agencies generally transfer older records that are not actively in use, would be any kind of legacy file formats or media (floppy disks for example). Older formats don’t necessarily stop us from taking the records, but we may need to work with agency more.

The second installment in this series will take a look at the technical side of the TDA. 

[1] ATF104, 2002, Photographs, Texas Governor Rick Perry Press Office Files for First Lady Anita Perry. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. E2015/117.Can be accessed here: https://tsl.access.preservica.com/tda/tx-gov-perry/press-office-flap/photographs/

[2] 1940 pic of LVW DEPOT track side, 2014, Texas Historical Commission Historical Markers Files. Texas Historical Commission History Programs Division records. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Can be accessed here: https://tsl.access.preservica.com/uncategorized/collection_2974c8a1-1e71-473b-895b-bba68d5490a8/

2 thoughts on “Interview With Mark Myers on the Texas Digital Archive

  1. Does “To date our biggest transfers have come from the Texas Historical Commission with the historic marker files…” mean that we can get from TSLAC copies of narratives and application forms relating to state historical markers, or should we continue going to THC?

  2. Thank you for the question, Mr. Scott. I took a look at the Retention Schedule for the Texas Historical Commission for assistance on this one. From the remarks columns for HP23A/C – Marker Files, “These will remain in the agency until they cease to have frequent administrative and research use. Then they will be transferred to the Library and Archives Commission.” TSLAC will be in possession of the narratives and application forms that no longer have administrative value to THC. For copy inquires for those please contact the Archives and Information Services division of TSLAC at ref@tsl.texas.gov or 512-463-5455.

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