This pilot project documents the way in which Netwerk set up a coordinating folder structure corresponding to the classification of the physical archive.
This project was implemented with the help of the Aalst Municipal Archives.
- Presentation of digital document management: January 2014
- Adaptation of the folder structure: February-May 2014
- Organisation of Trash Day: April-June 2014
Since 2005, the Netwerk centre for contemporary art has been a single discipline arts centre that began life in the 1980s as a socio-cultural centre. Everyone in the arts centre attaches enormous importance to the preservation of the history and heritage of the organisation and is committed to helping in the process. The archive is also used in everyday practice; old files are regularly consulted when organising exhibitions. The physical archive up to 2005 has already been transferred to the Aalst Municipal Archives. This solid collaboration facilitated the following step: working together on the digital archive in order to facilitate the next transfer. A better structure should ensure that the Netwerk staff will be able to find files more quickly and the digital archive will be better preserved.
The first objective was to create a common folder structure in which all staff could put their files. There was also a request for a manual to explain how to deal with digital files.
- To design a folder structure based on the classification of the physical archive
- To acquire knowledge on the sustainable management of files
- To bring all documents together in the new folder structure
1. Presentation of digital archive
In January 2014 the Netwerk staff attended a presentation given by Lieve Arnouts, Aalst’s municipal archivist, on how to manage digital files. The following issues were covered:
- Basic principles, points for attention and the benefits of a common folder structure
- Good and clear names for folders and files
- Reading rights: taking the Privacy law into account
- Classifying e-mails
2. Creation of the folder structure
Netwerk already has a collective folder structure, but it was not logically constructed and consisted of people and subject folders. Everyone worked in their own folders according to their own system. This meant that the staff were not aware of documents that other people created and stored. As a consequence many files were stored in duplicate and information could not be found. In addition, Netwerk recognised the need to base the new folder structure on the classification of the paper archive. The structure also corresponds to the steps in the policy plan. This facilitates the transfer from the digital archive to the Aalst Municipal Archives and also enables outsiders to find what they need in the archive.
Several meetings were held within the organisation about the creation of the new structure. This enabled the staff to make agreements and come to a consensus. It was important for every document to have a logical place and for the structure to be user-friendly and comprehensible. This will ensure that the new classification is used.
3. Organisation of a trash day
On the digital clear-out day or trash day, all the documents are brought together in the new folder structure.
- A member of staff was allocated as a contact point and as the person responsible for the digital archive and the trash day.
- A date was agreed well in advance. All staff were able to put the date in their diary and make themselves available on that day to concentrate exclusively on the trash day.
- The new folder structure was optimised.
- A list was made in Excel to include all folders from the older server structure. The Netwerk staff put their name on the folders in which they had been working. On the trash day they will in the first instance take responsibility for these folders.
- The archive manager created an action plan for the trash day. This consisted of clear objectives with concrete guidelines about what had to be achieved. That way, everyone knew what was expected of them. You can consult the action plan here (only in Dutch).
- Netwerk decided to put all files from 2012 onwards in the new server structure. The older files would be dealt with at a later date and then transferred to the Aalst Municipal Archives. All staff were able to prepare for this moment by prefixing the file and folder names from before 2012 with the word ‘OLD’. Those folders and files could then be ignored on the trash day.
- Agreements on the new server structure were established.
- On the day before the Trash Day, a back-up was made using Time Machine (Apple). If any files were accidentally deleted on the trash day, they could be restored from the back-up.
3.2. Trash day
As a result of switching to a server system and problems encountered with access rights, the server crashed and the trash day had to be re-scheduled. This meant everyone had plenty of time for the necessary preparations.
The day started with a briefing at 10 a.m. The action plan was run through again and there was time for questions so that everyone knew what to do. Snacks were provided and a time was agreed upon for lunch. Any questions and frustrations could then be shared. This ensured a positive atmosphere.
The priority was to move the folders to the new server structure. Naming, reading rights and filing of e-mails would be done another time. No files were deleted. Files that were no longer needed (e.g. old versions, draft versions, superfluous copies etc.) were allowed to remain in the old server structure, to be checked and deleted at a later date. Empty folders could be deleted. Everyone was encouraged to begin with the folders that they had marked as their own in the Excel list. Once all these folders were moved, documents situated outside the server (e.g. on the desktop or on an external carrier) could also be transferred to the new server structure. When somebody had finished with a folder (i.e. all files from 2012 onwards had been transferred to the new structure), the folder was marked with a red.
At 4 pm activities were halted and everyone came together to discuss the day. The state of progress was reviewed, problems and issues identified were debated and everyone who had not yet finished planned a time to carry out the remaining work. From this moment on, all work was to be done using the new structure. To end the day on a positive note, everyone went for a drink.
Once the new structure has been in use for a while, it will be evaluated. In the meantime everyone makes a note of any problems they encounter. On the evaluation day, a solution can be found for these problems by, for example, adapting the folder structure.
Were the desired results obtained?
- As a result of the presentation on digital document management and the joint discussion about the new folder structure, everyone was made aware of how to manage the digital files. To this end, concrete guidelines were established in writing.
- Netwerk has a new, logically built folder structure that is adapted to the organisation’s activities and working methods. The documents concerning the business and artistic activities are combined in a user-friendly manner. By basing the structure on the classification of the physical archive, information is easier to find.
- The new structure immediately demonstrated its usefulness. By bringing together the documents in a logical structure, Netwerk realised that there were many duplicates on the old server. These could immediately be deleted. Lost documents were found and are now located in the new server structure.
- While creating the structure it was established that certain things had not been recorded. For example, there were no reports of the artistic meetings. Nevertheless, for the communication and public relations staff it is useful to know what is going to happen in the future. From now on, reports of these meetings will be drafted. There was also the question of what happened to information about activities that didn’t go ahead due to circumstances. By storing everything in the new structure, Netwerk should end up with a more complete archive.
- At the end of the trash day, most files from 2012 onwards had been transferred to the new structure. Members of the artistic team are planning in the near future to transfer documents from before 2012 into the new structure. Whenever files are transferred to the new folder structure, all staff will be informed.
Conclusions and points for attention
- At the beginning of the trash day, the staff had many questions. That’s why it’s important to have a contact person. That person will be there to answer the questions and will not be involved with the trash activities. After a while, everyone knows how it works.
- At Netwerk various staff work on the same project. That makes it essential to establish sensible agreements with each other about moving documents.
- There were documents that had no immediately obvious place in the new structure. It was therefore necessary to make minor adjustments to the structure.
- A back-up is essential. Some documents and files were accidentally deleted and had to be traced in the back-up system.
- For some staff the trash day was a relaxing experience. It’s nice to focus on one thing for a whole day.
- Due to computer and server problems the trash day was frustrating for some personnel. Nevertheless, Netwerk was well aware of the strain that the server would take during this day, and didn’t think it should cause any problems. By working together on the server and moving documents, the server can come under pressure.