Truth, justice, accountability are fundamental to human rights but in many parts of the world, are in short supply. It has always been in the interests of authoritarian regimes to distort truth, pervert justice and avoid accountability. Worryingly, it is becoming more mainstream in western societies for governments and big corporations to play fast and loose with ‘evidence’ and data, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish between truth and lies. ‘Alternative facts’, fake news, deep fake technology, and the rise of the alt-right scandal make us question evidence. What should we believe? Who can we trust?
The role, therefore, of archivists and records managers in particular, in safeguarding authenticity and safekeeping personal and corporate information is more important than ever. Democracy is underpinned by the management and storage of evidence based on principles of best practice not political advantage or priorities. Effective records management is not just fundamental to a healthy society; it ensures that organisations, in both the public and private sector, are efficient and effective. Also, the recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica illicit data-harvesting scandal exposed the vulnerability and commerciality of data in the wrong hands.
By processing data, physical and digital, ensuring legislative compliance, preserving corporate memory, enabling access to information and helping organisations to meet administrative, financial and legal requirements, records managers support strategic objectives and business outcomes. What would the world look like without records managers?
The planned Scottish Council on Archives conference, Why Records Management Matters, in the spring of 2020, will offer an opportunity for other professionals to learn more about the sector’s importance and impact. We hope that the event, along with the two earlier Why Archives Matter conferences, will help more people understand how essential it is for organisations to support and invest in their records-keeping and management functions.
John Pelan, Director, Scottish Council on Archives