A Research Grant Funded by
The National Historical Publications and Records Commission
January 1 to December 31, 1997
Charles R. McClure J. Timothy Sprehe
Distinguished Professor President
Syracuse University Sprehe Information Management
Syracuse, NY Associates, Inc.
The purpose of this research project is to develop records management and preservation strategies for electronic information contained in state and federal agency websites. More specifically, key project activities are:
Progress to Date on
In the preliminary analysis of research issues, the investigators
have asked whether materials appearing on state and federal agency
websites constitute official records. Although initially agencies
seem to have posted only "copies" of materials published
elsewhere in other forms, the evolving uses of the Internet suggest
that more original materials are appearing that would qualify
Some regulatory agencies are now accepting public comments on rule makings electronically and posting the comments on their websites; these seem to be records unlikely to exist elsewhere in the agency in other forms. These kinds of events are prompting some agencies to establish clear linkages between their websites and agency record keeping systems. Other agencies are arriving at the conclusion they must keep an historical log of website
postings for purposes of future accountability. Overall there
is considerable confusion as to appropriate records management
procedures for official records on state and federal websites.
The investigators have completed an empirical investigation
of state records management of websites. First, a study team at
Syracuse University focused on locating information from state
websites, state employees, and listservs related to records management.
They searched all 50 states' websites, looking for guidelines
for managing electronic records and policies and guidelines concerning
the state's website management; they also searched for information
about electronic records management policies. Second, the study
team subscribed to 7 listservs pertinent to records management,
monitored the listserv discussions for relevant topics, and initiated
questions to provoke responses on the question of records management
for websites. Third, the team conducted an electronic mail survey
and a telephone survey to key employees in all fifty states, asking
whether they had--or were in the process of creating-- guidelines
for records management on websites.
The results of these three methodologies revealed quite limited
action being taken by states regarding website and electronic
records management. Fourteen states appeared to offer enough information
to justify additional followup. They are: Connecticut, Delaware,
Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North
Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee
The summary report on state agency electronic recordkeeping
and website activity can be found at the Syracuse
University project site. The researchers welcome comments
and corrections on the report.
In June, McClure and Sprehe conducted site visits to state
agencies in Connecticut, New York, and Virginia. Additional data
collection activities are in progress. Site visits to federal
agencies are planned for August and September, 1997.
*Chuck McClure is no longer at Syracuse University. His number at Florida State University, School of Information Studies is 850-644-8109. RB