Working within the context of a range of metadata related initiatives in Australia and elsewhere, the Recordkeeping Metadata Project aims to comprehensively specify and codify recordkeeping metadata in ways that enable it to be fully understood and deployed both within and beyond the records and archives profession.
The conceptual basis for the Recordkeeping Metadata Project is located in Records Continuum thinking and practice as it has evolved in Australia over the last half century. One of the keys to understanding the Project's approach to what metadata needs to be captured, persistently linked to documentation of social and business activity, and managed through time and space, lies in the continuum view of records. In continuum thinking, records are seen not as passive objects to be described retrospectively, but as agents of action, active participants in business processes and technologies.
Much of the initial thinking about documents on the Internet involved a translation of the paper paradigm. Paper minds see records and other information objects as passive things to be acted upon, rather than as active participants in business processes. In the networked environment and the newly emerging information paradigms, the document-like information object (DIO) can itself become the agent of action. A simplistic, passive notion of DIOs, which sees them as existing only to provide and disseminate information, will not further the requirements of organisations, government and individuals for information objects which can act as the transactors of business. The recordkeeping perspective links the dynamic world of business activity to the passive world of information resource.
Another key to the approach being taken in the Project is found in the way description is conceptualised in continuum thinking. Description in the continuum encompasses recordkeeping processes that capture and inextricably link authoritative metadata to documents created in the context of social and business activity from the time of their creation and throughout their life span. Description-related processes begin at or before records creation and continue throughout the life span of the records. Their primary aim is to provide the intellectual controls that enable reliable, authentic, meaningful and accessible records to be carried forward through time within and beyond organisational boundaries for as long as they are needed for the multiple purposes they serve.
A fundamental premise of the Project is that it is possible to identify, categorise, label, and present in a formal, standardised way the metadata that supports recordkeeping through time and space - regardless of where, when or how that metadata is captured.
The immediate genesis of the Project lies in the increasing opportunities for information accessibility and the transaction of business electronically in networked environments and a dawning recognition of the recordkeeping risks associated with 'getting Australia on line.'
The broader social context of the Project is the need to enable society, government, commerce and individuals to continually access the information they need to conduct their business, protect their rights and entitlements, and securely trace the trail of responsibility and action in distributed enterprises, i.e. in enterprises operating in networked environments in local and global domains. Maintaining reliable, authentic, and useable evidence of transactions through time and space has significant business, social, and cultural implications as records provide essential evidence for governance, accountability, memory, and identity purposes. They support democratic rights of review and the transmission of our cultural heritage.
A further very significant factor in shaping the Project was the recognition that to manage records effectively in distributed networks it is essential to develop recordkeeping metadata regimes that are compatible with the metadata development framework initiatives in the broader metadata community. Among other things, this will ensure that records, including those of continuing value, can be accessed with an array of other types of information resources through common user interfaces. This approach also acknowledges that records can provide a rich source of enterprise information and promotes their exploitation and reuse for reasons unrelated to the business or social activity they document.