Today, the Library of Virginia made the first batch of email from Governor Timothy M. Kaine’s administration (2006-2010) available online. The initial release consists of 66,422 of the approximately 1.3 million emails the Kaine administration transferred to the Library four years ago. It has taken a small but dedicated staff of Library archivists and IT professionals nearly three years to bring this project to fruition. Access to the collection, information on related content and the nuts and bolts of processing this collection are available at http://www.virginiamemory.com/collections/kaine/.
“We are proud to be the first state government archives in the United States to make the emails of a previous administration freely available to the public online,” said Librarian of Virginia Sandra G. Treadway. The Library can’t take all the credit. We could not have achieved this distinction without the assistance of the Kaine administration records officers. Records don’t magically appear at the Library at the end of a gubernatorial administration. During those four years, the Library partners with the Office of the Governor to ensure that the official state records that document the activities of a governor’s administration are preserved and transferred to the Library. The work of the Kaine records officers make today’s email release possible.
At the beginning of the Kaine administration in 2006, Virginia State Archivist Conley Edwards (now retired), did a presentation to the cabinet, providing a high-level overview of the administration’s records management/archival responsibilities. Next, per the Virginia Public Records Act, each office designated at least one records officer to serve as liaison to the Library of Virginia. Each records officer was responsible for developing a records management program for their office or secretariat, providing necessary training to other staff members, developing and/or updating their records retention schedule, and coordinating the transfer of their archival records to the Library at the end of the administration. While this may sound simple, it can be very time consuming. Managing one’s own email is challenging enough – let alone training your entire office. Keep in mind that records management responsibilities fall under “other duties as assigned.” The Kaine records officers didn’t complain (at least not to the Library) and handled the extra work with a sense of humor. A December 2009 email between a records officer and another staff member is a great example: “….I’m putting together the Official-Clemency Records Archival Process or O-CRAP for short and was wondering if there were any other files or boxes around or that has [sic] already gone to the Archives?”
Two staff members coordinated the archival project for the entire Kaine administration: Margaret Hughson, Assistant to Chief of Staff William H. Leighty (2006-2007) and Amber Amato, Director of Constituent Services (2007-2010). Margaret and Amber arranged quarterly meetings (or as needed) between the Kaine records officers and Library staff, drafted administration policies for electronic records, and coordinated the transfer of the records to the Library in January 2010. Amber embraced her “other duties as assigned” with a vengeance. Her passion for preserving the Kaine records and attention to detail ensured that the Kaine administration is well documented in the archives.
The work of the Kaine records officers didn’t happen in a vacuum. Governor Kaine supported their efforts too – he even archived his own email.
-Roger Christman, Senior State Records Archivist