ICA New Professionals newsletter no 9 - September 2017
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Welcome to the September edition of the ICA New Professionals Newsletter all about archives and records management in Latin America.

In preparation for the ICA-ALA Annual Conference in Mexico in November, this month's Newsletter is dedicated to archives and records management in Latin America. In this edition, a group of Latin American new professionals share their experiences in a wide range of archival initiatives and tell us about their work to contribute to their workplace and the communities to which they relate.

Highlights include: How a young student becomes a professional archivist inspired by her work on Human Rights Archives; the challenges of working with archival documents within a Library; and the advice of a new professional to successfully implement an Electronic Document Management System within an institution.

Scroll down or click below to read about:

Spanish version of this newsletter is also available!
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Past editions of the newsletter are available to view on the ICA website and online.

Archives for Memory, History and Rights: Experience of an Argentinean New Professional  

My first experience learning about archival theory was in 2008. I was studying History at the University of Buenos Aires where I attended the Workshop "Archives and Research", given by Professors Mariana Nazar and Andrés Pak Linares. They were advisors of the Intermediate Archive Department of the General Archive of the Nation (AGN-DAI).  At the time, I didn´t completely understand the archival theory, but I remember the passion and contagious enthusiasm about Archives they exuded.

In 2012, a declassification commission was created to review documentation pertaining to the Malvinas War (1982).  I was asked to be part of the team involved with studying and analysing the records pertaining to this suject that was held at the Armed Forces Archives.  The analysis was problematic as the arrangement and description of the records was poor and access was difficult. These problems were exactly what Nazar and Pak Linares had warned me about in the workshop.

In the years since my initial participation, the teachers' workshop had transformed into a Research Seminar, and I enrolled in it. There I was able to understand the specificity of the Archive and its triple social function: as the memory of an institution, as a possible source for history, and especially as a guarantee for the exercise of rights. I discovered the archival discipline and found my vocation! I wanted to be an archivist!

I soon became aware of the troubled situation of the archives in Argentina. I could now appreciate the seriousness of not possessing a national system of archives; of not recognizing the link between archives and the organic structures of institutions; of treating archives as deposits of "old papers" rather than as a service to the citizenship; of considering work in the archives as a “place of punishment” for problematic employees rather than as a profession requiring specialized training. 

This situation was intensified at the beginning of the new millennium, when a series of policies, within the so-called transitional justice framework were activated to judge the serious human rights violations that occurred during the last military dictatorship (1976-1983) in Argentina. Here the archives acquired greater weight and a transverse place for their testimonial and symbolic value.
Digital Preservation Flow Chart
 Eugenia Alves giving a lecture on archival theory at the premises of the Argentinean Army Archives,  (July 2017, Buenos Aires, Argentina) 
In the context of searching for documents that could serve as a contribution to the prosecution of crimes against humanity, the Ministry of Defense detected in the archives of the armed forces great practical and legal restrictions on their access. To address this problem, the Archives Modernization Program of the Archives System of the Defense Area was opened in September 2012, with funding from UNDP Project ARG 12/011. With my previous experience with declassification, I joined this program as part of the archivists’ advisory team. Thus began my difficult but rewarding path as a new professional.

At first, I made many mistakes, but I also learned a great deal. We were asked for quick results, without planning, we often lost sight of the integral and long-term view. The relationship with the civilian and military staff of the Archives of the Armed Forces was not easy, especially given that the team consisted initially only of young women (aged 25-30) with little experience, who had to navigate a largely masculine environment, characterized  by military discipline and respect for the hierarchies of rank and age.
However, thanks to our commitment, constancy and dedication, we built a place of respect and authority. Even within the archives themselves, women began to take positions of greater responsibility.
Digital Preservation Flow Chart
Advisory group of the Defense Archives System  (Bottom row L-R: Eugenia Alves, Federico Amarilla, M. Paula Milano. Top row L-R: Marina Mattina, Marina Cesareo, Nahuel Jalil, Victor Pignatiello, Leonardo Orellana, Alan Rüst, Franco Vidili).  International Archives Day 2017,  Archivo General de la Nación 
Our greatest achievement so far is that the archives and their staff are more valued and more people are aware of the specificity and importance of the archive. Another great achievement is the website "Archivos Abiertos” that serves as a channel for the dissemination of all this work. The site is currently being restructured and we included it as part of the third National Open Government Action Plan 2017-2019 in Argentina.

I do not do this alone. Mariana Nazar, Andrés Pak Linares and Elisabet Cipolleta are my mentors. Following their example, my fellow new professionals and I strive to professionalize and spread the importance of work in the Archives. Thus, I studied 3 years to be technical in Archives. I joined the ICA. I was selected in 2016 by the IBEREX Program in Spain and this year by the ICA New Professionals Program. As a result, , I will be able to participate in the ICA Conference in Mexico and I will have the opportunity to show who we are and what Argentinians archivists do for Memory, History and Rights.

Written by Eugenia Alves, Argentina
Instructor in Archives and Records Management History and Techniques, Advisor of the Defense Archives System (Ministry of Defense)  and ICA New Professional 2017

Follow Eugenia on Twitter
 or find her on LinkedIn
Are you ready?
Information about the ALA-ICA 2017 Conference
"Archives, Citizenship and Interculturalism"

The ALA-ICA Annual Conference is fast approachingr, and work continues to make this a great event for the archival community.

Here are some links with all the information that you need to participate in the Conference between 27 and 29 November in Mexico City:

Conference registration site
Day-to-day program and Workshops Program
Conference Venue

Don't forget to check the website of the ICA or ALA to keep up-to-date with all of the news about the Conference!

Citizenship Training and Archives: Educating from Documentary fonds

My name is Leonardo Cisternas Zamora and I majored in History at the University of Chile with a specialization in the teaching of History, Geography, and Social Sciences at the Catholic University of Chile. Currently, I am teacher at the Instituto Nacional of Chile and a researcher on the project “Digital Archive of the Memoirs of Afro-descendants”.

I have led archival projects involving the description, care, and promotion of community archives. Between 2013 and 2016, I worked as Research and Extension Coordinator for the Archive of the University of Chile’s Students Federation (AFECH); implemented, among other things, a didactic model of archives based on the fonds of the University Cultural Association (ACU) which carried out cultural and political activities during the Military Dictatorship, (, by its name in Spanish)

In 2014 we started a collaborative project with former members of ACU to provide access to the ACU’s collection. This ended with the donation of the ACU’s fonds to the FECH Archives ourselves to describing, preserving, and providing access to the records generated by the organization; we would also reflect on our dissemination practices. Our guiding principle was: How to break away from the isolation of the Archives and increase its interaction with the citizens? As the Archivist Ramón Alberch Fugueras pointed out, many ignore both the function that archives perform, and their own existence. Therefore, our programming activities included both the content of the documents and the understanding of the Archives.

This year the President of the Chile announced the reintroduction of Civic Education as a subject in schools. This initiative drew from Sociologist Émile Durkheim findings that schools’ output are model citizens; and therefore, emphasis was also placed on critical thinking and research skills in History curricula.

Considering these facts, we decided to bring the Archives closer to schools. This involved guided tours, and an alignment between the materials generated by the institution and the educational needs of the schools. In light of this, my first assignment focused on  reviewing the national and international teaching experiences that used documentary sources; then on analyzing the national curriculum in order to understand the requirements of the Ministry of Education.
Participants of SIG 'Organising a Records Management Unit' training
Leonardo welcoming a group of young students to the FECH Archives
On the topic of implementing educational programs in Archives, I identified three main lines of work: i) guided visits; (ii) development of guides; and iii) research exercises based on the records. AFECH focused on research exercises within the framework of the national curriculum, which requires: i) development of critical and rigorous thinking from historical sources; and ii) historical contextualization.

In addressing either requirement, we performed an analysis of the ISAD-G standard together with Archivist Claudio Ogass, to identify the most appropriate records to use as sources, and to understand their context of creation. This was fundamental, as it enabled students to analyze the documents in a larger context, rather than in isolation.

Our pilot program of students’ visits to the Archives, used what we called a "didactic box”. The students were tasked with identifying creator, title, extent, and medium of a document. We also paid a close attention to the Content and Structure Scope and Content element of ISAD-G. At the end of this exercise, I looked for the following: i) lack of space; (ii) budget; iii) deficiencies in archival literacy; and iv) the need for the Archives to be described at the series level and to be aligned with the teaching material. At the moment the FECH Archives is developing the archival work that will allow a future work in education.
Participants of SIG 'Organising a Records Management Unit' training
Students participating in an educational activity using records of the University Cultural Association.
School Teachers Nancy Aballay, Macarena Arce, the school librarian Rosa Alvarado and I are currently developing a pilot project at the Chilean National Institute Archives. The goal is to provide students with a set of documents alongside teaching materials with an emphasis on research skills. We are undertaking the archival tasks that will allow us to carry out this pedagogical work.

I strongly believe it is necessary to strengthen the ties between the school and the archives. Not only through guided visits, but also as a complement to the pedagogical practice in schools, and as a contribution to the Archives’ need to become more visible in the community. Both archives and schools have a duty to strengthen citizenship training and a collaboration would help fulfill that goal.

Written by Leonardo Cisternas, Chile
Former Research and Outreach Coordinaor, FECH Archives

History, Geography and Social Sciences Teacher

Find Leonardo on LinkedIn
Latin American New Professionals: Poster Contest
The International Council on Archives (ICA), Association of Latin American Archivists (ALA) and the ICA New Professionals Programme (NPP) invite new professionals from Latin America to participate in the Latin American New Professionals Poster Contest, to be presented at the 2017 ALA-ICA Conference Archives, Citizenship and Interculturalism in Mexico City on November 27-29, 2017.

From those submitted during the application period, 20 posters will be chosen and displayed at the Conference. Presenters in attendance will have the opportunity to explain their posters and interact with attendees in a series of Poster Presentation Sessions.


These posters will be posted on the web sites of ALA and the ICA, the two host organizations for the conference, for a period of three months following the conference. In addition, a small cash prize will be awarded to the winners, as follows:

1st place: 125 €
2nd place: 50 €
3rd place: 25 €

Posters may be about any topic relevant to the themes of the ALA-ICA Conference Archives, Citizenship and Interculturalism. The list of conference themes is here

To learn more about the application process and requirements, we invite you to check out the ICA website, available here.

Join the contest!

The Archive in the Library: challenges of describing archival fonds in the Manuscripts Division of the Brazilian National Library

The holdings of the Manuscripts Division of the Brazilian National Library Foundation (FBN) date back to the arrival of the Portuguese royal family in 1808. Throughout the nineteenth century, the collection of the Royal Library of the Kings and the House of Infantado increased with the addition of manuscript collections and archival fonds of persons and institutions of historic relevance. It was always organized and described using library standards. Traditionally, printed catalogues were produced for the collections. During the twentieth century, the collection was arranged using the Dewey Decimal Classification System, which made no provision for the core archival concepts of original order and respect des fonds as documents were rearranged into new series by subject.

In 1954 Rodolfo Garcia, the then director of the institution, recognized the complexity of the collections and the importance of assigning different professions to processing them. Today the division has librarians, historians, archivists and other humanities professionals. A little over two years ago, new public librarians and archivists entered the FBN, a period in which Maria Fernanda Nogueira, librarian and document specialist, began working for the Manuscript Division and on the description of archival documents. At the same time, Luciane Simões Medeiros, historian and archivist, became the first archivist to be head of the Division.

Our division currently faces the challenges involved in handling archival collections within a library. Overall, our work is part of FBN's mission: to collect, identify, safeguard and provide access to Brazilian intellectual heritage, and to preserve the bibliographic and documentary memory of the country. Our activities, therefore, involve researching, identifying, describing/cataloging, preserving and disseminating collections, amounting to approximately 200,000 records dating from the eleventh century to the present day.
Participants of SIG 'Organising a Records Management Unit' training
Steel shelves, custom made in Ohio, USA, in 1902.
Since the entry of the new professional staff, the institution itself has been experimenting with approaches and rethinking its description/cataloging practices. With the implementation of a new database focused on bibliographic collections, the catalogs were unified and it became necessary to re-evaluate the work practices used until then. We created a Descriptive Representation Working Group (GTRD) which aims to study and discuss the descriptive representation in the FBN.

Parallel to the progress of the GTRD, the Manuscript Division currently maintains an internal discussion to adjust the technical processing of archival fonds in the library database. The research, the composition of classification schemas and the multilevel description are considered fundamental aspects of processing archives, observing not only standards in the Library area, but also applying the ISAD(G) standard and, more specifically, the Brazilian Standard of Description Archivística. Currently, one of our greatest challenges is the harmonisation of archival principles and norms with the description and bibliographical norms currently in use in the institution. The main challenge lies in the variances between archival description fields and MARC 21 fields and the AACR2 recommendations required for the international exchange of library data.

Our team is committed to reflect on the conceptual discussions around archives and practical applications in technical processing and to focus on the organic relationship of documents, emphasizing the importance of the creation context for information retrieval. We believe that fruitful debate between librarians, archivists and historians can enrich work in both archives and libraries, and result in a more positive experience for the researcher.

Written by:
María Fernanda Nogueira, Brazil. Librarian (left)
Luciane Simões Medeiros, Brazil.  Archivist and Historian (right)

Links: National Digital Library and Library Facebook page
November edition of the ICA NPP Newsletter: "Introducing the 2017 New Professionals"

As of November the Newsletter will be in the charge of the new group of fellows of the ICA New Professionals Program for the period 2017-2018.

In the next edition, members of this group will introduce themselves, the work they do, their interests and let you know what is coming up for the Program over the next year.

From December we will again request contributions from the great community of ICA
new professionals. Along with wishing success to the new editorial team of the Newsletter, we would like to give a big thank you to everyone who contributed articles in the past year, sharing their experiences and helping to strengthen our New Professionals community.

We are very happy with the result and we hope to continue learning from all of you!

Nicola Wood, Editor of the  ICA New Professionals Newsletter (2016-2017)
Gabriela Andaur, responsible for the Spanish edition of the Newsletter (2016-2017)

A transition: from archives user to archivist

I am an art historian, mainly devoted to teaching, researching and curating exhibitions, and I currently work in both the Department of History at the University of Santiago and in the Department of Arts Theory at the University of Chile. I am also a student of the Postgraduate Diploma in Archives, a joint program taught by the Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities at the University of Chile and the National Archives. Previously, I worked as the curator of the contemporary Chilean art collection in the Gabriela Mistral Gallery at the Consejo Nacional de la Cultura y las Artes (National Council of Culture and Arts) and then as a curator at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts).

My initial interest in archives themselves, and later in archival studies, is closely related to my work as an art historian, researcher and with my curatorial work. As a result of my background and experience, I have always considered that exhibitions are a result of an investigative process based mostly on archival research.

Since 2007 I have been a member of Conceptualismos del Sur Network, a group of researchers, artists and academics from Latin America, for whom the archive is a privileged place to develop investigative actions on the one hand and political reactivation on the other. In the context of the work carried out within the Network, I curated the exhibition Archivos en tensión (Archives in Tension. Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Santiago, 2011), a joint work with the Argentine artist Graciela Carnevale. This exhibition sought to speak about fractures and erasures in the social memory about the government of the Unidad Popular in Chile (1970-1973) by crossing the existing and missing documents of two archives, one institutional (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo) and one personal (the archive of Graciela, who had an important relationship with Chile during that period).

My appreciation for archives developed from my role as archives’ user, but for some time I felt that this was not enough. What I am most passionate about are historical documents and those linked to the visual arts.
Furthermore, I am deeply interested in being able to systematize knowledge to enable the organization of museum archives and artists’ personal archives, work that has been growing in importance in the Latin American region and which is particularly necessary in Chile.

In this sense, my experience as a student of the Diploma has allowed me to reflect on my own work and has enabled me to understand archival work as a discipline and a profession. I believe that the Diploma is structured in such a way as to allow a theoretical analysis of archives and their status, administration and specific characteristics, but it has also provided me with the practical tools and training that have made it possible to directly confront archival practice and management.

It has also allowed me to confirm that there is an enormous need for specialized training, in a country whose institutions are still unable to measure the importance of archives management or to demonstrate appreciation for the professionals in this field and the work they do. At the same time, it has allowed me to meet the professionals who lead this activity in Chile and to see the great passion and vocation that moves them.

As for my own projections, in the medium to long term, I have begun to develop several projects working with the personal archives of artists and, in the short term, I tell my students daily about my new approaches, incorporating my relationship with documents and archives, as a researcher. This, in my opinion, has also influenced my students’ own reflections and actions undertaken when facing their academic production.


Written by Soledad Novoa, Chile.
History Department, (USACH) and  Arts Theory Department (Universidad de Chile)
Student, Postgraduate Diploma in Archives, Universidad de Chile

Electronic Records Management in Argentina

I currently work as an archivist in the Personnel Management Archives of the Argentina Aircraft Factory under the Ministry of Defense of the Argentine Republic. I am also working on my thesis in the Escuela de Archivología of Universidad Nacional de Córdoba (National University of Córdoba) entitled "Analysis of technological and prospective factors in the preservation of digital archive materials". Between 2015 and 2016 I participated in a project called "Development and implementation of the Digital Collection at the National University of Cordoba. First stage: Historical Documents. An advance towards open access " developed at the Elma K. Library in Estrabou. I have always been interested in digital preservation of archives. Perhaps because Argentina has rudimentary legislation on electronic records management and under-resourced institutions have traditionally dealt with this issue.

Until 2016, the Argentine State lacked a specific regulatory framework. The application of Decree 561/2016 has enabled the start of the so-called Modernization Process of the State through the creation of the Administrative Modernization Secretariat. The Modernization Plan has among its objectives; efficiency, effectiveness and quality in the provision of services, from the design of flexible organizations to results management. With these objectives in mind, the electronic document management system (G.D.E.) was implemented. This platform serves to manage the procedures of the public administration and I have been receiving training to implement it in my workplace. It is an integrated system of naming, numbering, tracking and recording all actions and records of the National Public Sector.

Law No. 25,506 establishes the legal value of the electronic document, the electronic signature and the digital signature, and article 48 provides that the National State shall promote the widespread use of the digital signature in such a way as to enable the simultaneous processing of files, automatic search, as well as monitoring and control by the interested party. This should also result in the progressive reduction of paper records. The document management software used is made up of a network of integrated modules that are available to all users. It features a digital signature system that allows the complete processing of all procedures in electronic form. It also enables the management of all records, internal and external communications, plus a set of tools, including API services and SDK active form design.
Participants receiving their certificates
Main modules: Electronic document managment system
The user accesses the GDE platform through a single desktop system (EU), having previously created a profile with the CUIL number (Unique Labor Identification Code)

The Single Desk (EU) is the interface that allows you to navigate all the modules that integrate the system. This displays a summary of all the pending tasks that the agent has in each module and organizes them based on how many days old they are. In addition, through the EU, each supervisor can see the workload of personnel in charge in the sector and change them according to the organizational needs.

Entry to the Single Desk (EU) module is navigated through a web browser at the same URL: Within this system one of the first modules to be implemented in the public administration is the Electronic Document Generator (GEDO), used as a means of creating, ingesting and archiving the documents needed for administrative management. All the documents created and digitally signed through the GEDO module have the same legal and evidential validity as those signed by hand. The system allows users to select document and agent type.

Next, the reference and the contents of the document are edited and can be sent for review at a later stage. Finally, the document must be signed, either by the user who produced it or by another agent to whom it was sent for that purpose. In each task, the same user can complete the entire process or several users can participate. During the review process, the user can modify the reference and the contents of the document and can send it for review to another user. The user who receives the document to be signed can send it for review, modify or sign it. Once signed, the system closes the document with a numbering stamp, the signature of the signing user and the seal of the server.
Single Desk: GDE Platform
Final remarks:
In Argentina decision-making has become more complex over the decades. At the same time, the impact of these decisions affects a larger population. The proper separation between centralized and decentralized decisions allows the State to specialize and to carry out its own activities effectively and promptly. A late recognition of the problems gives rise to situations that affect the relationship between the State and the society. By implementing the DGE, based on a principle of decentralization and community participation, the State seeks to alleviate them.

Written by Emilse Guidiño, Argentina. Archivera
Ministry of State Modernization

Implementation of an Electronic Records Management System (ERMS): Recommendations of a new professional

I am Kenneth Marín Vega, Bachelor of Archives, and I am finishing my thesis for a degree at the University of Costa Rica. I have worked as an archival technician at the Registro Nacional de Costa Rica (National Registry of Costa Rica) and later I was in charge of the Central Archives of the Contraloría General de la República (General Comptroller of the Republic). Currently, I am in charge of the Central Archives of the Junta de Pensiones del Magisterio Nacional (Pension Board of the National Magisterium. JUPEMA, by its name in Spanish).
Costa Rica has a National System of Archives, which has positioned the country as a reference for archival matters in Central America. Despite this, the shift from paper to electronic records has been slow, largely because some archivists are afraid to leave paper and move onto the management of systems.
New technology has caused a change in the management of records. That is why archivists must reinvent ourselves and this process must represent a change of mentality, including putting an end to the fear of electronic documents. For this reason, the change that we must experience and promote must also be accompanied by ideas to help speed up decision-making, transparency, conservation and the streamlining of procedures.
In this way, I will comment on some elements that I had to consider in the process of implementing an ERMS in JUPEMA.
Teamwork: A system is made up of a set of elements related to the needs of several disciplines. It is for this reason that a working group should be created in which various professions such as industrial engineers, computer scientists, administrators, lawyers and archivists are all represented.
Digital Preservation Flow Chart
JUPEMA Corporate Building
In the case of JUPEMA, the team was made up of senior management, IT staff, an archivist and secretaries. In addition, we considered the legal criterion from the Institutional Committee of Selection and Elimination of Records.
Knowledge in other areas: When designing and implementing an ERMS, I had to study some basic concepts for database design, metadata, requirements identification and interface design. I also mastered the basic jurisprudence that applied, to comply with the current regulations in Costa Rica. In addition, it was essential to have an administrative vision, which allowed me to design the system without dropping the organization into a backward step.
Training: Training is one of the most important areas when implementing an ERMS. When we switch from a paper to electronic medium, we must train staff in new ways of doing things as well as in the application of new concepts, such as: digital records, electronic records and multiple originals, among others. In this way, I was able to cope with the latent resistance to change.
User-friendly system: The success of the ERMS depended, in part, on how comfortable the user felt with it. If he or she can use the system with ease that will guarantee that the work will be done correctly, from registering a record, to dispatching it, to including it in a file or consulting it.
Therefore, in the design stage we considered the main users. Also, as an archivist, it was important to be open and listen to suggestions, as the system had changes during its implementation. For this reason, it is essential to understand that no automated system is static, as it evolves and changes must be made.
Standardization: It is essential that the ERMS has standardized procedures, metadata and ways of creating the documents, guaranteeing a better organization in the execution of the tasks. In the case of JUPEMA, I created a procedure for electronic records management and, in addition, standardized some key documents such as notifications, notices and minutes. Also, I defined mandatory fields to fill in when registering and issuing a record, and standardized the acronyms used for files.
Senior management support: The aforementioned standardization was successful because the procedures were documented and issued with the support of senior management, as this ensured that each guideline was adhered to. In the case of JUPEMA all procedures and instructions are documented and then reviewed and approved by senior management.
Successful system: For an ERMS to be successful the archivist must position himself/herself in the organization as a person with empathy, attitude and the ability to build credibility and trust in users. In addition, it is important to follow the system and perform constant revisions. An ERMS does not seek to make paper disappear as a documentary medium, but we must be aware that the current society has new demands that the archivist should seek to satisfy.

Written by Kenneth Marín Vega, Costa Rica. .
Responsible for the Central Archives of the Pension Board of the National Magisterium (JUPEMA), Costa Rica.

Find Kenneth  on Facebook 
Thanks for reading, look out for our next issue in November!
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