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Messages sent, and received? Changing perspectives and policies on US federal email as record and the limits of archival accountability

  • Jesse A. JohnstonEmail author
  • David A. Wallace
  • Ricardo L. Punzalan
Original Paper

Abstract

The 2016 US Presidential elections may have presented the most prominent illustration of email and recordkeeping in public perception, but they offer only the most recent and public story of emails as records. This article offers an overview of the development of email as a government record in the USA, as well as the evolving archival perspectives on email and political accountability. Archivists have been contending with email for over 30 years, and from its earliest days in the US political usage, email has presented a complex array of recordkeeping and archival challenges, and we trace the changing archival perspectives and regulatory situations around email as a record in the USA over the past three decades. In this investigation, we explore questions about how and why officials create or destroy email, how email records are appraised, and whether or not preserved emails can be meaningfully accessed. In light of these questions, we argue that the archival tenet of accountability is tenuous at best in the face of the changing technological and political challenges presented by email as a record.

Keywords

Email Accountability Capstone Electronic recordkeeping Archives Appraisal 

Notes

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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Library of CongressWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.School of InformationUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.College of Information StudiesUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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