The Records Continuum Model

The RCM was developed by Australian theoreticians such as Peter Scott, Jay Atherton, and Frank Upward (Karabinos, 2015). The model was first clarified by Jay Atherton during a conference of the Association of the Canadian Archivists, which took place in 1985 and where he discussed the weaknesses of the Life-Cycle Model. Atherton wanted the Life-Cycle Model to be replaced by a continuum which would constituted four phases and that is:

  • • creation or receipt;
  • • classification;
  • • establishment of retention/disposal schedules and their subsequent implementation; and
  • • maintenance and use (in the creating office, inactive storage, or archives).

He regarded all the four stages as interrelated and that they required a close collaboration between the records managers and archivists (Flynn, 2001). Karabinos (2015) thus postulated that the records continuum theory developed from the work of various Australian archivists. The visual model was developed in 1990 by Frank Upward in collaboration with his colleagues: Sue McKemmish and Livia Iacovino. Reed (2005a) has also demonstrated the use of the model. The model provides a framework for the continuum of records management responsibilities (McKemmish, 1997). Upward (2000) postulated that in Australia the model is being used as a metaphor, to facilitate an understanding of records management in recordkeeping environments built around electronic communications. The model challenges the traditional view that separates archives and records as distinct entities (McKemmish, 2001). It is, therefore, defined as:

The whole extent of a record’s existence. It refers to a consistent and coherent regime of management processes from the time of the creation of records (and before creation, in the design of recordkeeping systems), through to the preservation and use of records as archives (Yusof and Chell 2000, p. 135).

Through its consistent and coherent management regime, the model covers the design of recordkeeping systems. This allows for the control of the precreation phase of the records, where the life-cycle begins with creation (Flynn,

  • 2001). It considers records to always be in the process of “becoming,” that is, being used in different contexts (McKemmish, 1997; Reed, 2005 a). The RCM is therefore seen as a more progressive model that facilitates a proactive and holistic approach to the management of digital information. It is an approach that suits the current developments in e-Government, which are about pluralizing government information, and records for use in other contexts. A good example here is the European Union Public Sector Information Directive that the author briefly discusses in Chapter 1, e-Government development and its impact on information management, on the reuse of public information for innovative purposes (Svard, 2014). Upward (2009) argued that the RCM is a time/space model. He contended that records continue to play different roles in a life/space model. He warned against the fracture along the lines of paper and electronic media, if recordkeeping is to be of relevance and contemporaneous to today’s society. Hence, the model encourages both records managers and the archivists to meet at the critical points along the continuum (Myburgh, 2005). The model facilitates an understanding of the need to:
    • • develop interconnected methods for document creation;
    • • establish and maintain routines within which documents are captured as records; and
    • • control the distancing processes involved in organizing documents and records as an

archive and/or as the archives.

Brothman (2001) posited the RCM has features that better could facilitate the development of a model of memory, that bolsters the pursuit of archival objectives. He was of the view that certain elements of the RCM were more compatible with the idea of social and organizational memory than the life cycle. This is because the business usefulness of archival records challenges the life-cycle representation of records. Brothman further contended that the RCM was more successful in promoting the idea of the records’ indefinite business usefulness. Therefore, the RCM interpretation of the cycle leaves room for unending circular and recursive processes, which suit the contemporaneous use of records, and justifies their long-term preservation for smart organizations.

The RCM constitutes four dimensions, which are: create, capture, organize, and pluralize (Flynn, 2001, Reed, 2005a):

Dimension 1—Create: represents the locus where all business actions take place. In this dimension, documents exist in versions and can be moved beyond this locus. This dimension involves creator/creators; the transaction in which the creator/ creators take part, of which a document is a result; and the document itself (with or without archival characteristics).

Dimension 2—Capture: is when a document is communicated or connected through relationships with other documents, with sequences of action. The records are in this dimension captured as evidence of transactions and can be distributed, accessed, and understood by others involved in the business transactions. This dimension involves the work unit with which the actor is associated; the activity in the context of which transactions take place; the created document together with information about its context (its provenance, or its relationships to other documents) as a record; and the evidence that results.

Dimension 3—Organize: represents an aggregation of records above individual instances of sequences of actions. Here the records are invested with explicit elements needed to ensure that they are available over time that exceeds the immediate environments of action and they join multiple other records deriving from multiple sequences of action undertaken for multiple purposes. This is the archive or fond that forms a corporate or personal memory. It is in this dimension that the organization is linked to its functions and the activities, which constitute those functions, to the archive, and to its own corporate memory.

Dimension 4—Pluralize: this dimension represents the broader social environment in which records operate. The legal and regulatory environment, which translates social requirements, different for every society, and at every period, for records management. This dimension further represents the capacity of a record/ records to exist beyond the boundaries of a single creating entity.

Reed (2005b) posited that the RCM can be used for the purpose of multiple readings and that it has the capacity to support different interpretations. The model is culturally oriented and hence, open for interpretations to suit the cultural context in which the records are generated and used (Chachage & Ngulube, 2006). Dimension 4 represents the placement of records and archives in society. The (plural) archives (the records of a number of organizations) are set in the context of collective (or societal) memory (Fig. 4.1).

The Records Continuum Model

Figure 4.1 The Records Continuum Model.

Source: McKemmish, S. (2001). Placing records continuum theory and practice. Archival Science, 1(4), 350.

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