DAVID – Archiving e-mail


DAVID – Archiving e-mail

DAVID Archiving e-mail

2. Sending an e-mail is much cheaper. This is especially the case when an e-mail replaces a letter one

wants to send to an addressee in another country. The price of an e-mail is constant, whether it is

being sent to one’s neighbour or to someone on the other side of the world.

3. Sending an e-mail can be done at every moment (e-mail is also being sent on Saturday and Sunday)

and one does not even have to leave the house to do so.

4. Sending an e-mail to multiple persons takes up almost the same time as sending it to one person.

5. E-mail can be read any time and anywhere, as long as an Internet connection is available. The

electronic mailbox is accessible anytime and anywhere.


Before looking into the legal framework we need to wonder why archiving e-mail has currently become

such a big issue. Put differently: why archiving this relatively new type of digital information when it is

not even clear how electronic documents must be archived even though they have entered modern

society a long time ago. Furthermore, the introduction of applications such as e-mail has led many

organisations to increase the amount of information they store. E-mail has indeed not just replaced some

classical means of communication such as letter correspondence and tele phone conversations, it is

especially an extra means of communication that is complementary to existing means of

communication 6 . This implies that many organisations need to archive more information than before.

However, it would be a mistake for records managers and archivists to deny the existence of e-mail.


Is an electronic message a record or not The answer to this question is important. It determines whether

or not e-mails fall within the scope of the science of archiving. Should archivists and records managers

be consulted for the composition of an organisation’s e-mail policy When compared to a telephone

conversation, it becomes obvious that e-mail must be considered as a record.

The global flow of information increases the importance of international standards for archiving

terminology. This was one of the findings of the 14 th Congress on Archives, held in September 2000 in

Seville, Spain. That is why the DAVID project adopts, as much as possible, generally accepted

definitions of archiving terms. A universally accepted definition of the concept ‘record’ in an archiving

sense could be: “A document, recorded in whatever format or medium, created or received by an agency,


WALLACE, D., Recordkeeping and Electronic Mail Policy: The State of Thought and the State of the Practice,

paper prepared for the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists, Orlando, Florida, September 3,

1998, available on http://www.rbarry.com/dwallace.html. The separate legal statute of e-mail will also appear in

the analysis of the applicable legislation.


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