When It's More Than Just Business: Advocating the Value of Business Records

By Kerri Anne Burke, Global Curator, Citi Heritage Collection 

Bob Clark of the Rockefeller Archives Center, L.J. Strumpf of the IBM Archives and I spoke at the Spring 2018 joint meeting of the New England Archivists and Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York. The panel was organized and moderated by Jamie Martin of the IBM Archives. The panelists spoke on the value of business records and how business archivists must advocate the worth of business records to internal audiences, record creators, even the community at large to prove how these critical and underused resources can provide value. 

I spoke on how the Citi Center for Culture uses the archives to provide value to Citigroup and to drive business for the firm. The Citi Center for Culture manages Citi’s Fine Art and Heritage Collections. I explained the origins of the Center for Culture and the types of materials our group manages. I then talked about the mission of the Center and how their mission fits within the bank’s mission of enabling progress and growth. Examples of how the Center has shown its value to Citi include providing documentation and support for legal cases, information on Citi’s presence worldwide, images for presentations and events and tours of the collection. Lastly I spoke about how these uses of the collection and Center products are a form of advocacy along with building relationships with other Citigroup employees. 

Bob spoke on the efforts of the Rockefeller Archives Center (RAC) to protect the documentary legacy of non-profits by raising awareness of archives and promotion of saving digital records. The Rockefeller Archives Center is an independent foundation that preserves and makes available archival collections of members of the Rockefeller family, institutions and organizations founded by Rockefeller family members and philanthropic and service organizations such as the Ford Foundation. Bob talked about how RAC collaborates closely with the foundations to make sure RAC is helping them save records that will later go to RAC. They actively engage foundation employees by bring them to RAC to see how foundation records are used. This collaboration also covers digital records. RAC helps the foundations think through their records management policies and how to handle information. Bob went on to describe RAC’s current project to help the foundations with digital records. The project is called Project Electron – Supporting Data in Motion, which is building sustainable, user-centered and standards-compliant infrastructure to support the ongoing acquisition, management, preservation and access for digital records at the RAC. This project includes a repository to store digital records and metadata about them, as well as an API layer to manage interactions between the repository and other archival systems, and is being undertaken in partnership with Marist College.

L.J. spoke on the use of corporate records to inform a local documentary on urban renewal and how the IBM Archives became a trusted community partner. L.J. first gave a background on IBM and the IBM Archives. The archives handles internal requests as well as external requests from individuals and non-profits who seek assistance with various projects (books, dissertations, films, etc.). In 2015 a local independent filmmaker approached the IBM Archives for use of a vintage IBM promotional film about Ulster County, NY. The filmmaker was compiling footage of the city of Kingston (where Ulster County is located) in order to tell the story of family displacement and building demolition in the putatively blighted downtown area of Kingston known as Rondout. In 1954 IBM had opened a plant in Kingston where thousands of Kingston residents were employed until the plant closed in the 1990s. The IBM Archives staff had to evaluate if this was a request they could fulfill, as some residents wouldn’t have warm feelings about the company. After consulting with corporate communications they provided the film. L.J. noted that the Archives’ collaboration with projects of local residents is a demonstration of the value of corporate records and that their A/V collection is not merely a dusty repository for depictions of the products IBM previously sold or the buildings in which those products were manufactured; it also depicts the history of local communities and IBM’s influence, for better or for worse, on them. L.J. noted that the company's archival records help tell these stories.

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