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Principles for Independent Archives

Goals for an independent archive

  • Reduce the cost of using and acting on the evidence in the archive.
  • Engage new people in the records.
  • Preserve access to the evidence for as long as possible in as many ways as possible.


Use open standards

Presenting records and data in a consistent, standardised, common format reduces the cost for others to use and act upon them. Open and long-lived formats, standards and structures have a better chance of lasting over time than closed, proprietary standards.

Think long term

From day one, plan for shut down. All projects end. Small, under-resourced, personal projects are not excluded. Discuss and have a plan for this situation. If possible, the records should remain accessible long after work on the project has stopped.

Stay small, let others create meta-collections

Provide clarity over quantity. Build something small. Even just a few dozen documents focused on a specific topic are valuable in the network. If we’re after a multitude of approaches then there’s value in the tiniest project.

Strive for universal accessibility, be accessible by default

Provide multiple ways to access the same content. Usability and accessibility must be at the core of an archive. Machine readability is not only central to accessibility, but will make your project useful to other projects, devices, search engines, scrapers, and so on.

Make the legal accessibility of your project clear: what rights are reserved and how may others use the work? Wide accessibility can support redundancy by allowing and supporting other people to create backup copies.

Store the original record, present its essence over its resolution

It’s important to store a copy of the original records as you found them. You can’t predict what extra interest that master copy may acquire in the future.

Sometimes, presenting this original record may be difficult and even problematic. It’s more important that people can access something rather than nothing. Many people might need to access a version with a smaller filesize, or only the meta-data.

Work together

Invite feedback and new perspectives. The network enables these projects and makes them valuable by massively increasing how information can be combined—support the network in turn. Provide helpful links between projects as much as possible. Share and discuss your methods.

Believe in your ideas, an independent perspective is worth a lot

Properly documented, your project’s failures may be more valuable to the community than its successes. If you think something will further your project’s goals, try it.

As long as it supports your goals, stay independent. If another entity is offering to take over work or contribute to the project, consider whether their priorities are fully compatible with the goals of your project.

In confronting the enormous challenges facing archivists, journalists and others looking to promote diverse public access to knowledge we need a multitude of approaches to find workable solutations.