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Marian Hobbs Address To ARANZ Conference

Archives And Records Assn Conference, MANCAN Centre, Manchester St, Christchurch Friday August 25, 9.15am

ARANZ represents a wide spectrum of interests concerned with archives and record keeping.

No fewer than three of my portfolios bear directly on these areas.

As Minister Responsible for the National Archives (soon to be renamed Archives NZ) I have responsibility for the archives of Government.

As Minister Responsible for the National Library, I have responsibility for one of the country’s major collections of private papers and records.

Both these bodies have national leadership responsibilities in their respective fields.

As Minister of Broadcasting, I am aware of the importance of the record of the nation’s life being created in those media.

All three areas (archives, libraries, and broadcasting) involve the generation of records and archives (with the accompanying need to preserve).

The library's internal review is nearing completion and my hope is that we are on our way forward together.

There are three important tasks ahead of us, the development of a national information strategy, access to the library at all levels and through a variety of pathways and a review of the National Library Act.

The review of the National Library Act is long overdue and it has much to focus on. We need to protect and enhance both the National Library and the Turnbull Library for the future.

The development of a national information strategy and continuing to build stronger access to the library are part of this government's commitment to removing barriers to the full participation in our society of all our people.

In Broadcasting I intend to present soon an outline charter for TVNZ and options for wider consultation to Cabinet.

While we are beginning with work relating to the future of TVNZ, the consequential questions are also to be addressed. How will quota fit with a Charter for TVNZ, for example? And, most crucially, who should pay for a greater range of content and how?

We will:
 Review the current funding structure of NZ On Air
 Consider alternative, including existing overseas, methods for funding public broadcasting; and
 Identify possible approaches to changes to the current funding model in New Zealand.

This audience, however, would want me to concentrate this morning on National Archives.

Two years ago, in Dunedin, Michael Cullen spoke to an earlier ARANZ Conference about the “ongoing saga of New Zealand’s National Archives”.

It was not a happy time for National Archives or for its supporters.

Restructuring within the Department of Internal Affairs had resulted in court action between ARANZ, the Society of Genealogists and the Crown.

There was a feeling of uncertainty and apprehension about Archives’ future.

Our first task was to try to remove that.

What we need, and what I would like to ask from you today, is a restoration of your harmonious support because you have an important stake in the archives.

I will be trying to do my bit.

Although Michael spoke from Opposition and made clear that his views were personal, I am told his remarks gave renewed hope and confidence.

In broad terms, he said that three things were needed:
 recognition of its constitutional role
 appropriate governance arrangements
 new archives legislation.

As you know, it has been my pleasure to implement that programme.

: Creation of Archives NZ as a department from 1 October,
reporting to its own Minister.

: A baseline increase of 12% in the 2000/01 Budget to :
 Augment work of Statutory/Regulatory Group as originally
 Provide a much needed maintenance budget for Archives’
buildings and facilities
 Develop computerised finding aids
 Bring archivists’ salaries back into line

: I have directed that work begin on a new Archives Bill to update the 1957 Act

These are all important steps in facilitating the work of Archives NZ

But they are only a means to an end, not ends in themselves

They must be enlivened by a vision of what Archives is doing and where it is going

I am still learning what Archives is about, where it has come from, and where it needs to go.

Already, I know it faces huge challenges.

Much of the programme I have already outlined may be described as restoring Archives’ capacity to do its job.

Until recently, that job revolved around managing records captured on paper and in other “traditional” formats - film, tape, and even discs.

Record keeping in departments and agencies produced “things” to be managed.

They had to be appraised to reduce their bulk, housed appropriately, preserved by conserving the medium on which they were stored, and made publicly available in reading rooms to which researchers and other users must travel.

All of that will still have to go on.

But the world is changing - has already changed.

Now, records are made and kept electronically (digitally). They exist not in physical space, but in cyberspace.

We still have to appraise them, house them, and make them available.

As you in this audience know better than I do, the question facing Archives New Zealand is how - and whether - we can go on doing these things in the same ways when the records themselves have changed so fundamentally.

The objectives have not changed, but the methods we must use to accomplish those same ends may be different.

A new Archives Act will have to address this.

In addition, I have given Archives New Zealand extra funding to report back to me with proposals I can take into a future budget round on how to deal with electronic records.

But managing the electronic records is only half the problem.

Archives itself is undergoing its own transition into the electronic age.

The first step is to computerise the finding aids.

This year an electronic list management system (ELMS) will be launched.

As well, we have funded a project to make recommendations on computerising the remainder of the finding aids.

These developments take Archives New Zealand a step closer to delivering information about the records of the New Zealand Government across the Internet - instead of the ring binders currently in use.

Beyond that, we must look forward to the day when access to the records themselves is digitised.

Initially, this will manifest itself in the ways records are consulted.

Instead of moving around the Archives reading rooms, readers of the future will sit at terminals from which they can search the finding aids, scan the lists, and order the material they wish to see - all without getting up from their seats.

Eventually, at least for records which are digital to start with, the reading room terminal (not a person with a trolley) will be the method by which they will have their records delivered to them.

When that day comes (as it surely must) it may be necessary for Archives itself to become “virtual” and to deliver its public services not in reading rooms but over the Internet.

No one suggests that there are simple or easy answers to the question where must Archives New Zealand go next.

I can assure you that both the Government and this Minister recognise the need to face up those challenges.

I trust we can be equally assured of your continuing support and assistance in that endeavour.

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