Phil Bantin: Electronic Records in the Global Community

SLIS Associate Professor Philip Bantin
Finnish Military Archives
Society of American Archivists

by Tiana Tew
September 30, 2003

The dynamics of information reach far beyond the halls of SLIS. Director of University Archives and SLIS Associate Professor Philip Bantin recently had a truly global tour of the world of archives and records management. Bantin's work with electronic records management has earned him international recognition within the archives community, and provided SLIS students with an unparalleled example of information in action.

For roughly six years Bantin has worked to develop and implement a plan for managing electronic records at IU, funded through two grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). In April 2000, Jaana Kilkki, director of the Military Archives of Finland (the second largest archive in the country), wrote to Bantin expressing her desire to work with him on the IU Electronic Records Project. As a Fulbright scholar, Kilkki worked with Bantin at the IU University Archives from August-December 2001. Bantin recalls, "Our collaboration was extremely successful. We quickly learned that we could help one another become better archivists, and were looking for ways to continue this partnership."

Bantin and Kilkki found a way to continue their collaboration when Bantin applied for sabbatical leave from the university. Bantin then spent three months (April to June 2003) in Helsinki working with Kilkki's team to establish a more robust electronic recordkeeping system for the Finland Defense Forces.

According to Bantin, "It was a fascinating comparative study of electronic records management practices. I examined and analyzed information and record systems at the Finnish Military Archives, the Finnish National Archives, various agencies of the Finnish government, the Finnish National Bank and within private industries."

Bantin also taught and spoke to a number of audiences in Finland. He presented four lectures while in the country, including: "Databases as Recordkeeping Systems" for students of the School of Library and Information Science at Tampere University; "What are Records and Recordkeeping Systems" for records managers at the Finnish National Bank; "Strategies for Managing Electronic Records" for staff at the Finnish Military Archives; and "Strategies for Managing Electronic Records" at a Conference on Managing Electronic Records, the first conference of its kind for archivists and records managers in southern and central Finland.

As Bantin was concluding his work in Finland, he received an invitation to address colleagues in South Africa. Bantin was the international speaker at an "Electronic Records Management Conference. Challenges and Best Practices in Electronic Records Management" in Johannesburg. He presented two lectures at the meeting--"Challenges in Managing Electronic Records" and "Strategies for Designing an Electronic Records Management Program: Creation of Basic Documentation and Methodologies."

Says Bantin, "I've built up a wonderful association of international colleagues with whom I communicate regularly. I'm looking forward to meeting up with them this spring at the International Council on Archives conference in Vienna and continuing our dialogue."

Bantin's efforts in archives and records management have not gone unnoticed at home. In August 2003, Bantin was made a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists, the archival community's equivalent of a "Lifetime Achievement Award." This peer nominated award is presented annually to an archivist who has made outstanding contributions to the archival profession.

According to an SAA press release, "For the last decade, [Bantin] has served Indiana University at Bloomington as university archivist and director of a series of National Historical Publications and Records Commission-funded projects in electronic records. He has [always] taken on new challenges and educated himself in new fields. His leadership and knowledge about IT systems design, auditing, and transactional systems have convinced high-level administrators to pay attention to archival issues in systems redesign. The electronic records project is ongoing and built on previous work in other projects in which Bantin has shared widely through his project Web site, award-winning articles in professional journals, and numerous presentations at professional conferencesBantin has generously served on a variety of advisory committeesand he has taught archival courses at Bloomington and given many guest lectures in other classrooms. He has been an active professional at all levels."

"You can't be a competent archivist anymore without a firm grounding in electronic systems and how they manage information," notes Bantin. "The profession is evolving in its theory and methodology because of digital information, and it's called into question what we have been doing with paper records. Our procedures need to be reexamined, and I want to ensure that SLIS students are a part of defining how electronic records will be managed in the future."

Posted September 30, 2003