As I wrote last summer, I stopped blogging when I was appointed Israel's State Archivist. Being a high civil servant is not compatible with running a political blog, and I had decided the potential value of confronting the challenges of documenting the activities of Israel's government was the more important of the two.
Eight months into the new job, this decision is being vindicated. Two weeks ago the government decided to adopt our proposal for a basic reform in the way the administration manages its digital documentation, which is to say, all its documentation. In essence, this will mean re-inventing the State Archives, with significant implications further afield.
When I came to the job I found that for various reasons, the Finance Ministry had taken upon itself to set up a large and very professional storage center for paper documentation, near the northern Negev town of Arad. Alas, the project was going to cost more than the original plan had foreseen. This give me an opening, in which my staff and I indicated that there were parts of the project which could be reduced (and thus made cheaper) if in return funds would be freed to deal with digital aspects which had not been addressed; dealing with the digital aspects would allow us to make the trade offs in the Negev storage installation. It may come as a surprise, but apparently when one makes sensible suggestions within the government, reasonable people will listen and perhaps be convinced.
The proposal adopted by the government calls for a number of major changes.
1. We're going to join other government agencies in creating document-management systems in the government agencies so that their documentation will be tagged before creation according to the span of time until it can be deleted - or sent to the archives for permanent storage.
2. We're going to scan very large quantities of existing paper documentation, so as to make it digitally accessible.
3. We're going to figure out how to salvage what can be salvaged from the servers of the government agencies;
4. We're going to have to figure out how to fundamentally accelerate the de-classification of the country's documentation, most of which is still classified;
5. And we're expected to develop a range of tools to make the documentation easily accessible and useful to anyone with an interest in the story of the State of Israel, not just professional researchers.
And we're going to build that storage installation in Arad and move the paper documentation down there. And a few other things, along the way: once we're busy, why not add another few tasks?
So now I'm going offline again, and the blogging will mostly stop, with a rare exception here or there. I remind you that in the upper left corner I"ve made three pages with collections of stuff I recommend reading, about Jerusalem, war and peace in the Mideast, and Jewish life and life in Israel.