Today’s post is a Tech Tribute to a NARA pioneer in the field of electronic records preservation. Dr. Ken Thibodeau, after a distinguished career in the Federal Government, has retired from NARA as of 1.1.11.
In 1975, Ken joined NARA’s Machine-Readable Archives Division, where he became part of a team that surveyed federal agencies on their electronic records and ensured the records were “archives-ready” when they arrived to NARA. He left in 1978 to become the NIH records manager, and focus on office automation practices and strategic planning for information resources management.
He came back to NARA in 1989 as head of the new Center for Electronic Records – today called the Electronic and Special Media Records Services Division – where he introduced significant changes in the processing of these records, including the development of legacy processing systems that still see use today.
A few years later, he accepted a detail assignment with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he directed the development of the world’s first electronic records standard, DoD 5015.02, for records management software. More than a decade later, this standard remains vibrant.
The capstone of Ken’s career came in the late 1990s, when he started an advanced technology research program to address the most difficult challenges in managing and preserving records. These studies led to the creation and development of the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) System, which went into operation in 2008, and now preserves almost 100 terabytes of electronic records.
The research program was so successful that it evolved into NARA’s Center for Advanced Systems and Technologies, and Ken was appointed Director.
Ken leaves NARA at a time when major transformations are occurring at the agency. As David Ferriero remarked in his October blog post, “Open to Change” “We’ve made a great start, but we have a lot more to do if we are to be well-positioned to meet the challenges we face in the 21st century.” Ken has blazed a trail and left a map for us when it comes to understanding the challenges of electronic records preservation, but the rest is up to us. As we bid him a fond farewell, we need to keep our eyes on the technological horizon and stay prepared for the challenges ahead, just as Ken did all during his career.