Threats to Future Knowledge: The Impact of the Pandemic on Organisational Recordkeeping


  • Ragna Haraldsdóttir University of Iceland
  • Fiorella Foscarini University of Toronto, Canada
  • Charles Jeurgens University of Amsterdam
  • Gillian Oliver Monash University
  • Seren Wendelken Monash University
  • Viviane Hessami Monash University
  • Yu Jing Tey University of Toronto, Canada



Archival studies, COVID-19, Comparative study, New normal, Organizational knowledge management, Records management


This paper reports the outcomes from the first phase of an international research project investigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on organisational recordkeeping. Recordkeeping is a critical component of organisational knowledge management, as the making and keeping of records as evidence of organisational activities and transactions enables core memory and accountability functions over time. Working from home during the pandemic has disrupted routines of records creation, storage, and management, and will likely result in substantial black holes in future knowledge.

The objective of the first phase of our study was to find out what records-related initiatives were underway in academic settings and in archival institutions in the initial stages of this global crisis. We conducted an environmental scan, which showed that much attention was being paid to documenting the pandemic (e.g., collecting and preserving social media discussion, promoting the use of diaries by citizens); however, the provision of advice and standards for organisational recordkeeping at a time when regular access to organisational systems could not be guaranteed was largely missing. In the second phase, we designed a survey aimed at capturing the experiences of recordkeeping professionals who worked from home for varying lengths of time in Europe, North America, and Australasia.

It is expected that this comparative study will help us envision a “new normal” for the time when the current health emergency is over. This paper concludes with a discussion of how our environmental scan and literature review have informed the multilingual survey that is currently underway.