Institutional memory


Institutional memory

Institutional memory is a collective of facts, concepts, experiences and know-how held by a group of people. As it transcends the individual, it requires the ongoing transmission of these memories between members of this group. Elements of institutional memory may be found in corporations, professional groups, government bodies, religious groups, academic collaborations and by extension in entire cultures.

Institutional memory may be encouraged to preserve a group's ideology or way of work. Conversely, institutional memory may be ingrained to the point that it becomes hard to challenge if something is found to contradict that which was previously thought to have been correct.

Institutional knowledge

Institutional knowledge is gained by organizations translating historical data into useful knowledge and wisdom. Memory depends upon the preservation of data and also the analytical skills necessary for its effective use within the organization.

Religion is one of the significant institutional forces acting on humanity's collective memory. Alternatively, the evolution of ideas in Marxist theory, is that the mechanism whereby knowledge and wisdom are passed down through the generations is subject to economic determinism. In all instances social systems, cultures and organizations have an interest in controlling and using institutional memories.

Organizational structure determines the training requirements and expectations of behaviour associated with various roles. This is part of the implicit institutional knowledge. Progress to higher echelons requires assimilation of this, and when outsiders enter at a high level if they do not appreciate this morale and effectiveness tends to deteriorate.

Literature and documents

Publishing has changed greatly in its organization, financing, distribution, and bottom line emphasis. The dissemination of knowledge in printed media has been consolidated under the control of a relatively few corporate publishers, many with ties to mass entertainment multi-national conglomerates.

Personal reminiscences

Memories were shared and sustained across generations before writing appeared. Some of the oral tradition can be traced, distantly, back to the dawn of civilization, but not all past societies have left any mark on the present.

Is institutional memory fading?

Various types of organizational education systems exist, many threatened in the information age by newer technologies. It is appropriate to maintain electronic access to significant historical archives, in repositories such as the Wikisource database or Project Gutenberg. Increasing archival activity in recent years, spurred by increasing use of electronic data retrieval systems, has necessitated enhancement of certain document repositories, while actually improving accessibility. The teaching of mathematics, for instance, has been fundamentally altered by the algorithmic shortcuts enabled by calculators.

ee also

* Corporate culture
* Corporate memory
* History of Science and Technology
* Information Awareness Office
* Industrial and organizational psychology
* Institutional economics
* Internet Archive
* Library and Information Science
* Memoir
* Memory hole
* B'nai B'rith
* Patriot Act
* Tribal knowledge

External links

* [http://www.aare.edu.au/98pap/oto98310.htm AARE.edu.au] - 'Is Organisational Memory a Useful Construct in Understanding Learning Organisations'
* [http://www.archipelago.org/vol3-3/lee.htm Archipeligo.org] - 'Reminiscence: Lee Goerner Editor and Publisher (1947-1995),' Katherine McNamara
* [http://www.archive.org/details/millionbooks Archive.org] - 'Million Book Project'
* [http://www.archives.gov/presidential_libraries/index.html Archives.gov.] - 'Presidential Libraries' (US government archives)
* [http://www.cnyc.com/code/newsletters/2002autumn/aut02_006highlights.htm CNYC.com] - 'Institutional Memory', Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums' (Autumn, 2002)
* [http://www.gutenberg.nl/ Gutenberg.nl] - 'PG-EU' (Project Gutenberg in European Union member states)
* [http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/gutenberg/project/ UTexas.edu] - 'The Digital Gutenberg Project'
* [http://www.iscar.org/history/ ISCAR.org] - 'Institutional Memory: ideas originating from psychologists and linguists in Moscow, Leningrad, Kharkov, Berlin during the 1920s and 1930s'
* [http://www.silk-road.com/artl/printing.shtml Silk-Road.com] - 'Printing'
* National Library for Health [http://www.library.nhs.uk/knowledgemanagement/SearchResults.aspx?searchText=memory&tabID=289 Knowledge Management Specialist Library] - collection of resources about organisational memory.


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