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Institutional memory is a collective set 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 an ideology or way of work in such a group. 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 memory may have influence on organizational identity, choice of individuals, and actions of the individuals interacting with the institution.
Institutional memory can occur when institutions interact with both internal and external environments and systems. Both the type and level of institutional interaction lead to institutionalization and memory formation.
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 the collective memory attributed to humanity. 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, effectiveness tends to deteriorate if this morale is unjustly ignored.
- Corporate culture
- Information Awareness Office
- Internet Archive
- Memory hole
- Organizational memory
- Tribal knowledge
- Bus factor
- AARE.edu.au—"Is Organisational Memory a Useful Construct in Understanding Learning Organisations"
- Archipelago.org—"Reminiscence: Lee Goerner Editor and Publisher (1947-1995)", Katherine McNamara
- Archive.org—"Million Book Project"
- Archives.gov.—"Presidential Libraries" (US government archives)
- CNYC.com—"Institutional Memory", Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums' (Autumn, 2002)
- UTexas.edu—"The Digital Gutenberg Project"
- ISCAR.org—"Institutional Memory: ideas originating from psychologists and linguists in Moscow, Leningrad, Kharkov, Berlin during the 1920s and 1930s"
- National Library for Health Knowledge Management Specialist Library—Collection of resources about organisational memory.
- Examples of institutional memory sites
- Institutional Memory of Harvard Business School—100 years in pictures, stories, and an interactive timeline of events