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Archival and Recordkeeping Ideas and Theories: Past, Present and Future

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  1. Archival and Recordkeeping Ideas and Theories: Past, Present and Future Anne Gilliland University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)

  2. Archives are a critical component of how many societies remember, are held accountable, and generally conduct their affairs. • Archives are concerned with recorded information and how it can bridge time and space and remain meaningful and useful. • Archives are predicated on an understanding of the power of the record in bureaucratic, societal, community, and individual lives.

  3. Shifts in archival identity over the past 150 years • juridical legacy • cultural memory • societal engagement • community archiving the archivist “has been transformed . . . from passive curator to active appraiser to societal mediator to community facilitator. The focus of archival thinking has moved from evidence to memory to identity and community, as the broader intellectual currents have changed from pre-modern to modern to postmodern to contemporary.” -- Terry Cook, 2012

  4. Digitality has tremendous implications for archives and recordkeeping. It affects: • how we secure rights and responsibilities; • develop individual and collective senses of the present and of posterity; and • inscribe, analyze, preserve, make accessible, and repurpose the data, records, artifacts, and other aspects of cultural heritage and human activity that comprise our societal memory.

  5. Glocalization • Requires that archival practices, archival standardization, and archival scholarship focus on simultaneously addressing local and global needs and perspectives, as well as on understanding the effects of interaction between the two. • Such aglocalorientation entails a careful balancing of continuity with innovation, of responsibility with responsibilities, and of reflexivity with principled rigor.

  6. Paradigm = a formal model or pattern of beliefs, outlooks, assertions, values, and practices regarding a particular activity or phenomenon • The archival paradigm supports an evidence-based approach to the management of records. • It is fundamentally concerned with the organizational and individual functions, processes, and contexts through which records are created and preserved as well as the ways in which records individually and collectively reflect those functions, processes, and contexts in and through time. • The paradigm operates on multiple conceptual, functional, and professional levels as a framework for archival theorizing as well as for archival practice. Theory develops out of practice (inductively) and practice develops out of theory (deductively).

  7. Components of the archival paradigm

  8. Duranti (1996): • archives occupy physical places that take custody of bureaucratic documents, transforming them as they cross the archival threshold into “testimony of past actions.” • the preservation of that testimony and the evidence it implies is endangered once it is no longer in active use unless it is physically removed from its creators and those with a direct interest in its content and transferred across the archival threshold into archival custody.

  9. Post-custodialism Ham (1981): archivists could no longer conduct themselves as passive recipients and custodians of old, but still valuable, records. Instead, they would need to be proactive.

  10. “A change in the traditionally perceived archival mindset is needed here to manage the records and their continuum, not the relics at the end stage in the record life cycle. . . . With the spotlight clearly on the record rather than the relic, the equilibrium can be adjusted to provide efficient, effective and innovative public record management with an intellectual control not custody axis, safeguarding and making accessible archival resources for good government, public accountability and future research needs.” --Acland(1992)

  11. A concept of “records” which is inclusive of records of continuing value (= archives), which stresses their uses for transactional, evidentiary and memory purposes, and which unifies approaches to archiving/recordkeeping whether records are kept for a split second or a millennium. • A focus on records as logical rather than physical entities, regardless of whether they are in paper or electronic form. • Institutionalization of the recordkeeping profession’s role requires a particular emphasis on the need to integrate recordkeeping into business and societal processes and purposes. • Archival science is the foundation for organising knowledge about recordkeeping. However, this knowledge should be combined with relevant knowledge and skills from other fields. -- Upward and McKemmish (1996)

  12. “post-custodial approaches to archives and records cannot be understood if they are treated as a dualism. They are not the opposite of custody. They are a response to opportunities for asserting the role of an archives—and not just its authentication role—in many re-invigorating ways.” -- Upward (1996)

  13. Community archives • Community-led, -centric, or -based archives; DIY (do-it-yourself), grassroots, oppositional, participatory, or independent archives; and archives from-the-bottom-up. • Not aligned with government, academic, or other mainstream archives, and often not publicly funded. • Increasingly emerging around the globe in physical, digital, and hybrid forms due, in part, to a compelling contemporary mix of political, professional, and technological factors that go far beyond earlier forms of community heritage and documentary efforts.

  14. Repatriation of physical archival materials • Sometimes materials were legitimately the records of two different countries, but they could only physically reside in one. • Sometimes they have been removed or appropriated during wars or other conflicts or even by collectors and researchers from other countries. • Sometimes the physical safety of materials in their current location raises concerns and a movement begins to relocate them, but relocation can result in them being separated physically (and sometimes intellectually, culturally or emotionally) from their originating community.

  15. Digital repatriation • Offers a wider range of possibilities for overcoming the physical considerations of keeping records but raises others about: • what constitutes “giving back” • what is given back • the degree of physical and intellectual control over either the original or the digitized materials any of the parties involved may or should have, and • the accessibility and re/usability of repatriated materials by the community to which they were repatriated.