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Randall C. Jimerson
In my final column for this journal, I want to focus on current issues and future directions facing those of us responsible for archives and manuscripts. My perspective on these concerns reflects both my 28 years as an archivist and my new responsibilities as Vice President/ President-elect of the Society of American Archivists (SAA). Of course these are only my personal opinions, not those of SAA or my employer, Western Washington University.
The archival profession
Ever since SAA emerged as a professional association in 1936, archivists and manuscript curators have tried to define their professional mission and identity. Started by historians, the archival profession early began to forge its separate roles in two distinct but important areas: (1) protecting the legal, administrative, and historical records of organizations; and (2) preserving documentary evidence of cultural heritage and social memory. In the first arena, archivists have worked diligently to protect the rights and privileges of citizens, employees, and consumers, and have held public officials, corporate executives, union leaders, and others accountable for their actions. Archivists ensure the authenticity of documentary records, provide security for vital evidence, and enable the public to enjoy access to records that affect their rights and privileges. They must negotiate the often thorny dilemmas of providing open access to information while protecting the legitimate privacy concerns of individuals, the rights of business and the private sector, and the national security interests of government. In preserving cultural heritage, archivists share responsibility with librarians, museum curators, and other information professionals. The primary sources ± manuscripts as well as archives ± that archivists preserve are often unique and irreplaceable, making conservation and security high priorities. These needs must be balanced by the requirement to make such vital information freely available to the greatest possible number of people. In an age of increasing automation, archivists have to be 11
The author Randall C. Jimerson is Professor of History and Director of the Graduate Program in Archives and Records Management at Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington, USA. He is a Fellow and Vice President/President-elect of the Society of American Archivists. Keywords Archives, Education, Records management Abstract The archival profession faces many challenges in the near future, including electronic records, new technology, defining the profession, diversity, cooperation with other information professions, access to records, and enhancing the public image of archivists. Individual archivists and manuscripts curators also face daily challenges of resources, funding, and time. However, there are many resources available for learning more about manuscripts and archives. Electronic access The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/1065-075X.htm
OCLC Systems & Services: International Digital Library Perspectives Volume 20 . Number 1 . 2004 . pp. 11-14 # Emerald Group Publishing Limited . ISSN 1065-075X DOI 10.1108/10650750410527287
appraisal. government. Defining archives and records. embrace a broader definition of archives as all records and documents having long-term value for society and for individual citizens. They argue that the term archives should only apply to records created as a result of formal business transactions. and to educate the public about the importance of access to public records. The adaptation of the MARC cataloging format for archival description. . It is time for a renewed focus on these concerns. the White House has launched an extensive and broad assault on first amendment freedoms and the public's right to know what government agencies are doing. description. perspectives. in order to educate the public about the importance and power embedded in archival records. and reference. Public image and support. Cooperation and communication with information technology professionals is increasingly essential. Number 1 . using postmodern theory to underscore the imprint of archivists in shaping the historical record and playing an active part in mediation between archives and users.The future of archives and manuscripts Randall C. . and subsequent development Encoded Archival Description for online access. An SAA initiative in the 1980s focused on ``Archives and society''. Traditional archival theory defines the archivist as a neutral party interested in preserving the authenticity. . Access to records. have substantially enhanced the means for researchers of all kinds to access archives and manuscripts. Archivists are now developing Encoded Archival Context as a means of providing information about the creators of records and the circumstances under which such records came into existence. In the heightened anxiety about homeland security and terrorist threats. and impartiality of records. and concluded that although archivists enjoyed respect and admiration for their work. Archivists and museum curators comprise a largely white. ``Archives for all'' should be our watchword. The increasing reliance on electronic records in commerce. not to private papers or manuscripts. archivists have developed automated techniques for managing the records and providing access. In this professional environment the critical issues facing the archival profession in the coming years include: . 2004 . some archivists have recently begun advocating a more rigid and narrow definition of the profession. My personal hope is that the profession will continue to 12 . Some archivists are now contesting these assumptions. New technology. As this discourse plays out I suspect we will gain a deeper appreciation for the role of archivists and the impact of our collective and individual decisions about archival selection. archivists need to pay careful attention to the needs of users and to ensure that technology enhances rather than obscures accessibility. but it would drive a wedge within an already small profession. with relatively small numbers of . In addition to protecting electronic records. . In these new initiatives. their resource allocators (those who controlled funding for archival programs) perceived them as ``mousy'' and ineffective in commanding resources and power within their own institutions. Diversity. middle class profession. Electronic records. . Archivists and librarians must continue to speak out against such unwarranted invasions of public interests. and techniques of archivists and manuscript curators have grown closer. After several decades in which the purposes. Jimerson OCLC Systems & Services: International Digital Library Perspectives Volume 20 . my hope is that we will seek to overcome the long-standing bias in favor of documenting the powerful groups in society and attempt a broader documentation of all people. 11-14 savvy about the technology of record-keeping and access. and even personal communications require archivists to develop new strategies for ensuring adequate documentation of society and for ensuring the preservation and continued accessibility of those ``born digital'' records that have enduring value. reliability. In doing so. This would strengthen the professionalism of archivists by emphasizing their specialized knowledge. The role of archivists.
Italy. however. After many years of neglect. . information technology experts. Using technological tools such as MARC and EAD. both in the USA and internationally. Number 1 . and researchers of all types require assistance. Some of the concerns addressed above will have immediate impact on many. we must cooperate in the effort to provide a more bountiful repast for all who labor to ensure the documentary heritage of society. None of these initiatives or concerns can be fully addressed without renewed and active cooperation among the various information professionals. These concerns need to receive prominent attention. SAA has undertaken an important diversity initiative. 11-14 . museum professionals. and public image may fall in this category. and resources to keep the door open and the lights on. In our daily work we must find adequate money. acquisition. We cannot survive without such awareness. government records keepers. Spain. Our backlogs always threaten to grow out of control. Jimerson OCLC Systems & Services: International Digital Library Perspectives Volume 20 . loom on the near horizon. preservation. and many other allied professionals. perhaps most. people from under-represented social groups. diversity. as well as collectively. Despite these daily struggles. new professional concepts. with several formal papers presented and lively discussion of themes in archival history. The conference featured 26 papers by researchers from Australia. Successfully fulfilling our professional responsibilities requires attention to these matters. Issues confronting members of the profession These broad issues affecting the profession suggest important implications for individual archivists and manuscript curators. It is part of our lifelong learning. We have to schedule reference desk time. We must work together. and new strategies for success. in response to a recent task force on diversity. we ignore these concerns at our peril. archivists and manuscript curators. Archival history. or negotiating the sometimes treacherous shoals of providing access to manuscripts and archives. Canada. Rather than competing for slices of a small pie. it is essential for all of us whose work involves caring for archives and manuscripts to keep an eye on the horizon. not only to ensure that a broad array of demographic perspectives will be represented in the profession.The future of archives and manuscripts Randall C. and planning. Archivists need to strengthen their ties with librarians. . Other issues will affect only a small number now. time. One sure sign of a maturing and self-conscious profession is an enhanced awareness and concern about its own history. for we shall all struggle to survive if we continue independently of each other. We need the broad view to see in what direction we are heading and to ensure that we reach our destinations safely. This 13 historical focus will help archivists in understanding the roots and growth of their profession. and the USA. Preserving electronic records or considering the issues of professional identity and definition. records managers. The Archival History Roundtable meetings at SAA annual meetings have become more active and vibrant in recent years. but also to ensure that archives and manuscript collections do not neglect minority groups in favor of the easier process of documenting the wealthy and powerful segments of society. There never seems to be enough time to get through the piles of papers or the daily requirements of our work. Cooperation. historians. However. there are some concerns that we face on the job that differ from the broad perspective of the profession. has made significant recent strides. the study of archival history. In October 2003 the First International Conference on the History of Records and Archives (I-CHORA) brought more than 100 people to the University of Toronto for three days of stimulating papers and discussions. processing and description. As individuals. but more people a decade hence. This will require learning new techniques. the UK. if they have not already reached our personal workplaces. A second I-CHORA conference has just been announced for September 2005 in Amsterdam. 2004 . The Netherlands.
we all need to engage in continuing professional education. org/prof-education/index. a department of history. The American Association for State and Local History also offers valuable introductory archival education opportunities. With this support we can continue the important work of preserving these important parts of our cultural heritage and making them accessible for researchers of all backgrounds and interests. including many from other publishers.archivists. Many people working with archive and manuscripts have already completed their formal academic education.rbms. The American Archivist.edu/). SAA has assumed a significant leadership role in publishing.aaslh. history. to discuss the latest ideas.The future of archives and manuscripts Randall C.asp). Reading the professional literature is indispensable in the effort to remain current with new developments in archives and manuscripts. and local archival associations. and the SAA Web site provides links to the numerous regional. such as information technology. These criteria are presented in the Society of American Archivists' ``Guidelines for a graduate program in archival studies'' (available at: www. For many archivists. 2004 . as well as complementary knowledge. state.org/prof-education/ ed_guidelines. the best way to learn and remain active professionally is to attend conferences and meetings. The SAA Web site links to this publications catalog. The network and support provided by these associations enable us all to build a stronger professional community.org/assoc-orgs/directory/ index. or some other disciplinary base. reports. and other opportunities for learning. and related disciplinary studies. including national. database management. These are valuable opportunities to learn about cutting-edge developments. and local meetings of these professional associations. Whether or not this included archival studies. and to share war stories from the trenches. Look for one near you (see list of organizations at: www. and through an ever-expanding publications list of manuals. regional. library science.archivists. most of which offer workshops. SAA offers many post-appointment and continuing education opportunities (see www. 14 . a graduate degree should include a solid grounding in core archival knowledge.asp). conferences.archivists.org/workshop. both through its professional journal. Jimerson OCLC Systems & Services: International Digital Library Perspectives Volume 20 . Whether earned in a school of library and information science. in a program currently funded by a major IMLS grant (see www.nd. monographs.htm for information). Number 1 . I hope you will join me in this endeavor.asp). and other publications. a graduate degree is usually required for professional advancement. The Rare Book and Manuscripts Section of ALA provides important opportunities for professional growth and networking (see www. 11-14 Learning more about archives and manuscripts How do we start on this journey of lifelong learning? In the field of archives.
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