New Issue: Information & Culture: A Journal of History

Current Issue: Volume 52 Issue 1 (Jan/Feb 2017)

Paper Dancers: Art as Information in Twentieth-Century America
Whitney E. Laemmli

Around 1940, a New York City organization known as the Dance Notation Bureau (DNB) began a decades-long effort to promote a system known as “Labanotation.” Designed to capture the ephemeral, three-dimentional complexity of dance on the flat surface of paper, the DNB believed that Labanotation held the key to modernizing the art form. Focusing on the period between 1940 and 1975, this article catalogues the Dance Notation Bureau’s efforts to make dance both “literate” and “Scientific” and explores how these efforts contributed to broader transformations in the definitions of creativity, preservation, authorship and dance itself.

A Cost-Saving Machine: Computing at the German Allianz Insurance Company
Corinna Schlombs

This article provides a close study of information processing at Allianz, a West German insurance company, in the two decades following World War II. It contributes an international perspective to the history of information by analyzing corporate information technology decisions outside the United States and by tracing exchanges about information technology between insurance managers in the United States and Germany. The article argues that Allianz managers, claiming that electronic information processing would reduce office operating costs, meticulously sought to document these savings to legitimate their computer acquisition in an otherwise adverse economic and political climate.

A History of Information in the United States since 1870
James W. Cortada

This article summarizes the findings of a book-length study of how Americans have used information since the 1700s, with a primary emphasis on the post-1870 period. The author argues that residents of North America were extensive users of information in their work and in their public and private lives. Reasons are offered for that dependence on information: high levels of literacy, economic prosperity, open political system, and considerable personal freedom to do as one wanted. The article describes findings on information use in the private sector, public sector, and in private life, including the American experience using the Internet.

Using Historical Methods to Explore the Contribution of Information Technology to Regional Development in New Zealand
Janet Toland and Pak Yoong

This article examines the role that information and communication technologies (ICTs) play in regional development and their relationship with factors such as regional learning, innovation, culture, and internal and external regional information networks. Historical methods are used to build up a picture of significant changes that have taken place within two contrasting regions of New Zealand between 1985 and 2005. The interdependent relationships between the development of hard ICT-based networks and regional social networks are explored.

The Octagonal Pavilion Library of Macao: A Study in Uniqueness
Jingzhen Xie and Laura Reilly

Privately owned by the Macao Chamber of Commerce, the Octagonal Pavilion Library was the first free Chinese library service as well as the most used Chinese public library in Macao from its establishment in 1948 until the late twentieth century. With a total surface area of 1,130 square feet, it is possibly the smallest library in the world. Despite its diminutive size, its educational and cultural impact on the community make it unique. Its relationship to “the foreign-Chinese divide,” to Ho Yin (Macao’s most important twentieth-century historical figure), and to other libraries in Macao are of particular interest. Its architecture, classification system (centered on the Three People’s Principles), and non-technical operations in the current technical environment also make it a meaningful library service case study.

Find the current issue on Project MUSE.

Purchase this issue at the University of Texas Press.

CFP: LGBTQ Public History

THE PUBLIC HISTORIAN SEEKS ARTICLES ON LGBTQ PUBLIC HISTORY

In light of the LGTBQ theme study recently released by the National Park Service, The Public Historian invites proposals for articles to be published in a special issue of the journal on LGTBQ public history to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. A broad range of proposals focused on LGBTQ public history in North America and beyond are encouraged, including community-based projects, oral history, digital history and new media, museum exhibits, archival initiatives, collective memory, and public history education and training. Proposals for alternative formats, such as reports from the field, interviews with practitioners, and roundtable discussions, will also be welcome. Proposals, which should be no longer than one double-spaced page, should be submitted to The Public Historian at scase@history.ucsb.edu and to the guest editor, Melinda Marie Jetté, at jettem@franklinpierce.edu. The deadline for submission of proposals is April 26, 2017. Selected authors will be notified by May 24, 2017. Articles will be due by January 1, 2018. Publication of the special issue of The Public Historian will be in 2019, Volume 41).

New Issue: The American Archivist

The Archival Profession: Looking Backward and Looking Forward
Gregory S. Hunter

ARTICLES

“As Vast as the Sea”: An Overview of Archives and the Archival Profession in Russia from the Time of Ivan the Terrible to World War I
Aleksandr Gelfand

“Filling the Gaps”: Oral Histories and Underdocumented Populations in The American Archivist, 1938–2011
Jessica Wagner Webster

How Soon Is Now? Writings on Digital Archiving in Canada from the 1980s to 2011
Greg Bak

Cultural Heritage and Preservation: Lessons from World War II and the Contemporary Conflict in the Middle East
Laila Hussein Moustafa

Perceptions and Understandings of Archives in the Digital Age
Caitlin Patterson

Teaching Data Creators How to Develop an OAIS-Compliant Digital Curation System: Colearning and Breakdowns in Support of Requirements Analysis
Lorraine L. Richards

From (Archival) Page to (Virtual) Stage: The Virtual Vaudeville Prototype
Tonia Sutherland

Linking Special Collections to Classrooms: A Curriculum-to-Collection Crosswalk
Sonia Yaco, Caroline Brown and Lee Konrad

Social Media and Crowdsourced Transcription of Historical Materials at the Smithsonian Institution: Methods for Strengthening Community Engagement and Its Tie to Transcription Output
Lesley Parilla and Meghan Ferriter

REVIEWS

Curiosity’s Cats: Writers on Research
Caryn Radick

The Evolving Scholarly Record and Stewardship of the Evolving Scholarly Record: From the Invisible Hand to Conscious Coordination
Jordon Steele

Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East
Christopher M. Laico

Archives in Libraries: What Librarians and Archivists Need to Know to Work Together
William J. Maher

Archives Alive: Expanding Engagement with Public Library Archives and Special Collections
Mary K. Mannix

Rights in the Digital Era
Jean Dryden

The American Archivist Editorial Policy

 

SAA Sampler Series Now Open Access

A few years ago, SAA’s Publications Board started creating samplers. These are introductions to topics and SAA publications, whether to read on your own or used in a classroom. Two recent announcements about these samplers: they are now all open access and there’s a new one on social justice.

SAA samplers online

Archival Advocacy: Archivists must continually explain who they are, what they do, and why archives are important to society. The selected chapters in this sampler offer different approaches and techniques from three books which align with the core goal of advocating for archives.

Law and Ethics: All archivists will face legal or ethical concerns throughout their careers. In many cases, we are caught unaware, and pressure is escalated by time crunches or demanding patrons. The chapter from the three books represented here aim to equip archivists to handle these sorts of dilemmas as they arise, by presenting practical information drawn from real-life experiences of archivists.

Social Justice: As repositories of the objects that make up the historical record, archives have the potential to shape and define our collective understanding of the past. The selected chapters in this sampler consider personal and collective memory as well as examples of political influence over the historical record.

CFP: Open Library of Humanities

Remaking Collections

Abstract Deadline: 15 May, 2017

In recent decades cultural and collecting institutions have digitised their collections en masse. These digital collections are vast, diverse and dispersed, challenging traditional modes of management, access and engagement; but they also constitute an immense cultural resource. As well as supporting traditional uses in research and scholarship, digital collections are fostering an emerging body of creative practice. Through the work of artists, designers, data visualisers, heritage hackers and digital humanists, digital collections are being remade. This practice enlivens digital collections online through interface design and visualisation, revealing new connections and meanings; it also enriches the collections themselves, adding new layers of metadata and modes of approaching cultural artefacts. Software bots and agents drop digital artefacts into the everyday digital environment of our social media streams, seeding serendipitous encounters between past and present. Open digital collections and computational tools enable makers to work at vast scales; and to either collaborate with collection holders, or work independently, offering unsolicited interventions that bypass institutional contexts altogether. As digital collections reach web scale — tens of millions of items — experimental digital practices play a vital role in understanding their content and potential, as both scholarly and cultural resources.

This special collection of articles will address emerging creative practices around digital collections. It aims to document current practice and theory through diverse case studies and articulate multidisciplinary understandings of the art, design, computing, heritage and humanities practices that come together here. This practice brings a growing computational toolset to bear on mining, interpreting, annotating and transforming digital archives; how do we grasp this interplay of data, code, collections and emerging cultural forms?

Potential topic areas include:

  • Experimental and speculative approaches to digital cultural collections
  • Generative and computational methods
  • Data visualisation for collections
  • Unsolicited interfaces and collection reskins
  • Large-scale creative reuse and adaptation
  • Challenges and rewards of scale – approaches to web scale collections
  • Innovation in collecting institutions – labs and collaborative models
  • Content mining and classification for creative outcomes
  • Tangible and site-specific approaches to collections
  • Place-based and localised digital heritage
  • Audience engagement and impact – the life of remade collections
  • Connecting collections: mashups, concordances and linked data
  • Authorship and agency – manual and algorithmic processes in collections practice
  • Political, critical and anti-narratives
  • Playful and poetic realisations
  • Design and research methodologies for remaking collections
  • Digital repercussions in the exhibition space

Research articles should be approximately 5-8000 words in length, including references and a short bibliography. Submissions should comprise of:

  • Abstract (500 words)
  • Full-length article (5-8000 words)
  • Author information (short biographical statement of 200 words)

Authors intending to submit should email a 500 word abstract by 15th May 2017 to Prof. Mitchell Whitelaw (mitchell.whitelaw@anu.edu.au). The deadline for full paper submission is 1st October 2017. The special collection, edited by Prof. Mitchell Whitelaw (Australian National University), Dr Geoff Hinchcliffe (Austrlian National University), Prof. Tim Sherratt (University of Canberra) and Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk (University of Applied Sciences Potsdam), is to be published in the Open Library of Humanities (OLH) (ISSN 2056-6700).

Submissions should be made online at: https://submit.openlibhums.org/ in accordance with the author guidelines and clearly marking the entry as [“REMAKING COLLECTIONS,” SPECIAL COLLECTION]. Submissions will then undergo a double-blind peer-review process. Authors will be notified of the outcome as soon as reports are received.

The OLH is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded open-access journal with a strong emphasis on quality peer review and a prestigious academic steering board. Unlike some open-access publications, the OLH has no author-facing charges and is instead financially supported by an international consortium of libraries.

To learn more about the Open Library of Humanities please visit: https://www.openlibhums.org/.

CFP: Practical Technology for Archives

This is a reminder that we would like to have proposals/abstracts submitted by the end of day, on the Friday, 24 Mar 17.

Practical Technology for Archives is an open-access, peer-reviewed, electronic journal focused on the practical application of technology to address challenges encountered in working with archives. Our goal is to provide a timely resource, published semi-annually, that addresses issues of interest to practitioners, and to foster community interaction through monitored comments. Submissions may be full articles, brief tips and techniques, AV tutorials, reviews (tools, software, books), or post-grant technical reports. Please visit practicaltechnologyforarchives.org for more information.

The editorial board of Practical Technology for Archives is calling for proposals/abstracts for Issue no.8 (2017:Summer).

The submission timeline is as follows:

Proposals due: March 24
Selections made: April 7
1st drafts due: May 5
Draft reviews: May 19
Revisions due: June 2
Publication: June 16

Submission should be sent to:

Practical Technology for Archives
Randall Miles
Managing Editor
rm527@cornell.edu

Call for Editor: Archival History Section Newsletter

As I’ve developed this blog, I’ve wavered about including calls and information about newsletters. My purpose in starting this blog is to promote and help with scholarship, so I generally do not incorporate archival newsletters. I’m posting this call (from A&A listserv) because a newsletter editor can develop skills and is a good way to start engaging in publishing.

_________

Dear colleagues:

SAA’s Archival History Section (AHS) is looking for an editor, or two, to help relaunch a newsletter for AHS members and other interested parties.

Founded in 1986 as the Archival History Roundtable, the AHS advocates for and promotes an understanding of the history of the American archival profession. Inspired by the work of other SAA sections (see, for example, the Lone Arrangers Quarterly Newsletter, https://lonearrangers.wordpress.com/about/), this digital newsletter will function as a dynamic space to keep members informed and up-to-date about people, activities, and events of importance to the history of our profession.

The newsletter editor will be appointed to a 2-year term. In partnership with the AHS steering committee (which is working to formalize the editorial structure), the editor’s duties will include:

  • Setting up an online presence for the newsletter via WordPress.com
  • Determining a publication schedule for the newsletter
  • Identifying content appropriate for the newsletter (i.e. news and announcements, feature articles, updates and photos of AHS activities, information about upcoming conferences and publication opportunities, member recognition, obituaries and oral histories).
  • Editing and proofreading content
  • Creating a marketing and social media strategy for the newsletter
  • Joining monthly AHS steering committee calls when needed to provide updates on progress with the newsletter
  • Work with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee libraries to ensure that the content of the newsletter is archived with the SAA archives on a regular basis.

Interested parties should respond with a one-page cover letter describing interest in the position, including how you would encourage original content and collect pre-existing content from a variety of online and print sources in order to build a cadre of authors to sustain the newsletter.  Also, indicate the amount of time you could devote each week to sustaining the newsletter over the next two years.

Please send all expressions of interest, or requests for additional information, to Eric Stoykovich, AHS Chair, EricStoykovich@gmail.com, by March 31.

New/Recent Publications

 

Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture: Archives on Fire: Artifacts & Works, Communities & Fields

Archives and Creation: New Perspectives on Archives. This workbook reports on the work carried out during the third stage (2015-2016) of the project “Archives and creation: new perspectives on archival science.”

Teaching and Learning in Virtual Environments: Archives, Museums, and Libraries, by Patricia C. Franks, Lori A. Bell, and Rhonda B. Trueman.

A Matter of Life and Death: A Critical Examination of the Role of Official Records and Archives in Supporting the Agency of the Forcibly Displaced, by Anne J. Gilliland.

Framing Collaboration: Archives, IRs, and General Collections, by Amy Cooper Cary, Michelle Sweetser, Scott Mandernack, and Tara Baillargeon.

https://mla.hcommons.org/deposits/item/mla:1023/

Digital Heritage. Progress in Cultural Heritage: Documentation, Preservation, and Protection, 6th International Conference, EuroMed 2016, Nicosia, Cyprus, October 31 – November 5, 2016, Proceedings, Part II, Editors: Ioannides, M., Fink, E., Moropoulou, A., Hagedorn-Saupe, M., Fresa, A., Liestøl, G., Rajcic, V., Grussenmeyer, P.

Developing a Primary Source Lab Series: A Collaboration Between Special Collections and Subject Collections Librarians, Adam Rosenkranz, Gale Burrow, and Lisa L. Crane.

A Modern Look At The Banco De’ Medici: Governance And Accountability Systems In Europe’s First Bank Group, by Marco Fazzini, Luigi Fici, Alessandro Montrone, and Simone Terzani.

Archives, memory and colonial resistance in the work of the Portuguese filmmakers Margarida Cardoso and Filipa César, by Antonio Marcio Da Silva.

Sailing into Metrics: Rethinking and Implementing Metrics and Assessment in Archives, by Amy C. Schindler.

Practical Digital Curation Skills for Archivists in the 21st Century, presentation by Myeong Lee, Mary Kendig, Richard Marciano, and Greg Jansen.

Memory hole or right to delist? Implications of the right to be forgotten on web archiving, by Melanie Dulong de Rosnay, Andrés Guadamuz.

What are we talking about when we talk about sustainability of digital archives, repositories and libraries? by Kristin R. Eschenfelder, Kalpana Shankar, Rachel Williams, Allison Lanham, Dorothea Salo, and Mei Zhang.

Mapping the UK information workforce in the library, archives, records, information management, knowledge management and related professions, by Hazel Hall and Robert Raeside.

The retrieval of moving images at spanish film archives: the oversight of content analysis, by Rubén Domínguez-Delgado and María-Ángeles López Hernández.

The Case of the Awgwan: Considering Ethics of Digitization and Access for Archives,
Peterson Brink, Mary Ellen Ducey, and Elizabeth Lorang

Guest Post, Part 2: Are Archives Graduate Programs Adequately Preparing Students for Publishing, Researching, and Writing in the Profession?

Thank you to Joshua Zimmerman, lecturer at San Jose State University’s iSchool, for this fantastic post. His in-depth perspective is in 2 posts and I encourage everyone to read it thoroughly. Josh has great strategies to help emerging professionals prepare for and contribute to the intellectual discourse of archival scholarship. (Read Part 1)

Cultural Competency

As of 2015, the MARA program has adopted a new core competency (J) which aims to “[i]dentify ways in which archivists and records managers can contribute to the cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being of our global communities.” While my course isn’t tied to this competency officially, I’ve been trying to develop ways to incorporate this core competency in order to broaden the scope of the course (2). I have a discussion based around the students’ analysis of how the Afrobarometer visualizes research data. In addition to adding additional international voices in the form of articles and readings, I’m also working on a lecture for next year on the topic of researching across cultures and the challenges and ethical dilemmas that accompany it. In it, I mention issues of ownership, trust, risks, and critical self-examination. Even if students, for example, never publish a scholarly journal about Chinese recordkeeping or never conduct fieldwork in Haiti, these items speak directly to the well-being of their own communities and it helps to prepare students to work with communities and people who may be very different than themselves. Whether or not I actually apply to have this competency assigned to my course, I nevertheless want to make this an integral part of its content.

 

Themes

In addition to all the methods, designs, purposes, and data collection tools detailed in the textbook and accompanying readings, I’ve tried to interject some more theoretical issues around doing research such as the topic of objectivity vs. neutrality, in particular the Greene, Ramirez, and Jimerson debate. I have also have a lecture section devoted to failure in the research process. Though I haven’t found a way to integrate it into the assignments, though I do ask students in the last discussion section to detail a failure that they’ve had in the class (3). I share my failures in the course development as well as research process. As a rule, I try to integrate 1 or 2 new elements into the course each year. These are definitely good candidates for failure! I also focused on research paradigms and ask students to isolate one to explore in a discussion (4). This provides some handy vocabulary that students can incorporate into their work. It also gives them some experience in larger theoretical frameworks of academia, many of which are new to students.

 

Statistics

Even before I started teaching in the MARA program, I was impressed with the job prospects data that they collected and made available to prospective students. They seem to be one of few archives programs that collect and publish this type of data. This year, I’ve started to keep a better track and be more mindful of statistics and demographics in the course. For instance, in my course bibliography, I have a nearly equal distribution of male and female authors (33 to 32). Of those, 8 are authors outside the United States, clearly a statistic that I need to work on. This is information that I make available to students.

 

Also, last year, 8 students wrote on archival topics, while 4 wrote on records management topics. One wrote about a topic that blended both. This year, there are 9 students wrote on archives topics while 4 wrote on records management. This lets me get an understanding of the career trajectory of the students, something that the Student Opinion of Test Effectiveness (SOTE) evaluations nor the post-graduation employment survey specifically address. I plan on creating a separate section for statistics that incorporates other aspects of the course, namely grades.

 

Ideas for Next Year

Some ideas for next year are to create a class style guide, similar to style guides / submission guidelines encountered when submitting to journals. This will approximate what those who do go onto submit articles, reviews, etc. will encounter. Unable to let the idea of usability of student’s work go, I might align the final proposal more with the application for ARMA International Education Foundation’s Research Project Proposal Form, due to its wide scope of both archives and records management.

 

Conclusion

Overall, teaching this class has been a rewarding experience and I’ve learned that I have more experience than I thought I had. As an archivist who graduated from the history camp of archives education, I think MARA 285 provides a broad overview of the many possible approaches and research designs. This, I think, is the classes’ strength. While students might not rush out and conduct ethnographic fieldwork in a records center or design a participatory action research methodology for setting up a community archives, they’ve at least been exposed to some of these interesting ideas and designs. I think that I’ve done a good job at preparing students for a career in writing and publishing, or at the very least, reading and critically analyzing professional literature.

 

Now, return to the questions that I raised in the introduction. I’ve given you an overview of the structure, themes, and problems of the course, so here’s your chance to chime in on your experience learning about our professional writing, researching, and publishing culture. What was missing in your own education? What’s missing in today’s students? What’s missing in my course? Even if you don’t feel like sharing them below, I’m always looking for feedback, sources, and ideas to incorporate into the class. If you have any comments or suggestions, please send them my way.

 

Sources

 

(1) Couture, C. and Ducharme, D. (2005). Research in archival science: A status report. Archivaria 59, 63-64. Reprinted in Gilliland, A. and McKemmish, S. (2004). Building an infrastructure for archival research. Archival Science. 4. 149-197.

 

(2) Currently, my course is the only one which addresses Core Competency I, which is intended for students to “Understand research design and research methods and possess the analytical, written, and oral communication skills to synthesize and disseminate research findings.”

 

(3) Salo, D. (2014). LIS 644: Digital trends, tools, and debates. [Syllabus]. Accessed from http://files.dsalo.info/644syllsum2014.pdf 

 

(4) Babbie, E. R. (2013). The practice of social research. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. In this reading, Babbie talks about: Social Darwinism, Positivism, Postmodernism, conflict, Symbolic Interactionism, Ethnomethodology, Structural Functionalism, Feminism, and Critical Race Theory among others.

Guest Post, Part 1: Are Archives Graduate Programs Adequately Preparing Students for Publishing, Researching, and Writing in the Profession?

Thank you to Joshua Zimmerman, lecturer at San Jose State University’s iSchool, for this fantastic post. His in-depth perspective is in 2 posts and I encourage everyone to read it thoroughly. Josh has great strategies to help emerging professionals prepare for and contribute to the intellectual discourse of archival scholarship. (Read Part 2)

________

Are archives graduate program adequately preparing students for the profession? As an adjunct lecturer in the Masters of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) online master’s degree program in San José State University’s iSchool, this is a question that I’m constantly asking myself as I hear from students and other professionals. For readers of this blog, perhaps a more relevant but related question would be: are archives graduate programs adequately preparing students for publishing, researching, and writing in the profession? As the one responsible for teaching MARA 285 Research Methods in Records Management and Archival Science, I’m extremely concerned with this question. I thought that readers might be interested in how our research and publishing culture is being taught in one small corner of the profession.

As you read this, I want you to think back to how you were introduced to the norms of researching and publishing in our profession? Were these skills taught in your graduate program, did you already have them, or did you have to pick them up later? Finally, what do you wish you would have learned about writing, researching, and publishing in the archives profession as a graduate student? Keep the answers to these questions in mind as you read below. I’d love to know how MARA 285 stacks up to your experiences, good or bad.

Assignments and Assignment Format

The overall structure and framework of MARA 285 is one that I inherited from a colleague, Jason Kaltenbacher who is also an adjunct professor in the MARA program. While my lectures significantly differ from his, I’ve kept the assignments and overall structure basically the same. Other research courses in the iSchool (and in other MLIS programs), I have found, employ a similar assignment format. I ask students to complete an annotated bibliography, topic proposal, literature review, and final proposal. These assignments build on each other and help students complete the steps in putting together both a formal proposal and the framework of a major research project. Since the internet survey has become the preferred data gathering tool of the profession, I also ask them to complete a group survey project where they develop a short internet survey, cover letter, and rationale statement for each question. 

Social Science Focus

When I first took this course on and looked at the assignments and overall structure, I felt that I wanted to radically change the end project to a publishable article. This would be immediately usable to students as they could submit it to journals and present it elsewhere at conferences or on professional or personal blogs. Within the last couple years, my alma mater (Western Washington University) changed their MA thesis requirement to a much smaller publishable article which, I think, seeks to address this aim. Yet, after using the old proposal assignment structure that I inherited for two years, I’ve completely changed my tune.

I discovered just how important it was to snap students out of what I call the “term paper mentality,” an assignment format that most students are particularly used to and, as I’ve discovered, often revert to if given the chance. This course structure offers students the chance to approach a topic systematically, more like a project than a paper. Instead of writing a term paper and trying to wrap up all the loose ends up by the end of the semester, the objective is only to build the structure in order to execute it after the course concludes. This means, that they design the research, but they stop short of sending out the survey, conducting the field work, or digging into records in an archives. I feel that this format ties in better with the assigned textbook chapters that break down different aspects or approaches to research. It also forces students to step back and formalize what they are doing and more importantly, how they plan on doing it. They are asked to put together a research schedule and justify why they are qualified to conduct this research as part of the final proposal.

Challenges, Problems, and Issues

One problem that I encountered during the first year concerned appropriate topic choices. Other courses in the MARA program such as Enterprise Content Management and Digital Preservation or Management of Records and Archival Institutions have clearly defined topic limits. These are built into the course. For instance, you probably can’t write a term paper on medieval recordkeeping for the Enterprise Content Management and Digital Preservation class.

MARA 285, however, is wide almost wide open as far as potential research topics go. That medieval recordkeeping topic is fair game in MARA 285. While there are endless opportunities for topics, there are nevertheless some limitations. I ask that students choose a topic related to the archives, RIM, or library science fields. I encourage students to bring in their interests and give it a records twist. For instance, last year, one military historian in the class designed a project around military recordkeeping. Though the course is taught from a social science perspective, I want students to specifically engage the professional literature of archives and RIM. This year, in addition to some clarifying language and a preemptory blog post on the MARA program website, I’ve added the typology of archives research topics by Couture and Ducharme (1). This typology spells out all the flavors of research conducted in the archives profession (and by extension, RIM). This seemed to have helped students frame their research within the profession.

Another problem that occurred this year was students’ lack of confidence in their professional experience. Unfortunately, due to scheduling, some students take this class as a first year student and in their first semester. To those working in the profession, this might not be a big issue, but for someone who is brand new to the profession, this course might be a bit daunting because it asks students to choose a topic in the profession and develop it over the course of the semester. As mentioned above, I provide guidance on choosing topics in the lecture, but especially for the literature review which asks students to isolate the major literature on their particular topic, this has been stressful or at least it has been related to me as such. This is sometimes daunting for seasoned archivists, let alone first year students. 

Incorporating Perspectives

In addition to the assignments and readings mentioned above, I’ve added a video series called Research in the Wild. In it, the class gets to hear about the research and writing process from other archivists and records managers. I launched it late in the course in 2015 with a few videos, mostly 5-10 minutes. This year, I have a video for nearly each module and hopefully a lot more for next year. Video submissions have addressed specific project-related research challenges as well as more broadly, research agendas, theses, the editing process, differences in publishing in and out of school, and Fulbright Scholarship research among others. In my own archival program, I enjoyed hearing from guest lecturers and talking with archivists and RMs on field trips and it’s these experiences that I’ve tried to recreate. I felt a bit uncomfortable asking archivists and records managers to do free work for me, so I decided to donate to SAA’s Mosaic Scholarship on behalf of those who submit videos. If you’d like to submit a video for next year or know someone who might, please let me know (zimmerj6@gmail.com). From some early feedback from students this year, I’ve learned that the writing process might be more important than I initially thought. So as a result, I’ll be seeking archivists and RIMs who want to talk about this aspect of the profession.