It’s been a very disjointed sort of day. I sat down yesterday to answer a query on AIPs, SIPS and DIPs by Chris Hurley over on the Archives and Records google group, and woke up this morning thinking about the need to clarify one of my points. Then over to twitter to catch up on the ACA conference I mentioned yesterday, and Peter van Garderen was the key note speaker, talking about access to archives, which included a link to his paper on decentralised collections. This seemed to me to be relevant to the ideas that Chris is discussing, so I was able to add it in to my response (told you I would cheat. Be grateful I didn’t just provide the link and publish. I also argued with people about copyright, but we won’t go there).
It’s my day off, the one for big thinking, but my mind is full of little links. One of the things that I’ve been thinking about is based on the blog by Petra Dumbell, a PhD student at Curtin, for whom I am an associate supervisor. Petra too, was thinking about collections, but her idea was to create a link to people. At first I thought she was thinking about the People and Organisation entities in the Resource Description and Access protocols being used by entities like the National Library of Australia ( and which have a lot of similarities to archival authority records), and then I realised that she was talking about something like a persistent HumanLibrary program. I’m not sure I like the idea of being booked out for a coffee chat to talk about blogging for example, but the HumanLibrary idea hung around.
We can and should do more about providing insights into the people in the archive, the ones who use the collections and the staff who provide the access, develop appraisal programs and choose material. It’s about shaking up stereotypes and expectations. There’s my colleague, Meg Travers, who is recreating the Trautonium, for example. However, there is another and perhaps more important issue here. Professor of Digital History, Tim Hitchcock, was talking on twitter about the role of archivists in helping historians develop and write a story. Archivists and librarians are being silenced, he feels; left out of the methodology and historiography that goes into a work of history. On the other hand, we as archivists struggle with ideas of agency and of objective and subjective appraisal.
As I looked at the feed for the ACA conference, I could see a theme developing about access to archives and to the stories within them. It’s also National Reconciliation Week here in Australia, and I thought, what if we had a HumanArchive program? It would require a great deal of sensitivity, but how empowering and enlightening would it be to talk to the subject of an archive file? To ask how they felt about being documented, about what it was like to find their record or that of their family? What struggles and barriers did they overcome to get access to that record?