Original Paper

Archival Science

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 317-348

First online:

Social justice impact of archives: a preliminary investigation

  • Wendy M. DuffAffiliated withFaculty of Information, University of Toronto
  • , Andrew FlinnAffiliated withDepartment of Information Studies, University College London
  • , Karen Emily SuurtammAffiliated withUniversity of Toronto Archives and Records Management Services
  • , David A. WallaceAffiliated withSchool of Information, University of Michigan Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


This article reports the first stage of a research collaboration that is elaborating the multiple relationships between archives and social justice. Specifically, it is developing narrative frameworks and diagrammatic representations to identify, understand, illustrate, and deploy the actual and potential social justice impact of archives, archivists, and archival repositories. A discussion of the broader and historical social justice landscape culminates with a working conceptualization-framework of social justice followed by an examination of the many methods and modes by which social justice can be an object of research. This is followed by an examination of the rising presence of social justice as an explicit and accelerating concern in four key English language archival journals before offering a working articulation and approach to an archival—social justice framework. A discussion of understanding and measuring impact, with specific reference to the framework of impact that we have chosen to deploy, culminates with an analysis of the social justice impact of archives as evidenced through two exemplary case studies. This is followed by a summation of key findings and a discussion of future plans to expand this research. The overall objective of these efforts is targeted toward elucidating how archives can be cast as having both positive and negative social justice consequences and demonstrating how archival work can serve social justice goals.


Social justice Impact research Impact frameworks Power Archival ethics