Archival Science

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 69–92 | Cite as

Contexts built and found: a pilot study on the process of archival meaning-making

  • Wendy M. DuffEmail author
  • Emily Monks-Leeson
  • Alan Galey
  • The Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) Team
Original paper


Over the last 20 years, humanities and archival scholars have theorized the ways in which archives imbue records with meaning. However, archival scholars have not sufficiently examined how users understand the meaning of the records they find. Building on the premise that how users come to make meaning from records is greatly in need of examination, this paper reports on a pilot study of four book history students and their processes of archival meaning-making. We focus in particular on behaviors of an interpretive rather than forensic nature. This article includes a discussion of the theoretical concepts and scholarly literature that shaped our goals for this paper. It then discusses the methodology and our interpretations of the research findings, before turning to a discussion of the findings’ implications and directions for future work.


Meaning-making Information use Book history 



We are grateful to Heather MacNeil, Costis Dallas, Peter Gorman, Rebecca Niles, and the audience at the 2010 Association of Canadian Archivists Conference. Any errors are our own. The research described here was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wendy M. Duff
    • 1
    Email author
  • Emily Monks-Leeson
    • 2
  • Alan Galey
    • 1
  • The Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) Team
  1. 1.Faculty of InformationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Military History Research CentreCanadian War MuseumOttawaCanada

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