Archival Science

, Volume 2, Issue 3–4, pp 263–285

Stories and names: Archival description as narrating records and constructing meanings

  • Wendy M. Duff
  • Verne Harris
Articles

Abstract

The authors of this essay, coming from very different traditions and modes of archival discourse, explore together archival description as a field of archival thinking and practice. Their shared conviction is that records are always in the process of being made, and that the stories of their making are parts of bigger stories understandable only in the ever-changing broader contexts of society. The exploration begins with an interrogation of the traditional and ever-valid questions of the what and the why of archival description. Thereafter they offer a deconstruction of these questions and of the answers commonly proffered. In these sections of the essay their concern is with descriptive architecture, the analysis covering a number of specific architectures and including only oblique references to descriptive standardization. The concluding section attempts to draw out the implications of their analysis for endeavours—irrespective of the architectures being used — to define, and to justify, descriptive standards. Their call is not to dispense with standardization, but rather to create space for a liberatory approach which engages creatively the many dangers of standardization.

Keywords

deconstruction description standards user needs 

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References

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    We do not claim originality in the outline of a liberatory standard which follows. Bowker and Star, explicitly, have influenced our thinking. But a number of “archival” thinkers, notably Terry Cook, have also influenced us. Cook's ground-breaking ideas are spread through numerous texts, but are concentrated in a text which appeared after we began work on this essay: “Fashionable Nonsense or Professional Rebirth: Postmodernism and the Practice of Archives”,Archivaria 51 (Spring 2001): 14–35.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wendy M. Duff
    • 1
  • Verne Harris
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Information StudiesUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.South African History ArchiveBraamfonteinSouth Africa

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