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Neutrality, social justice and the obligations of archival education and educators in the twenty-first century

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Codes of ethics around the globe exhort archivists to neutrality so that they and their repositories will be trusted by records creators, the general public, and posterity to be impartial in their actions. However, archival neutrality is increasingly viewed as a controversial stance for a profession that is situated in the midst of the politics of memory. Archival educators have been prominent among those calling for the profession to address more directly the cultural and ethical dimensions of the role played by archives and records in society. This paper contemplates how archival neutrality and social justice concerns can surface within the context of archival education. Drawing upon experiences of the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), it suggests pedagogical approaches for raising and addressing ethics and diversity issues within a social justice framework, and for encouraging students, as future practitioners and scholars, to engage critically, reflexively, and meaningfully with these issues in ways that support the public trust in archives and the archival profession.

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  1. In North America, ladder, clinical and sometimes adjunct archival academics are referred to as “faculty,” but the term is not used universally worldwide. The Society of American Archivists refers to all those engaged in teaching archival courses as “archival educators” and that term is used here as being more expressive. This keynote address was sponsored by the International Council on Archives Section on Archival Education and Training (ICAI-SAE).


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Correspondence to Anne Gilliland.

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Gilliland, A. Neutrality, social justice and the obligations of archival education and educators in the twenty-first century. Arch Sci 11, 193–209 (2011).

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