Archival Science

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 25–49 | Cite as

Visual analytics, cognition and archival arrangement and description: studying archivists’ cognitive tasks to leverage visual thinking for a sustainable archival future

  • Victoria L. Lemieux
Original Paper


This paper explores the possibility of using visual analysis to support archival functions. It first reviews the current state of experimentation with the use of interactive visual interfaces in the archival domain, noting several gaps including the absence of formal studies of cognitive and perceptual tasks. The paper then reports on preliminary results from a cognitive task analysis of archival arrangement and description, providing a broad brush description of archival analysis during arrangement and description as an example of archival sense-making. It then suggests some possible leverage points where visual analytics technology might be applied to support archival arrangement and description and concludes by reflecting on some theoretical and practical aspects of visualization technologies.


Arrangement and description Visual analytics Visualization Cognitive task analysis Protocol analysis Sense-making Human–computer interaction 



This research has been carried out with funding from the Boeing Corporation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The author would like to thank her research assistants Lara Mancuso, Justin Chan, and Kevin Owen for their contributions to this project. A debt of gratitude is also owed to the two anonymous archivists who participated in the arrangement and description project analysed for this study. Without them, and the support of their managers, this study would not have been possible. The author would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers of earlier versions of this paper whose constructive criticisms greatly improved the final version. Any errors and omissions remain the sole responsibility of the author.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, I.K. Barber Learning CentreUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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