Skip to main content

Mobilizing records: re-framing archival description to support human rights

Abstract

This article seeks to raise consciousness within the field of archival studies in order to foster a generative discussion about how descriptive practices might be expanded, approached differently, or completely rethought. It brings together crosscutting theoretical issues and provides practical examples of mediation in order to mobilize these records in support of human rights work. It first problematizes the foundational archival precept of respect des fonds and its sub-principles of original order and provenance. It then analyzes the necessary transformation of institutional policies and standards in order to foster trust and transparency and identifies structural or system wide strategies for ameliorating past abuses.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Adami T (2007) “Who will be left to tell the tale?” Recordkeeping and international criminal jurisprudence. Arch Sci 7:213–221

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bates J, Rowley J (2011) Social reproduction and exclusion in subject indexing: a comparison of public library OPACs and LibraryThing folksonomy. J Doc 67(3):431–448

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. BBC (2013) Croatians tear down Serbian signs in Vukovar. BBC News. 2 September. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-23934098. Accessed 9 June 2014

  4. Bowker G, Star S (2000) Sorting things out: classification and its consequences. MIT Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  5. Campbell K (1973) The rhetoric of women’s liberation: an oxymoron. Q J Speech 59(1):74–86

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Caswell M (2010) Khmer Rouge archives: accountability, truth, and memory in Cambodia. Arch Sci 10(1):25–44

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Caswell M (2012) Using classification to convict the Khmer Rouge. J Doc 68(2):162–184

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Caswell M (2014) Archiving the unspeakable: silence, memory, and the photographic record in Cambodia. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison

    Google Scholar 

  9. Caswell M, Broman G, Kirmer J, Martin L, Sowry N (2012) Implementing a social justice framework in an introduction to archives course: lessons from both sides of the classroom. InterActions UCLA J Educ Inf Stud 8(2). https://escholarship.org/uc/item/2jx083hr

  10. Christen K (2011) Opening archives: respectful repatriation. Am Arch 74:185–210

    Google Scholar 

  11. Christen K (2012) Does information really want to be free? Indigenous knowledge systems and the question of openness. Int J Commun 6:2879–2893

    Google Scholar 

  12. Cook T (1992) The concept of the archival fonds: theory, description, and provenance in the post-custodial era. Archivaria 35:24–37

    Google Scholar 

  13. Corti L (2000) Progress and problems of preserving and providing access to qualitative data for social research—the international picture of an emerging culture. Forum Qual Soc Res 1(3). http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1024/2207#gcit

  14. Corti L, Day A, Backhouse G (2000) Confidentiality and informed consent: issues for consideration in the preservation of and provision of access to qualitative data archives. Forum Qual Soc Res 1(3). http://qualitative-reseach.net/fqs-texte/3-00/3-00coritetal-e.htm

  15. Crooke E (2010) The politics of community heritage: motivations, authority and control. Int J Herit Stud 16(1–2):16–29

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. De Brito A, Enriquez C, Aguilar P (eds) (2001) The politics of memory and democratization: transitional justice in democratizing societies. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  17. Dubriwny T (2005) Consciousness-raising as collective rhetoric: the articulation of experience in the redstocking abortion speak-out of 1969. Q J Speech 91(4):395–422

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Duff W, Harris V (2002) Stories and names: archival description as narrating records and constructing meanings. Arch Sci 2(3):263–285

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Duff W, Flinn A, Suurtamm K, Wallace D (2013) Social justice impact of archives: a preliminary investigation. Arch Sci 13(4):317–348

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Dunbar A (2006) Introducing critical race theory to archival discourse: getting the conversation started. Arch Sci 6:109–129

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Duranti L, Thibodeau K (2001) The InterPARES international research project. Inf Manag J 35(1):44–51

    Google Scholar 

  22. Faulkhead S (2009) Connecting through records: narratives of Koorie Victoria. Arch Manuscr 37(2):60–88

    Google Scholar 

  23. Flinn A (2008) Other ways of thinking, other ways of being. Documenting the margins and the transitory: what to preserve, how to collect. In: Craven L (ed) What are archives: cultural and theoretical perspectives: a reader. Ashgate, Burlington, pp 109–128

    Google Scholar 

  24. Genocide Archive Rwanda: perpetrator testimonies (n.d.) Genocide Archive Rwanda. http://www.genocidearhiverwanda.org/rw/index.php/Category:Perpetrator_Testimonies. Accessed 9 June 2014

  25. Gilliland A (2011a) Reflections on the value of metadata archaeology for recordkeeping in a global, digital world. J Soc Arch 32(1):97–112

    Google Scholar 

  26. Gilliland A (2011b) Neutrality, social justice and the obligations of archival education and educators in the twenty-first century. Arch Sci 11(3–4):193–209

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Gilliland A (2012) Contemplating co-creator rights in archival description. Knowl Organ 39(5):340–346

    Google Scholar 

  28. Gilliland A (2014) Conceptualizing twenty-first-century archives. Society of American Archivists, Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  29. Gilliland A, McKemmish S (2014) The role of participatory archives in furthering human rights, reconciliation and recovery. Atlanti Rev Mod Arch Theory Pract 24 (in press)

  30. Gilliland A, Willer M (2014) Metadata for the information multiverse. In: Proceedings of iConference 2014, Berlin, Germany, 4–7 March 2014

  31. Gilliland A, Lindberg L, McCargar V, Langmead A, Lauriault T, Leahey-Sugimoto M, Evans J, Tennis JT, Wang H (2008) Investigating the roles and requirements, manifestations and management of metadata in the creation of reliable and preservation of authentic electronic entities created by dynamic, interactive and experiential systems: Report on the work and findings of the InterPARES 2 description cross domain group. In: Duranti L, Preston R (eds) International research on permanent authentic records in electronic systems (InterPARES) 2: experiential, interactive and dynamic records. Associazione Nazionale Archivistica Italiana, Padova, pp 261–307

    Google Scholar 

  32. Gorman M (2003) Cataloguing in an electronic age. Cat Classif Q 36(3–4):5–17

    Google Scholar 

  33. Hammersley M (1997) Qualitative data archiving: some reflections on its prospects and problems. Sociology 31(1):131–142

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Harris V (2002) The archival sliver: power, memory and archives in South Africa. Arch Sci 2(1–2):63–86

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Harris V (2007) Archives and justice: a South African perspective. Society of American Archivists, Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  36. Hawkins K (2009) Reflections on InterPARES: a pattern language for electronic records. Archivaria 67:157–188

    Google Scholar 

  37. Hayner P (2010) Unspeakable truths: transitional justice and the challenge of truth commissions. Routledge, London

    Google Scholar 

  38. Hensen S (1997) “NISTF II” and EAD: the evolution of archival description. Am Arch 60(3):284–296

    Google Scholar 

  39. Hirobayashi J (2008) Enduring communities: ‘concentration camp’ or ‘relocation center’—what’s in a name? Discov Nikkei. http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2008/4/24/enduring-communities/. Accessed 9 June 2014

  40. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (1997) Bringing them home: the ‘Stolen Children’ report. http://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/bringing-them-home-stolen-children-report-1997. Accessed 5 Mar 2014

  41. Hurley C (1995) Problems with provenance. Arch Manuscr 23:234–259

    Google Scholar 

  42. Hurley C (2005) Parallel provenance: if these are your records, where are your stories? Records Continuum Group Publications. http://www.infotech.monash.edu.au/research/groups/rcrg/publications/parallel-provenance-combined.pdf. Accessed 2 Mar 2014

  43. Hutterer KL (1978) Dean C. Worcester and Phillipine anthropology. Philipp Q Cult Soc 6(3):125–156

    Google Scholar 

  44. Huvila I (2008) Participatory archive: towards decentralized curation, radical user orientation, and broader contextualization of records management. Arch Sci 8:15–36

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Iacovino L (2010) Rethinking archival, ethical and legal frameworks for records of Indigenous Australian communities: a participant relationship model of rights and responsibilities. Arch Sci 10:353–372

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Jimerson RC (2007) Archives for all: professional responsibility and social justice. Am Arch 70(2):252–281

    Google Scholar 

  47. Jimerson RC (2009) Archives Power: memory, accountability, and social justice. Society of American Archivists, Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  48. Josias A (2011) Toward an understanding of archives as a feature of collective memory. Arch Sci 11(1–2):95–112

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Ketelaar E (2008) Archives as spaces of memory. J Soc Arch 29(1):9–27

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Lipsitz G (1995) The possessive investment in whiteness: how white people profit from identity politics. Temple University Press, Philadelphia

    Google Scholar 

  51. Lockwood FC (1929) The life of Edward E. Ayer. A.C. McClurg & Co., Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  52. Mathiesen K (2012) A defense of Native Americans’ rights over their traditional cultural expressions. Am Arch 75:456–481

    Google Scholar 

  53. McKemmish S (1994) Are records ever actual? In: McKemmish S, Piggott M (eds) The records continuum: Ian Maclean and Australian archives first fifty years. Ancora Press, Melbourne, pp 187–203

    Google Scholar 

  54. McKemmish S, Faulkhead S, Russell L (2011) Distrust in the archive: reconciling records. Arch Sci 11:211–239

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Muller S, Feith J, Fruin R (1898) Handleiding voor het ordenen en beschrijven van archiven [Manual for the arrangement and description of archives]. Erven B. Van der Kamp, Groningen

    Google Scholar 

  56. Nesmith T (2006) The concept of societal provenance and records of nineteenth-century Aboriginal-European relations in Western Canada: implications for archival theory and practice. Arch Sci 6(3–4):351–360

    Google Scholar 

  57. Nordland LP (2004) The concept of “secondary provenance”: re-interpreting Ac ko mok ki’s map as evolving text. Archivaria 1:58

    Google Scholar 

  58. Novak JR (2013) Examining activism in practice: a qualitative study of archival activism, Ph D dissertation. University of California, Los Angeles

  59. Olson HA (2001) The power to name: representation in library catalogs. Signs 26(3):639–668

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Olson HA (2007) How we construct subjects: a feminist analysis. Libr Trends 56(2):509–541

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Pearce-Moses R (2005) Provenance. A glossary of archival and records terminology. Society of American Archivists, Chicago. http://www2.archivists.org/glossary/terms/p/provenance. Accessed 9 June 2014

  62. Pidd H (2011) Germans piece together millions of lives spied on by Stasi. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/mar/13/east-germany-stasi-files-zirndorf. Accessed 14 Mar 2014

  63. Piggot M, McKemmish S (2002) Recordkeeping, reconciliation and political reality. In: Australian society of archivists annual conference, Sydney

  64. Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal (n.d.) About, curation process. Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal. http://plateauportal.wsulibs.wsu.edu/html/ppp/help.php?topic=2. Accessed 3 Mar 2014

  65. Quintana AG (1997) Archives of the security services of former repressive regimes. International Council of Archives, Paris

    Google Scholar 

  66. Rioux K (2010) Metatheory in library and information science: a nascent social justice approach. J Educ Libr Inf Sci 51:9–17

    Google Scholar 

  67. Sachs A (2007) Archives, truth, and reconciliation. Archivaria 62:1–14

    Google Scholar 

  68. Sassoon J, Burrows T (2009) Minority reports: indigenous and community voices in archives. Papers from the 4th international conference on the history of records and archives (ICHORA 4), Perth, Western Australia, August 2008. Arch Sci 9(1):1–5

  69. Shilton K, Srinivasan R (2007) Participatory appraisal and arrangement for multicultural archival collections. Archivaria 63:87–101

    Google Scholar 

  70. Simons HW (1970) Requirements, problems, strategies: a theory of persuasion for social movements. Q J Speech 56:1–11

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Slymovics S (2014) How to accept German reparations. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia

    Google Scholar 

  72. Society of American Archivists (2011). History and memory. SAA core values statements and code of ethics. http://www2.archivists.org/statements/saa-core-values-statement-and-code-of-ethics. Accessed 9 June 2014

  73. Society of American Archivists, Encoded Archival Description Working Group (2002). Encoded archival description tag library. http://www.loc.gov/ead/tglib/index.html. Accessed 9 June 2014

  74. Srinivasan R (2013) Re-thinking the cultural codes of new media: the question concerning ontology. New Media Soc 15(2):203–223

    Article  Google Scholar 

  75. Stefanac T, White K (forthcoming) Representation, rights and identity of Croatia’s roma community: An archival perspective. In: Proceedings of the summer school and conference on records, archives and memory, University of Zadar Press, Zadar

  76. Stoler A (2010) Along the archival grain: epistemic anxieties and the colonial common sense. Princeton University Press, Princeton

    Google Scholar 

  77. Sullivan RJ (1991) Exemplar of Americanism: the Phillipine career of Dean C. Worcester. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor

    Google Scholar 

  78. Sweet K (1998) Volumes of hope. University of Chicago Magazine. http://magazine.uchicago.edu/9810/CollegeReport/volumes.htm. Accessed 14 Mar 2014

  79. Theodoridou M, Tzitzikas Y, Doerr M, Marketakis Y, Melessanakis V (2010) Modeling and querying provenance by extending CIDOC CRM. Distrib Parallel Databases 27(2):169–210

    Article  Google Scholar 

  80. Thomson D, Bzdel L, Golden-Biddle K, Reay T, Estabrooks CA (2005) Central questions of anonymization: a case study of secondary use of qualitative data. Forum Qual Soc Res 6(1). http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/511/1103

  81. United Nations (2005) Economic and Social Council. Commission on Human Rights. Sixty-first session. Item 17 of the provisional agenda. Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. Impunity. Report of the independent expert to update the Set of principles to combat impunity, Diane Orentlicher. Addendum: Updated Set of principles for the protection and promotion of human rights through action to combat impunity. E/CN.4/2005/102/Add.1: 8 February. http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G05/109/00/PDF/G0510900.pdf?OpenElement. Accessed 14 Mar 2014

  82. Wakimoto DK, Bruce C, Partridge H (2013) Archivist as activist: lessons from three queer community archives in California. Arch Sci 13(4):293–316

    Article  Google Scholar 

  83. Walch VI (1990) The role of standards in the archival management of electronic records. Am Arch 53(1):30–43

    Google Scholar 

  84. Weld K (2014) Paper cadavers: the archives of dictatorship in Guatemala. Duke University Press, Durham

    Book  Google Scholar 

  85. Wilkinson T (2013) Gunmen torch vital records of rights group in El Salvador. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2013/nov/14/world/la-fg-wn-gunmen-torch-records-rights-group-salvador-20131114. Accessed 14 Mar 2014

  86. Wurl J (2005) Ethnicity as provenance: in search of values and principles for documenting the immigrant experience. Arch Issues 29(1):65–76

    Google Scholar 

  87. Yakel E (2003) Archival representation. Arch Sci 3:1–25

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stacy Wood.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wood, S., Carbone, K., Cifor, M. et al. Mobilizing records: re-framing archival description to support human rights. Arch Sci 14, 397–419 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10502-014-9233-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • Human rights
  • Archival theory
  • Archival description
  • Archival education