Reinventing Archival Methods: Issues papers


The ‘Reinventing Archival Methods’ workshop, held in November 2012, came about following discussions in our profession in which we shared concerns that that our professional methods are not coping with the scale and complexity of contemporary recordkeeping challenges, and they are failing us at a time of critical risk.

RAM slideEarly on, we recognised that this is not the first call to reinvent our professional practices. In 1986 David Bearman first argued that our core methods of appraisal, description, preservation and access were fundamentally unable to cope with the volumes of information that archivists were required to process. He called on the profession to completely reinvent its core methods.  While much has been done in the intervening 25 years, as a profession our methods are still ill-equipped to deal with the volume, fragility and complexity of contemporary archival records. So, inspired by Bearman’s ‘Archival Methods’, we decided that  it was time for us, as a profession, to explore how we can fundamentally reassess our methods and determine what can be done to create a stable archival record of the 21st century. You can read a full report on the workshop here.

At the end of Day 2 of the workshop, it was announced that members of the Recordkeeping Roundtable would lead the development of two issues papers drawing on discussion and ideas from the workshop. Volunteers from the workshop participants put up their hands to assist in the drafting of the issues papers, one on access and one on appraisal.

About the issues papers

The papers both seek to encapsulate the key issues identified by speakers and participants at the workshops, and also identify opportunities for further research, for prototypes and projects that could be run either by the Roundtable or other stakeholders such as the Universities, government archives or professional associations. The papers were developed in consultation with the reference groups of volunteers from the workshops. The lead authors on the papers were Barbara Reed (Access) and Kate Cumming and Anne Picot (Appraisal).

Access (PDF, 33KB)

Appraisal (PDF, 29KB)

Members of the Recordkeeping Roundtable will be presenting on the papers at the Australian Society of Archivists’ conference in Canberra in October 2013.

Start the conversation!

The Roundtable is keen to know what you think about the issues raised in the papers, and for a conversation on these important matters to continue within our profession. Comment here on our blog, chat on Twitter using the hashtag #archmethods, post to ArchivesLive or to the Archives and Records Australia Google Group. For those of you attending the Canberra conference, we look forward to discussing the future of these core activities of our profession with you there.

About Cassie Findlay

Digital recordkeeping, archives and privacy professional, co-founder of the Recordkeeping Roundtable. @CassPF on Twitter.
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