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The Archivist as Cartographer

Page history last edited by Suzanne Noruschat 9 years, 6 months ago

Meeting #26: October 23, 2014, 3:30-4:30, Bass L01A


Reading: Kit Hughes, “Appraisal as Cartography: Cultural Studies in the Archives,” American Archivist 77 (Spring/Summer 2014), 270-296.


Discussion leader: Suzi Noruschat


Abstract: Joining interdisciplinary conversations within archival appraisal theory, this article asks 1) how does a cultural studies model of appraisal re-imagine the documentary record for institutional archives, and 2) what are the methodological implications of such an approach?  In sketching the theoretical overlaps and divergences between archival studies and cultural studies to locate productive tensions between the two disciplines, this article offers a three-pronged approach to appraisal trained on everyday culture and experience.  At stake in broadening current appraisal standards are the politics of institutional memory and the limits of archival responsibility.


Discussion questions:

*  Can we evaluate the proposed appraisal strategy in relation to the Core Value of Archivists adopted by the Society of American Archivists?


*  Hughes champions appraisal as a “cultural practice,” identifying “archives’ cultural functions as central to their institutional status and work” (p. 271).  What distinction is she making here in terms of the functional role of archives?


*  According to Hughes, “using mapping as a framework for appraisal enables archivists to fill in gaps in the documentary record left by common appraisal strategies” (p. 274).  Does “mapping” alone achieve this aim?  What other strategies might be/have been used to fill in the gaps?


*  How useful—or relevant—did you find this article in considering personal papers?  Is it a viable strategy for the kinds of records we collect and preserve at Yale?


 *  In addition to interviews, making field observations, and collecting institutional material culture, are there other ways to “capture [the] ‘street-level view’ within appraisal” (pp. 287-289)?


*  On page 290, Hughes writes: “Some might suggest that creating documentation, particularly for those activities that do not ‘naturally’ produce a textual material record interferes with the ‘objectivity’ of the archives, since these documents are not the by-product of record creators acting in the regular course of their duties.”  What do you make of this statement?  As archivists, should we be concerned about sacrificing objectivity when we actively create documentation that supplements the records we acquire?

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