Women’s equality

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In honor of Women’s History Month, I decided to investigate archival repositories that focus on women.  Here are some representative examples of repositories from different regions of the United States.

The Sophia Smith Collection was founded at Smith College in 1942.  It began as a collection of works by women writers but has expanded over the years, with strengths in subjects including birth control and reproductive rights, women’s rights, suffrage, the contemporary women’s movement across race, class, and sexual orientation, U.S. women working abroad, the arts (especially theatre), the professions (especially journalism and social work), and middle-class family life in nineteenth- and twentieth-century New England.

Author and feminist activist Sallie Bingham endowed a women’s studies archivist position at Duke University in 1988; five years later, The Center was permanently endowed, and it was named the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture in 1999.  Its mission states very broadly that The Center “acquires and preserves published and unpublished materials that reflect the public and private lives of women throughout history.”  The collections focus on domestic culture, girl culture, the history of feminist theory and activism, lay and ordained church women, southern women, women artists, women authors and publishers, women of color, and women’s sexuality and gender expression.

The Iowa Women’s Archives was founded at the University of Iowa in 1992.  It currently “holds more than 1100 manuscript collections that chronicle the lives and work of Iowa women, their families, and their communities.”  Here is its mission:

Inspired by the vision of its founders, the Louise Noun – Mary Louise Smith Iowa Women’s Archives nourishes creative research, learning, and teaching by providing collections and a separate space dedicated to the women of Iowa and their history.  The Archives fulfills its mission by collecting and making available primary sources about the history of Iowa women from all walks of life.  It undertakes a robust outreach program to gather and preserve the history of groups underrepresented in archives.  Through its programs and online resources, the Iowa Women’s Archives serves a broad audience ranging from students and scholars to the general public.

The Women and Leadership Archives at Loyola University of Chicago was established in 1994.  They have special interest “in the subject areas of women in politics, the arts, sciences, education, philanthropy, and business” as well as “records related to second and third wave feminism, women’s social justice activism and community building as well as collections related to Catholic women, both lay and religious, Catholic theology, and feminist theology.”  They are the only repository included here that is highlighting holdings in honor of Women’s History Month — a post about the Feminist Forum collection.

The Nevada Women’s Archives at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas documents the lives and careers of significant Southern Nevada women.

The Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship at Union Theological Seminary “provides access to the records of women who have reshaped theological education and American church life since 1900 and serves as the living memory and documentary repository for materials pertaining to Christian women’s movements for progressive social change during this period.”  It is the only one of the collections described here that posts its Collection Development Policies online.


It is interesting that most of these institutions were established within the last twenty-five years.  Women’s history was strong before the 1990s, so it stands to reason that the interests of researchers may have driven these developments.  Perhaps “The Year of the Woman” (1992) also pushed the needle forward a little bit.  Two things surprised me about my investigations of these repositories:

  1. Most do not have explicit collection development policies posted online.  I would think that repositories would want to define their archival turf clearly for the benefit of both researchers and potential donors, but this is not reflected in the online presences for these repositories.
  2. Only one of the repositories I investigated had any sort of online exhibit or even acknowledgment of Women’s History Month.  Perhaps the powers that be feel that women deserve to be emphasized throughout the entire year, but much as I mused last month about Black History Month, it seems that this is a missed opportunity for outreach when users might be looking to these repositories to highlight their collections at this time of year.

There’s still a sense that the records of women and women’s organizations still deserve special attention.  As evidence of this, one of the roundtables for the Society of American Archivists is the Women’s Collections Roundtable, which “promotes the preservation and research use of records documenting women and networks archivists with holdings concerning or created by women.”  Many of the repositories have been established in the last generation, so as time goes on, it will be interesting to see whether repositories continue carving out a particular niche or whether collections development becomes more all-inclusive.


Let the sunshine in

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Sunshine Week ended yesterday.  It began in 2005 as a means to call attention to the public’s right to know what our government is doing and why.  Having spent the last three weeks pondering the role of social justice in the archival profession, I immediately recognized that this emphasis on transparency aligns with the emphasis on Accountability in the Core Values of Archivists established by the Society of American Archivists.  All of this leads me to wonder how well archivists are doing in embracing this value, so I look to several postmodernist thinkers for some insights.

In a 2001 paper delivered by Terry Cook at the Sawyer Seminar on Archives, Documentation, and the Institutions of Social Memory, he called for transparency in the appraisal of archival records.  Cook suggested that government and institutional archives place “negative entries” in record group inventories that would indicate the items that were not acquired and include reasoning for records included as well as for those excluded from the collection.  Similarly, he suggested that private archives should document collections that fell within the collecting mission of the repository but were not chosen to be accessioned.  Cook also suggested that the vita of archivists be made available to shed light on the grounds for their subjectivity (Terry Cook, “Remembering the Future: Appraisal of Records and the Role of Archives in Constructing Social Memory” in Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory: Essays from the Sawyer Seminar, Francis X. Blouin, Jr., and William G. Rosenberg, eds. [Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006], 178).

In a 2002 article for The American Archivist, Michelle Light and Tom Hyry applied a postmodern critique to archival finding aids and found them lacking in objectivity.  They intended to provide constructive criticism rather than just theory and proposed that a colophon be added to finding aids, providing a place for archivists (1) to document “their impact on the transmission and representation of a collection” and (2) “to record what they know about the history and provenance of a collection and to reveal appraisal, arrangement, description, preservation, and other decisions they made while working on a collection” and (3) “to record biographical information about a processor, as well as any perspective they would like to contribute to the finding aid” (“Colophons and Annotations: New Directions for the Finding Aid,” 65 no. 2 [Fall – Winter, 2002], 224).  They also suggested implementing Web-based annotations of finding aids, whereby users as well as archival staff could provide content about along with context and interpretations of a collection.  The application that most resonates with me is the idea that reference archivists could keep track of discoveries they make about collections or indicate how researchers have used a collection (228).  In talking with archivists at many different repositories, I have not found one that employs a reliable method for trapping this sort of institutional memory.

Heather MacNeil picked up on these points and others about archival description in a 2005 article in The American Archivist.  Although her focus is more precisely on authenticity, she also implored archivists to “lay bare the device” — or acknowledge the subjective role of archivists — as a means of underscoring archival accountability (“Picking Our Text: Archival Description, Authenticity, and the Archivist as Editor,” 68 no. 2 [Fall – Winter, 2005], 272).

If you note the article dates above, people have been talking for quite some time about transparency in archives, but this theory has not appreciably translated into practice.  Here’s a way that I think archival repositories could let the sunshine in.  Many places tout iterative processing — whether to address issues creating by MPLP processing or to highlight hidden collections or to incorporate feedback from reference archivists and users.  What I cannot easily find are repositories that maintain public access to each iteration of the finding aid or that identify the prompt for reprocessing.  I fully believe that these sorts of administrative records exist internally, but it would certainly “lay bare the device” to indicate to users, for example, whether a grant paid for reprocessing and what was changed.  Many repositories already include the name of the processor and the date when a finding aid was generated, so it would not be difficult to include a little more context.

The power of words

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I’ll conclude this three-week arc of posts about social justice in the archival profession by considering three responses: (1) what Rand Jimerson wrote in response to Mark Greene’s article, (2) a letter to the editor written by Michelle Caswell, and (3) a letter to the editor written by Mark Greene.

Jimerson focused on five main arguments by Greene with which he disagreed.

  1. He took umbrage at the designation of “crusade” for his goal of social justice within the archival community.  Jimerson wants the profession to take a stand in support of “the goals of democratic accountability, inclusiveness, open government, and social justice” (336).  But he’s clear that the cause of social justice is a personal choice rather than a professional obligation.
  2. In response to Greene’s concerns about politicizing the archival profession, Jimerson explained that he sees a difference between political issues (e.g., democratic accountability, open government, diversity, access to information, etc.) and politics (e.g., electoral campaigns, partisan issues, etc.) (337).
  3. Jimerson maintained his position that objectivity — based on methodology and professional standards — is the correct aspiration for the archival profession.  Where Greene favored neutrality as a goal, Jimerson entertained the possibility of partisanship so long as it comes in the name of documenting the marginalized, suggesting that we might need the “archival equivalent of affirmative action” in order to ensure the preservation of “the full spectrum of opinion and experience in society” (339).  In this context, he suggested a definition of social justice as “an attitude or set of principles and methods for achieving a more balanced and diverse documentation of society in all its complexity” (340).
  4. Where Greene worried that the push for social justice could damage the individuality of archival institutions, Jimerson responded that he was issuing an invitation to social justice, not a mandate for it.  He also clarified his support for corporate archivists and others who may not be able to take up the cause of social justice.  To explain his support of public access over private interests, Jimerson concluded that “public interests should trump institutional secrecy” (342).
  5. Jimerson argued that his push for social justice expands the role of archivists, not confines them to some cookie-cutter role as feared by Greene.  He suggested that archivists have a responsibility to four groups: employers, donors, users, and society (343).

Jimerson concluded with reference to the Core Values as defined by the Society of American Archivists.  He implored archivists to embrace these professional values above any personal values.

Michelle Caswell had three bones to pick with Greene:

  1. She criticized his lack of definition for social justice and offered this clarification: “most conceptions of social justice entail the more equitable distribution of life chances, a thorough unveiling and analysis of power, and greater opportunities for self-representation” (605).
  2. She contended that records are not neutral but “are discursive agents through which power is made manifest” (605).
  3. She resented his focus on the writings of Jimerson and Verne Harris, arguing that there are ignored voices in the social justice debate while those of “the senior white men” are privileged (606).

In an unprecedented move, The American Archivist published Jimerson’s response to Greene’s article and Caswell’s “riposte” to Greene alongside his article.  Given the unusual circumstances, Greene also had a brief letter to the editor included, in which he replied to Caswell’s criticisms.

  1. He contended his definition of social justice is “the goal of effecting change in the legal, political, and cultural status of marginalized communities within a given society” (607).  He went on to reiterate his position that it is possible to be an activist archivist without embracing the social justice mandate.
  2. He referenced other writings in which he established his belief that records are subjective and malleable but rejected the notion that “all records are instruments of power, much less of oppression” (607).
  3. He pointed out that Caswell overlooked some of the varied voices he did cite in his article, while others she suggested should have been included had not even published by the time Greene submitted his article.

I’ll conclude by trying to carve my position in this debate. In attending the brown bag lunch discussion of Mark Greene’s article at last August’s meeting of the SAA, I was struck that some of the loudest voices who criticized him — for being an old white man and therefore privileged and therefore not fit to speak for the archival profession as a whole — were also very dismissive of anyone who disagreed with them.  They had convinced themselves that Greene’s attitudes were somehow reflective of his physical make-up and abhorrent to all other types of individuals in the profession and were perfectly willing to criticize his article with only a soupçon of reasoned argument.  While I don’t necessarily agree with everything that Greene put forth, the reaction against him actually served to push me more towards his stances.

Perhaps this whole debate actually boils down to word choice.  Whenever I hear the phrase social justice, I can hear the chorus from Les Misérables and see someone waving the flag on top of the barricade.  I imagine I’m not alone in this sensation — otherwise, I’m at a loss as to how people can get so worked up over scholarship.  I was not a part of the task force that proposed the SAA Code of Ethics, so I don’t know if they considered using the term social justice, but I find their use of social responsibility to be more à propos.  Maybe I’ve watched too many Westerns, but social justice conjures up for me an image of archival vigilantism, and based on what I heard in the SAA discussion, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the loudest voices being the ones to define what justice means for my profession.  Consider the fact that we live in a country that can’t agree whether or not capital punishment is appropriate, with thirty-two states practicing the death penalty as a form of ensuring justice while eighteen states and DC have abolished the death penalty.  Justice is a concept fraught with complications.  Social responsibility, on the other hand, sounds more staid and reasoned and, most importantly, institutional.  It rests on the obligation of acting for the benefit of society as a whole.  On a personal level, I have spent my life trying to improve conditions for the less fortunate.  But on a professional level, I think efforts for social responsibility must be institutional, not personal.  For one thing, most people don’t stay in one position for their entire career, so if the impetus for social activism is personal, it could easily be short-lived in that location.  But if a repository embraces social responsibility as a part of its mission, that focus can be sustained.  Secondly, I recognize that my own life experiences cause ideas to resonate differently for me – for example, after having studied in Prague, Czech writers are much more interesting to me because I have a connection to some of the places and ideas about which they write.  While on the surface this is not problematic, if my personal interests were to forge my professional priorities, this would engender a potentially whimsical focus.  I agree with Jimerson that archivists have a “high calling,” and I believe that we owe it to our employers, donors, users, and society at large to, in the words of the SAA Core Values, “improve the overall knowledge and appreciation of the past within society.”

Last but not least, I want to congratulate Mark Greene and Randall Jimerson for their conduct.  In a world rife with inane banter and personal attacks, I applaud them for being able to engage in a scholarly debate without resorting to name calling or petty accusations.  These are attributes that need to be more widely embraced, not jettisoned just because they happen to come from “old white men.”

Mark Greene’s critique of social justice as an archival imperative

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As I explained last week, the pending discussion of Mark Greene’s article at the August 2013 meeting of the Society of American Archivists prompted my reading of Rand Jimerson’s book Archives Power.  I then read a preprint of Mark Greene’s article “A Critique of Social Justice as an Archival Imperative: What Is It We’re Doing That’s All That Important?” in order to participate in a lunch-time discussion during the SAA annual meeting.

In his article, Greene explicitly identified himself as an activist archivist and one who is professionally committed to diversity of archival holdings, researchers, and workers.  Yet he articulated two distinct dangers in embracing social justice as an archival imperative: doing so could damage the profession (1) by being “overly politicizing” and (2) by “weakening both our ethical standing and our power” (303).

Greene pointed to South African archivist Verne Harris as the earliest and best-known proponent of this social justice imperative — a distinction agreed upon by Rand Jimerson.  Greene then proceeded to pinpoint some of the oversights in Harris’ arguments.  Where Harris acknowledged but glossed over the danger that in embracing social justice archivists could lose their identity as “impartial custodian” and “honest broker,” Greene succinctly questioned, “Whose justice?  Justice for whom? (307).

Greene identified Randall Jimerson as a “well-known and well-respected” archivist who “has promulgated the most widely disseminated and comprehensive formulation of social justice archival practice.”  He immediately suggested a point of agreement with Jimerson in that they both believe “that what archivists do matters profoundly to the larger society” and that “archivists wield significant power” (308).  But while both agree that corruption can accompany this power, they disagree about its origin, with Jimerson arguing that archival passivity leads to corruption while Greene fears that there are corrupt systems and values on both sides of the social justice debate (309).

Jimerson drew a distinction between objectivity and neutrality that Greene could not embrace.  Jimerson emphasized the importance of objectivity, suggesting that archivists should give up the pretense of neutrality, while Greene advocated that “objectivity must give way to transparency, wherein historians and archivists are responsible for understanding and making clear their agency in formulating the content and meaning of archives” (311).  Greene argued that without neutrality, “archivists and their institutions will become completely politicized” rather than “becoming a counterbalance to the existing power structure” (312).  Greene incorporated a response by Kathy Marquis to an early draft of this article, embracing her vision that the neutrality of archives is imperative for collecting from all parts of the political spectrum and also her suggestion that the personal activism of archivists does not have to mirror the collecting priorities of their repositories (or vice versa).  Greene explained, “As long as I managed to convince individuals of both the left and the right that I am either neutral or a respectful, polite, non-ideological opposite, I succeeded in winning donations from across the political spectrum” (312-13).

Greene also acknowledged that the push for social justice leaves archivists who work for corporate archives or other private institutions in a sort of “ethical limbo” — for while there may be a preference for open access, the laws of our country protect private property, so no amount of professional jockeying can mandate the disclosure of records from private organizations or individuals (314-15).  So does this mean the archivists working in such positions would necessarily fall short of the archival imperative for social justice demanded by Jimerson and others?

Greene inserted a pragmatic side to his criticisms as well.  Where Jimerson gave short shrift to collection development and appraisal, Greene contended that the social justice imperative would “almost certainly result in the acquisition and preservation only of records with a clear social justice purpose” — both because embracing this imperative would identify archivists with one side of an issue and because limited resources might hamper the efforts that would be required to engage the other side (317).  He concluded that “the ethics of social justice would tend to undercut the individuality of repository missions” because all repositories wishing to be considered ethical would pursue the same records rather than focusing on their own institutional missions (319).

Greene ultimately suggested that archivists should be discouraged from pursuing a professional path of social justice:

“as long as one person’s social justice is another’s injustice; as long as nothing in our ethics demands serving society as a whole (unless such service is within one’s institutional mandate) or playing the role of an internal whistle-blower; as long as we wish both the political left and the right to view at least some of our repositories as neutral ground, where one set of records (and ideas) is not consciously privileged over others; and as long as such perceived neutrality is essential to earning the voluntary commitment of private donors to make their records publicly accessible; then for just as long must we reject social justice as the end of all archival effort” (323).

Greene concluded that our perception of the value of archivists has to be defined with an eye to the users, for even without pursuing social justice, “our mandates come to the same thing, in the end: service to our users” (325).  Rather than leading the social justice crusade, the responsibilities of archivists should be:

“to pursue, acquire, and make available the records that will, among other things, allow social justice crusaders to show that injustice has occurred.  Without the work of the archivist, it would be impossible to present proof.  If we believe in the goal of something called social justice, we can be proud that our profession ensures that relevant documentation survives.  If we don’t believe in social justice so-called, we can still be proud that our archives preserve memory and meaning for all facets of society” (328).

With all of this in mind, I will return next week to conclude this series on social justice by looking at the responses to Greene’s article and elaborating my own evolving notions.

Archives power


Last summer, the SAA announced they were planning to hold at the annual meeting a brown bag lunch discussion of a forthcoming article by Mark Greene — one in which he commented on social justice as an archival imperative.  Greene explained that he primarily wanted to spark a debate within the profession on a topic that has received fairly one-sided attention.  So I’m going to take him up on that challenge.

Because Greene predominantly referenced Rand Jimerson’s work, I decided to read Archives Power (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2009) so that I could be well-versed in its arguments and be better able to evaluate Greene’s critique of it.  (However, from my attendance at the brown bag discussion, it became obvious to me that exposure to the literature is not a prerequisite for having a strong opinion on this hot-button issue.)  Rather than doing a traditional book review, I’ll use this space to incorporate some of Jimerson’s points that I found most compelling.  In the coming weeks, I’ll evaluate Greene’s article and try to establish my own viewpoint.

Jimerson offered three metaphors to explain the power of archives (3-10):

  1. the temple, which shapes social memory
  2. the prison, which preserves and secures records
  3. the restaurant, which interprets and mediates between records and users

I like the metaphors in principle — though a vault might be a more appealing comparison than a prison — because they provide an easily accessible means to comprehend the purposes of archives.  And Jimerson didn’t argue that these are mutually exclusive depictions of the power of archives.

Jimerson cited Verne Harris’ identification of three major discourses that have defined roles for archivists (9):

  1. western positivism (e.g., the Dutch men), which looks at archivists as “workers with the record”
  2. Enlightenment (e.g., Hilary Jenkinson), which looks at archivists as “keepers of the record”
  3. postmodernism (beginning with Hugh Taylor), which looks at archivists as “narrators of the record”

Although, once again, these roles are not exclusive, many archivists and certainly most theorists tend toward one.  Considering the possibility of an audience that might not be well-versed in archival functions, Jimerson went on to outline the responsibilities of archivists (10-18):

  1. appraisal, or deciding what to preserve
  2. arrangement and description, or organizing and controlling records
  3. reference, access, and use

Jimerson used a thought-provoking quote from Cicero to introduce his chapter on the development of archives:

“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.  For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” (24)

Perhaps it is my background as an historian or perhaps it’s my love of textile metaphors, but Cicero’s idea strikes me as one that defines my own motivations as an archivist.

In his chapter on the historical role American archivists, Jimerson included a quote from archivist J. Franklin Jameson to historian Henry Adams about the contribution of archivists: “‘I struggle on, making bricks without much idea of how the architects will use them, but believing that the best architect that ever was cannot get along without bricks, and therefore trying to make good ones’” (106).  I tend more toward the helper role than one who needs the spotlight, but this statement might be a little too self-effacing even for me.  However, I do appreciate the principle that archivists need to be aware that there is a bigger edifice being constructed with their work.

In the chapter “Resisting Political Power,” Jimerson incorporated Czech author Milan Kundera and British author George Orwell as voices contending against authoritarianism, explaining that in some societies, “remembering unpleasant truths is illegal.  Thus, memory becomes a political act, charged with social meaning.  Historians and archivists work in a public arena, which is unavoidably political.  Every choice we make – about what documents and evidence to save, what to include in our research, and how to frame the questions for our interpretations of the past – reflects our own personal and collective perspectives on the world” (131).

Jimerson continued with a focus on memory in the following chapter, defining four planes of memory: (195)

  1. personal memory
  2. collective memory
  3. historical memory
  4. archival memory

Jimerson expanded on the idea of archival memory to be “constructed memory.”  He explained, “Because archives confer significance and authority on the documents they house, this power can shape the perspectives that we have on individuals and social groups.  Far from being a neutral repository for recorded memory, archives (and archivists) actively mediate and shape the archival record” (216).   Jimerson ended the chapter with a section entitled “A Responsibility for Tomorrow,” arguing that “the weight of the archivist’s responsibility surely lies more with the future than with the past.  It is the promise of future usefulness that justifies the archival enterprise” (234).  I personally appreciate this notion of future usefulness because I believe it places a proper emphasis on access and use of archival records.

The final two chapters (and the conclusion) introduce the more contentious arguments in Jimerson’s work.  In the chapter “Serving the Public Good,” Jimerson recounted the work by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and Dialogue, contending that “the archival record can thus foster the work of reconciliation, healing, and social justice.  The first step in this process is to remember the past in order to overcome oppression and to hold former leaders accountable for their actions” (239).  (Interestingly, in the prior chapter, Jimerson cited Michael Kammen’s Mystic Chords of Memory, where historian Kammen argued that “‘memory is more likely to be activated by contestation, and amnesia is more likely to be induced by the desire for reconciliation’” [225].  So the role of archives in encouraging reconciliation is far from resolved.)  Jimerson’s quotes of Elie Wiesel certainly offer compelling evidence of the importance of memory as a servant of justice, such as “‘Justice without memory is an incomplete justice, false and unjust.  To forget would be an absolute injustice in the same way that Auschwitz was the absolute crime.  To forget would be the enemy’s final triumph’” (243).  Jimerson broadly contended:

“Archival protection of records thus serves the vital need to ensure social justice and protect citizens’ rights.  By holding public leaders accountable to the people, by documenting the rights of citizens and the lives and voices of marginalized groups, by ensuring public access to essential records, and by providing a secure repository for reliable and authentic records, archivists and the archives they preserve contribute to the public interest.  Archives for all become archives for justice” (267).

Yet before concluding this chapter, Jimerson acknowledged the inherent complications of activist archives, citing several civil rights repositories “that seek to shape the public discourse on civil rights and sometimes even attempt to advocate a particular interpretive vision of the movement.  Such efforts may blur the line between scholarship and political partisanship” (275).

In the chapter entitled “Responding to the Call of Justice,” Jimerson expounded on his vision of the proper role for archivists.  In keeping with documentation strategy, he explained an idea of archives that actively seek out records that can provide the fullest representation of society, contending that “it may no longer be enough to select and acquire records that have already been created.  Archivists may need to consider going beyond their custodial role and to fill in the gaps, to ensure that documentation is created where it is missing, and to address the needs of those outside the societal power structures” (303).  He suggested that ensuring diversity is not only a concern in archival appraisal but also in description and access.

Jimerson’s conclusion asserted the need to codify archival ethics.  In making this argument, he turned to philosophy to explain that “deontological theories seek to establish the morality of an action based only on the act itself, with no consideration of its consequences” while “teleological theory reverses this orientation, focusing on ends rather than means.  In these formulations, the moral act is that which would produce the most desirable consequences, regardless of the ethical aspects of the actions taken” (345).  Jimerson found among archivists too much of a focus on the former without enough consideration of the latter.  He concluded with this analysis:

“Responding effectively to the challenges of using the power of archives for the public good will require a broad commitment by the archival profession to reflect on underlying assumptions and biases, and to overcome these through a renewed commitment to democratic values. . . .  Historical examples of abuses of power, control through manipulation of the archival record, and efforts to limit access to vital information show the dangers of misusing the power of archives and records.  Archivists should commit themselves to preventing the archival profession’s explicit or implicit support of privileged elites and powerful rulers at the expense of the people’s rights and interests.  They should commit themselves to the values of public accountability, open government, cultural diversity, and social justice.  Then archivists can truly say that they are ensuring archives for all, and employing their professional skills to promote a better society.  This will be a valuable application of archives power to secure memory, accountability, and social justice” (362-63).


Has this sparked your curiosity about the concept of archives and social justice?  If so, come back next week, when I’ll reflect on Mark Greene’s article.  The following week, I’ll look at some of the dialogue that has been prompted by Greene’s article, including Rand Jimerson’s response that was published alongside Greene’s article in the last issue of The American Archivist.