Bradley Hall A/B
Wednesday July 11, 2012
Passivity and Externalization: Archivists’ Avoidance of Personal Responsibility in Framing Appraisal.Although archival appraisal is one of the most intellectually demanding and archetypally characteristic processes in professional archival work, some archivists frame appraisal passively, by leveraging external policies and reporting structures to avoid personal culpability. Drawing on archival literature and the concept of problem‐setting as developed by Donald Schön, I will report on a mixed‐methods study of appraisal learning amongst U.S. college and university archivists. The qualitative portion of the study revealed that a subset of archivists reject the action‐orientation in Schön’s concept of problem‐setting and instead frame their appraisal activities as passive and somewhat mechanistic applications of
external criteria, policies, or reporting structures. Some of the study participants reported work settings in which inappropriate non‐archivists (such as librarians or administrators) were the primary appraisal and acquisition decision‐makers. Although archival studies is currently (and properly) moving towards recognizing the rights and expertise of records creators and subjects, the concentration of appraisal power with librarians and administrators – rather than with archivists, or records creators, or subjects – illuminates a troubling problem for archival advocacy, archival ethics, and the development of the profession. The study also revealed that some archivists are unable to recognize appraisal in the abstract, as a concept and a process. For these archivists, “appraisal” was only recognizable when it was explicitly named as such. These archivists fail to understand what appraisal entails when it is separated from its local contexts. The inability to think of appraisal abstractly may mean that these archivists are also not conscious of the social responsibility appraisal entails. These findings lead to three major questions: What is professional responsibility in appraisal? What should educators teach and assess in regards to appraisal and appraisal learning? And, what can the archival research and education community do to ensure that appraisal power is recognized and properly and ethically distributed?
The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information (iSchool) does not have an undergraduate major program, but we boast a thriving and growing undergraduate minor program that attracts students from all over the university. This minor program not only provides a way to introduce students to the important and complex issues of our discipline that are related to their own work, but also provides a structured and supportive environment for doctoral students to gain experience in designing and teaching courses. In the Spring of 2012, I was able to teach a course entitled “Representation and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Information” that introduced students to the theories and methodologies involved with the organization, description, interpretation, and preservation of cultural heritage objects and information. I designed this course in response to several conversations in the archival and special collections literature concerning the role of archives and special collections in undergraduate education. The course is not focused solely on using archival and special collection materials as resource sources, however. Students also worked with a cultural heritage collection of their choosing through the fifteen week semester, producing documentation concerning the objects and their interpretation, organizational schemas for objects and their metadata, and identifying preservation concerns for their materials.
For this paper, I will discuss the successes and setbacks I encountered in the presentation of such material to undergraduates, including those who are participating in the undergraduate minor program and may be interested in pursuing a Master’s degree in the field. The course has applications for students outside the realm of working with cultural heritage information, but the readings and course work have been assembled and developed to encourage students to address the unique challenges cultural heritage materials pose to what might otherwise be considered “best practices” for both physical and digital materials. Certainly, this paper will address the “education” portion of the AERI conference, and while not a research paper per se, I hope it will provide valuable information and an opportunity for discussion within the archival community about the opportunities to introduce archival theory, methods, and materials into undergraduate curriculum.
Richard Cox and Alison Langmead
What Universities Are Looking in New APRM Faculty
Just thirty years ago there was little optimism in North America that there would be regular (full-time and tenure-stream) APRM faculty positions created in history and library and information science programs. Another decade saw a substantial increase in hiring, along with a growth in doctoral programs preparing individuals for APRM academic careers. Today, there is a sizeable corps of APRM faculty with regularly increasing advertisements for new positions. The first generation of such faculty is also beginning to retire, and there are new efforts to replace these individuals. Despite the growth of APRM faculty, many questions remain as to what this new generation ought to bring with them in their new positions. This is made more complicated by the considerable differences in the size, curriculum, and nature (history departments, library and information science programs, and information schools) of the APRM programs. Based on a survey of programs listed in the SAA Education Directory, we consider what schools are looking for in new faculty. We examine the expected nature of dissertations, publications, teaching, research, and other experiences. Our hope is to provide more specific advice for new and continuing APRM doctoral students, as well as to ascertain better what the present and future needs are in archival graduate education for faculty.