“Moving the Margins to the Middle: Reconciling ‘the archive’ with the archives.”
In 1990 geographer Kenneth Foote challenged archivists to expand their archival thinking and embrace a broad vision of human traces and transmissions that went beyond traditional documentation. Over the past two decades, Foote’s insights have proven prescient as disciplines within the humanities, arts and social sciences have all claimed ‘the archive’ for their own. How have archivists responded to these challenges to their traditional theories and practices? This paper attempts this interrogation, investigating multidisciplinary concepts of ‘the archive’ as well as their divergence from and impact on traditional archival theory and practice. It maintains not only that concepts of ‘the archive’ hold important lessons for archivists, but also that archivists ignore these concepts at their peril. As archives in all their manifestations become increasingly relevant and meaningful to a broad range of communities and constituencies, incorporating archival perspectives that embrace a broad range and understanding of records in both material and dynamic forms is essential to the continued relevance of archivists themselves.
Jeannette A. Bastian is Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the School of Library and Information Science, Simmons College where she is also Director of their Archives Management concentration. Formerly Territorial Librarian of the United States Virgin Islands from1987 to 1998, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1999. She is widely published in the archival literature and her books include West Indian Literature, A Critical Index, 1930-1975 (1982), Owning Memory, How a Caribbean Community Lost Its Archives and Found Its History (2003), Archival Internships (2008), Community Archives, The Shaping of Memory, ed. with Ben Alexander (2009), and Archives in Libraries; What Librarians and Archivists Need to Know to Work Together, with Megan Sniffin-Marinoff and Donna Webber (Forthcoming, 2015, SAA).