What do you consider essential reading about archives?

What readings do you consider the most influential on your thoughts/practice as an archivist? Which readings are essential for the field?

If you’re not an archivist, what readings have informed your knowledge of archives?

Update–responses so far from Twitter and Facebook

Peter Hirtle, Authenticity in a Digital Environment, CLIR, 2000:  https://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub92/pub92.pdf

Gerald Ham, The Archival Edge, American Archivist, Jan. 1975:


John MacDonald, Managing Records in a Modern Office: Taming the Wild Frontier, Archivaria 29 Spring 1995: http://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/12069/13047

Lucy Suchman, Making Work Visible, Communications of the ACM, Sept 1995: http://guzdial.cc.gatech.edu/hci-seminar/uploads/1/Suchman’s+Making+Work+Visible.pdf

Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever, 1998 https://www.amazon.com/Archive-Fever-Freudian-Impression-Postmodernism/dp/0226143678


Elsie Freeman, “Buying Quarter Inch Holes: Public Support Through Results” Midwestern Archivist, 1985:  https://minds.wisconsin.edu/handle/1793/45944

Terry Cook, “What is past is prologue: a history of archival ideas since 1898, and the future paradigm shift.” Archivaria 43 (1997): 17-63 http://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/12175/13184

Terry Cook and Joan M. Schwartz, “Archives, Records, and Power: From (Postmodern) Theory to (Archival) Performance.” Archival Science 2, no. 3-4 (2002):171–185. https://www.nyu.edu/classes/bkg/methods/cook.pdf

Bruce Dearstyne, Leading and managing archives and records programs: strategies for success, 2008 https://www.amazon.com/Leading-Managing-Archives-Records-Programs/dp/1555706150

Peter Scott (1966) The Record Group Concept: A Case for Abandonment. The American Archivist: October 1966, Vol. 29, No. 4, pp. 493-504:  http://americanarchivist.org/doi/10.17723/aarc.29.4.y886054240174401

Elisabeth Yakel, but especially “Thinking Inside and Outside the Boxes”

Luciana Duranti, Archives as a Place, Archives & Social Studies: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Research Vol. 1, no. 0 (March 2007) http://archivo.cartagena.es/files/36-165-DOC_FICHERO1/07-duranti_archives.pdf

Joan M. Schwartz, “Records of Simple Truth and Precision”: Photography, Archives, and the Illusion of Control, Archivaria Fall 2000 http://www.archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/12763/13951

Reto Tschan, A Comparison of Jenkinson and Schellenberg on Appraisal, American Archivist Fall/Winter 2002: http://americanarchivist.org/doi/pdf/10.17723/aarc.65.2.920w65g3217706l1

Luciana Duranti, Diplomatics: New Uses for an Old Science, Archivaria, Summer 1989: http://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/viewFile/11567/12513

Tim Gollins, Parsimonious preservation: preventing pointless processes! (The small simple steps that take digital preservation a long way forward), 2009  

S. Williams Implications of Archival Labor, https://medium.com/on-archivy/implications-of-archival-labor-b606d8d02014#.wyb8jlp3y

Jarrett M. Drake, Insurgent citizens: the manufacture of police records in post-Katrina New Orleans and its implications for human rights, Archival Science October 2014 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10502-014-9224-2

Michelle Caswell and Marika Cifor, From Human Rights to Feminist Ethics: Radical Empathy in the Archives, Archivaria, Spring 2016 http://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/13557

Randall C. Jimerson, Archives Power: Memory, Accountability, and Social Justice, 2009 http://saa.archivists.org/store/archives-power-memory-accountability-and-social-justice/1354/

Mark D. Wolfe, “Beyond ‘‘green buildings:’’ exploring the effects of Jevons’ Paradox on the sustainability of archival practices, 2011.

Terry Cook, Heather MacNeil and Luciana around authenticity and reliability.Verne Harris, Terry Cook & Joan Schwartz, Rand Jimerson

Everything ever written about appraisal (“It was easier than saying Taylor/Greene/Cook/Samuels/Eastwood/Boles/Ericson ;”)

More updates from Facebook and Twitter: 

Ernst Posner’s American State Archives, Archives & the Public Interest: selected essays,  and Archives in the ancient world. (“None of them end up being the book you thought you were going to read.”)

Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner, “More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing,” American Archivist Fall/Winter 2005 http://www.archivists.org/prof-education/pre-readings/IMPLP/AA68.2.MeissnerGreene.pdf

Laurie Baty’s “Photographs are not Wallpaper.”

Scott Cline, “’Dust Clouds of Camels Shall Cover You’: Covenant and the Archival Endeavor.” American Archivist Fall/Winter 2012 http://americanarchivist.org/doi/pdf/10.17723/aarc.75.2.03193j1517858r34

Randall C. Jimerson, “Archives for All: Professional Responsibility and Social Justice,” American Archivist Fall/Winter 2007 http://americanarchivist.org/doi/pdf/10.17723/aarc.70.2.5n20760751v643m7

Eric Ketelaar, “Archival Temples, Archival Prisons: Modes of Power and Protection,” Archival Science 2, 2002 http://home.hccnet.nl/e.ketelaar/ArchivalTemples.pdf

Michel Duchein, “Theoretical Principles and Practical Problems of Respect des fonds in Archival Science,” Archivaria Summer 1983 


Terry Cook, “The Concept of the Archival Fonds in the Post-Custodial Era: Theory, Problems and Solutions,” Archivaria, Spring 1993 http://arqtleufes.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/94919891/COOK%20TERRY_The%20Concept%20of%20the%20Archival%20Fonds.pdf

Timothy J. Gilfoyle, “Prostitutes in the Archives: Problems and Possibilities in Documenting the History of Sexuality,” American Archivist Summer 1994 http://americanarchivist.org/doi/pdf/10.17723/aarc.57.3.p74tr646p6r530lv

Terry Cook, “Evidence, memory, identity, and community: four shifting archival paradigms,” Archival Science June 2013 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10502-012-9180-7

Francis X. Blouin, Jr. and William G. Rosenberg, Editors, Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory: Essays from the Sawyer Seminar,” 2006 https://muse.jhu.edu/book/351

Elisabeth Kaplan, “We Are What We Collect, We Collect What We Are: Archives and the Construction of Identity,” American Archivist Spring/Summer 2000 http://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/handle/11299/42433/1/kaplan_we_are_what.pdf

Terry Cook, “Fashionable Nonsense or Professional Rebirth: Postmodernism and the Practice of Archives,” Archivaria Spring 2001 http://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/12792

Anne Gilliland and Sue McKemmish, “Building an Infrastructure for Archival Research,” Archival Science December 2004 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10502-006-6742-6

Sue McKemmish, “Evidence of Me,” The Australian Library Journal 1996 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00049670.1996.10755757

Elizabeth Yakel, “Archival Representation,” Archival Science 2003 https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/41831/10502_2004_Article_5139967.pdf?sequence=1

Ciaran B. Trace, “What is Recorded is Never Simply ‘What Happened’: Record Keeping in Modern Organizational Culture,” Archival Science 2002 https://www.ischool.utexas.edu/~cbtrace/pubs/CBT_ArchScience_2002.pdf

Eric Ketelaar, Tacit Narratives: The Meanings of Archives, Archival Science 2001 https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/41812

Verne Harris, Archives and Justice: A South African Perspective, 2013 http://saa.archivists.org/store/archives-and-justice-a-south-african-perspective-pdf/3691/

Antoinette Burton editor, Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History, 2006 https://www.dukeupress.edu/archive-stories

Ursula Franklin’s The Real World of Technology (1992) https://amzn.com/088784636X

Lee Raine and Barry Wellman, Networked: The New Social Operating System 2014 https://amzn.com/0262526166


Jefferson Bailey, Disrespect des Fonds: Rethinking Arrangement and Description in Born-Digital Archives, Archive Journal Summer 2013 http://www.archivejournal.net/issue/3/archives-remixed/disrespect-des-fonds-rethinking-arrangement-and-description-in-born-digital-archives/



“So, what are you working on now?” “Well, I’m taking sixteen spreadsheets . . .”

Ok, so I feel defensive and somewhat embarrassed by what I’m working on these days. Which, as you’ll see, I really shouldn’t because it’s a very worthwhile endeavor, but not one that’s exactly in line with my prior exploits. I’m not just writing this to beg for affirmations, but on the other hand, I am looking for support to help me overcome my feelings that it’s not “enough.” Let me explain.

Continue reading ““So, what are you working on now?” “Well, I’m taking sixteen spreadsheets . . .””

Question about tattoos from a Prospective Archivist

Sorry for the delay, Prospective Archivist, who posted this question in response to the post “Honest tips for wannabe archivists out there,” (which is one of the more popular ones from the site’s recent “archive”):


So, I know this is a very silly question and it focuses on maybe one of if not the least important statements that you listed, but when you say ‘absent that, drink beer and get a tattoo’ what exactly do you mean / imply?

I ask because I do have a few tattoos, one that is visible if I do not wear sleeves, and I have worried to myself that this career maybe is one that does not generally encourage visible tattoos. Would you say that it is generally okay or even common to have visible tattoos in the career field? I know every institution is different, but like I said just in general.

It is something that has been in the back of the mind for a while. If there is no clear answer, that is okay. I have been looking for someone to ask this for a while and your statement reminded me. Thank you for your response in advance!

I’ll give you my personal response, and then I’ll throw the question about the community, and I particularly encourage comments from our colleagues who do regular interviewing and hiring.

In general, I’d say that today it’s ok. As you point out, every place is different, and maybe more traditionally conservative repositories would be less accepting of them, but honestly, I’d have to say that it might not be wise to generalize even about those. I’m really in no position to judge since I don’t have them, but I get the sense that the culture at large has become more accepting at a faster past then one might have expected. I mean, as long as you don’t have a swastika or something in which the content itself might be objectionable, I think you’re ok.

But, what do you say, archival community? I know there have been sessions at SAA annual meetings about tattoos, and there may even be someone out there with a Hollinger box on their body, but when you’re looking across the table at a someone as a prospective hire or promotion, or just as a colleague, does it make a difference?


The final round: Animals from the Archives

And so, the final two top contenders have valiantly triumphed over turtles, camels, snakes, cats, bears, gorillas, hippos, elephants, goats, cows, and (unbelievably) even otters. You, the voters, have selected one adorable dog and three adorable pigs to compete for the prize of Top Animal from the Archives 2016. How can anyone choose between them? Well, you’ll have to. Or, you can just make a donation to Furkids (and report it to Caryn) and declare them both winners.

Polls will close for this final round at 5 pm EST on Friday, August 5, and remember that for each vote you’re honor-bound to donate (at least) $1 to Furkids. (And let Caryn know how much you’ve donated so we can know how much this little stunt has raised.) If you’re not familiar with what this contest is about and how it works, please review the Rules post.

Thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and remember, “Vote, vote, vote, like a baby stoat!” Help spread the word among your friends and colleagues, both at #saa16 and those still keeping things going smoothly at home.

Here are your finalists:

Animals from the Archives: The Final Four

And now there are four.

They are all adorable, but only two can make it on to battle it out for the top prize. Polls will close for this round at 5 pm EST on Monday, August 1, and remember that for each vote you’re honor-bound to donate (at least) $1 to Furkids. (And let Caryn know how much you’ve donated so we can know how much this little stunt has raised.) If you’re not familiar with what this contest is about and how it works, please review the Rules post.


Animals from the Archives: Round Three

We’re down to the Elite Eight now, and there are no easy choices. But it’s more important than ever to vote to keep your favorites in the running for the top honor. These polls will close at 5 pm EST on Thursday, July 28, and remember that for each vote you’re honor-bound to donate (at least) $1 to Furkids. (And let Caryn know how much you’ve donated so we can know how much this little stunt has raised.) If you’re not familiar with what this contest is about and how it works, please review the Rules post.

Animals from the Archives: Round Two

Well, sadly, not everyone can make it through to the end. But we’re here to celebrate the 16 animals who have moved to this next round, and are now competing for your love, votes, and donation dollars. As always, if you’re voting, you need to be donating to Furkids. (If you’re not familiar with what this contest is about and how it works, please review the Rules post.)

Voting for this round will remain open until 5 pm EST on Sunday, July 24. Below you will see 8 brackets with 16 animals competing. (To see a larger version of any image, click on it.) Round Two, in which only 8 animals will vie for your love, is scheduled to kick off on Monday, July 25. Vote now and help your favorites advance to the next round!


Animals from the Archives contest: Round One

At last, it’s time to begin the Animals from the Archives competition! Before you vote, please review the Rules post and remember that we’re doing this to benefit Furkids. If you’re voting, you need to donate.

Voting for this round will remain open until 5 pm EST on Tuesday, July 19. Below you will see 16 brackets with 32 animals competing. (To see a larger version of any image, click on it.) Round Two is scheduled to kick off on Wednesday, July 20.

Many thanks to all our valiant competitors, be they furry, scaly, feathered (or other), including the many who were submitted but were not selected.

If you have any questions about the rules, please post a comment on the Rules post or send me a message. And now, vote, vote, vote, like a baby stoat, and encourage your friends and neighbors too! And give generously!

Animals from the Archives competition to benefit Furkids: The Rules

Ok, in the next two posts we’ll be kicking off the first round of the Animals from the Archives competition! In the coming weeks, pictures of adorable animals submitted from archival collections around the world will be battling to make it through to the final round and be crowned Most Loved Animal From the Archives. I’m hoping we can be as successful this year helping Furkids as we were last year donating to the Cleveland Animal Protective League, when you donated over $3,400. If you participated last year, the rules are basically the same, but if you’re new to this, please keep reading.

1) While we’re all having fun here, the purpose is to raise money for the good work of Furkids, Georgia’s largest animal rescue and no-kill shelters. Since the Society of American Archivists is meeting in Atlanta this year, Caryn Radick has once again spearheaded plans to find ways that the archival community could give back to help local animals in need. This is one of them. So, we ask you to make a donation of at least $1 for every vote you make in this competition. How you do that is up to you, and this is all on the honor system. You can donate $100 and vote 100 times. You can donate $50 and have 50 people in your office vote. You can donate $31 and vote once in each of the brackets over the next few weeks. You can donate at the beginning, and “spend” your votes in the weeks to come, or you can keep track of all your votes and donate appropriately at the end. You can make a donation of an item the shelter needs and then vote according to the dollar value of your gift. Please be honest and generous. We’re trying to help animals and the people who help them. Don’t cheat.

2) There are several ways you can donate:

  • Go to this page on the Furkids website (“Donation”) and do it online
  • Send Furkids a check (go the Other Donations Options page, and click on the link for the form under Mail-In Donation).
  • Buy something from the Furkids Amazon wishlist and it will be shipped directly to them
  • Buy something from their wishlist and bring it with you to the SAA meeting in Atlanta. There will be a collection point at the meeting–probably in the registration area–but that will be confirmed closer to the meeting

3) Whenever and however you donate, please contact Caryn (caryn.radick@gmail.com) to let her know what you gave. This is the only way we can keep track of how much money this campaign is raising, and we’d kind of like to be able to know how successful we’ve been, as well as track information that will help us plan for possible ventures in future years. (Your name will be kept confidential, although you’re welcome and encouraged to talk about donating!)

4) This will work in a “March Madness” style bracket system. So we’re starting out with 32 animals competing in 16 brackets. Working up to the start of the SAA meeting we’ll be narrowing it down to 16 animals, then 8, then 4 and then ultimately the final two. The final battle will take place during the week of the SAA meeting, with the winner announced on Saturday, August 6.

5) You can vote more than once for any animal in any bracket. You will also be able to track how the voting is going over the course of the competition, so if you’re really pulling for one animal, you can keep voting for him or her and try to put your favorite over the top. But remember, if you vote, you should pay up accordingly.

6)You are welcome to help promote this competition to your colleagues, friends, and patrons, but please make it clear that while it looks free to vote (and it technically is), they should make donations accordingly.

7) While SAA is assisting us in promoting this fundraising effort, this is not formally associated with SAA. So if there’s anything you don’t like about it, don’t blame them. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave a comment below or contact Caryn or me (info@archivesnext.com).

Our thanks to all the archival organizations around the world who sent in images of animals. They were all wonderful and it was a difficult process to narrow down from 105 to just 32! That gives us plenty of candidates for next year’s contest, though. And now, let the fur, feathers, and scales fly as the lucky animals vie for your love, and your votes!

Time to submit your best Animals From the Archives photos to help Atlanta-based animal rescue group!

It’s back!

You loved it last year and contributed over $3,400 to the Cleveland Animal Protective League to help push Biker Dog to victory in the first ever Dogs and Cats from the Archives competition.  But this year, we’re going bigger. That’s right. This year photos of ANY AND ALL ANIMALS from your archival collections will compete to win the top spot, and become the King or Queen of the Archival Animal Kingdom.

As you may remember from last year’s competition between cats and dogs, our colleague Caryn Radick was inspired to explore ways our archival community could help a local animal shelter in conjunction with the SAA annual meeting in Cleveland last August. In addition to onsite opportunities to help, Caryn and I teamed up to host a virtual battle royale between your cats and dogs from the archives, and it was a howling success, so we’re taking it on to Atlanta this year.

So now it’s time for you to begin searching your collections for your favorite animal (or animals—groups are fine).  It will work basically the same as it did last year, but here are the details:

On or about July 11 we’ll launch a March Madness-style competition, in which your donations to the Atlanta animal rescue organization Furkids will allow you to vote for your favorite images of animals from the archives. We’ll start out with a “sweet 16” and by the week before the SAA meeting it will be down to one top animal from each bracket battling it out for supremacy, with the winner announced on August 5. We’ll follow up with more information about how you can vote, but for now we need you to send in the best images of animals your collections have to offer.  Please send an image or a link (with no copyright restrictions, please) to kate.theimer [@] gmail.com no later than Wednesday, July 6. We’ll do the hard work of selecting the final animals for the competition, and then announce how you can support your favorites, and more importantly, support the great work of Furkids!


1) Yes, you can send in more than one image. But no more than five per institution, please!

2) Submissions from outside the U.S. are welcomed.

3) Please provide an appropriate credit line for your image.

4) Any and all combinations of animals are welcomed, but we’re going to limit it to photographs of living animals. So no illustrations from books or paintings this time around.

Any questions, just ask and enjoy scouring your collections for your finest furred, feathered, and scaled friends!