Monday, August 10, 2009

Is Appraisal a Science? Part 2 of 2

Eastwood (1993) agrees with the mediatory role of archivists, stating that, “Archivists do not act as historians. Archivists do act as students of the originary nature of archives in order to find ways to protect the evidence of human action. Archivists properly leave questions of the meaning of the intelligence or information communicated by the archival document to posterity to investigate” (243-4). Eastwood sharply criticizes archival theorist Brien Brothman (1991), and others who think like him, for statements, such as, “archival practice, in other words, remains an art” Brothman believes that archivists act like historians, determining history when processing records. Eastwood disagrees, stating, “The archivist is not a processor of information, as Brothman suggests, but a keeper and protector of the integrity of evidence and a mediator of the many interests wrested in the positive act of its continuing preservation” (237). He writes further, “The purpose of the archivist, and therefore of the social role of archival institutions, is to preserve the integrity of archival documents as faithful and trustworthy evidence of the actions from which they originated” (237).

These articles approached appraisal theory and methodology from many angles, while trying to answer the bigger question of defining the role of archivists. The common thread between the readings is that archivists act as mediators between creators and users. Although appraisal is not a science, a methodology that reflects current best practices yet is appropriate for the repository is needed in order to preserve historical documentation.

Appraisal theory and methodology seems to be debated in professional literature more than any other archival process. By reading some of the well-known articles on the subject, I can begin to get a better understanding of this important theoretical practice.

Works Consulted

Brothman, B. (1991). Orders of value: Probing the theoretical terms of archival practice. Archivaria, 32, 78-100.

Craig, B. (2004). Practising appraisal–common grounds and common problems. In Archival Appraisal: Theory and Practice (81-109). New York: K.G. Sauer.

Duranti, L. (1994). The concept of appraisal and archival theory. American Archivist, 57, 328-344.

Eastwood, T. (1993). Nailing a little jelly to the wall of archival studies. Archivaria,35, 232-252.

Ham, F. G. (1984). Archival choices: Managing the historical record in an age of abundance. American Archivist, 47, 12-29.

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