schwartz - Archival Science 2 119 2002 2002 Kluwer Academic...

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Archival Science 2: 1–19, 2002. © 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands. 1 Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory JOAN M. SCHWARTZ a and TERRY COOK b a National Archives of Canada/Queen’s University, 87 Cameron Avenue, Ottawa ON K1S 0W8, Canada (E-mail: [email protected]); b University of Manitoba/Clio Consulting, 2138 Hubbard Crescent, Ottawa ON K1J 6L2, Canada (E-mail: [email protected]) Abstract. This article serves as the general introduction by the guest editors to the first of two thematic issues of Archival Science that will explore the theme, “archives, records, and power.” Archives as institutions and records as documents are generally seen by academic and other users, and by society generally, as passive resources to be exploited for various historical and cultural purposes. Historians since the mid-nineteenth century, in pursuing the new scientific history, needed an archive that was a neutral repositories of facts. Until very recently, archivists obliged by extolling their own professional myth of impartiality, neutrality, and objectivity. Yet archives are established by the powerful to protect or enhance their position in society. Through archives, the past is controlled. Certain stories are privileged and others marginalized. And archivists are an integral part of this story-telling. In the design of record-keeping systems, in the appraisal and selection of a tiny fragment of all possible records to enter the archive, in approaches to subsequent and ever-changing description and preservation of the archive, and in its patterns of communication and use, archivists continually reshape, reinterpret, and reinvent the archive. This represents enormous power over memory and identity, over the fundamental ways in which society seeks evidence of what its core values are and have been, where it has come from, and where it is going. Archives, then, are not passive storehouses of old stuff, but active sites where social power is negotiated, contested, confirmed. The power of archives, records, and archivists should no longer remain naturalized or denied, but opened to vital debate and transparent accountability. Keywords: archival theory, archives and power relationships, identity formation, representa- tion and reality, social memory Archives, records, power: three words which now resonate across a range of academic disciplines and professional pursuits. Individually, these terms are often flashpoints for lively debates on social values, cultural identities, and institutional accountability. Yet, collectively, “archives, records, and power” makes an unlikely troika: what have old, dusty archives, stored away in secure vaults, got to do with power? Archivists have long been viewed from outside the profession as “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” as those who received records from their creators and passed them on to researchers. Inside the profession, archivists have perceived themselves as neutral, objective, impartial. From both perspectives, archivists and their materials seem to be the very antithesis
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  • Summer '15
  • The Land, Archive, Archival science, Archives, Terry Cook, Joan M. Schwartz

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