Novak – Question 1
1What does it mean for an archive to be, or to be made, “radical”?
Joy R. Novak
Collections Manager – Center for the Study of Political Graphics
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 While I have heard the terms “radical archives” and “radical archiving” with increasing frequency in archival discourse, I have never seen “radical” clearly defined in this context. Because of this, I have come to understand “radical archives” quite broadly, as any practice, record, documentation, or collection that challenges archival traditions or standards.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Although it falls under this definition, I have generally not used the term “radical” to define my own work. Given the human-rights focus of the collection in the Center for the Study of Political Graphics (CSPG), I tend to use the term “archival activism,” which was a concept I also explored in my academic research. There has been significant scholarship exploring archives and activism, although much like the term “radical,” there is no clear definition of archival activism.1 From this discourse, I have assembled a broad understanding of it as proactive archival practice that promotes diversity, transparency, accountability, and social justice. Given this definition, I would argue there is significant overlap between “activism” and being “radical” in the context of archives. Most activist work in the archives would be considered “radical” as a proactive practice that seemingly contradicts the traditional understanding of archivists as objective custodians of records.2 However, I would make the distinction that not all “radical” archiving involves the social-justice focus of “activist” archiving. For example, a digital archive documenting non-traditional media, such as zines, may be considered a “radical archive.” Or, developing new experimental and interactive description and access systems for photo collections may be considered “radical archiving.” In these examples, the content or practice may be “radical,” although the collections or aims do not necessarily promote social-justice issues that I associate with “activist” archives or archiving.
- ¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0
- See, for example, Terry Cook and Joan M. Schwartz, “Archives, Records, and Power: From (Postmodern) Theory to (Archival) Performance,” Archival Science 2 (2002): 171-85; Andrew Flinn, “An Attack on Professionalism and Scholarship?” Ariadne 62 (2010), http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue62/flinn; Kenneth E. Foote, “To Remember and Forget: Archives, Memory, and Culture,”American Archivist 53 (Summer 1990): 378-92; Anne Gilliland, “Neutrality, Social Justice and the Obligations of Archival Education in the Twenty-first Century,” Archival Science (2011): 193-209; Mick Gooda, “The Practical Power of Human Rights: How International Human Rights Standards Can Inform Archival and Record Keeping Practices,” Archival Science (December 2011); Verne Harris, Archives and Justice: A South African Perspective (Chicago, IL: Society of American Archivists, 2007); Randall C. Jimerson, Archives Power: Memory, Accountability, and Social Justice (Chicago, IL: Society of American Archivists, 2009). [↩]
- See, for example, S. Muller, J.A. Feith, and R. Fruin, Manual for the Arrangement and Description of Archives (New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1968); Hilary Jenkinson, A Manual of Archive Administration: Including the Problems of War Archives and Archive Making (London: Clarendon Press, 1922); Theodore Schellenberg, The Management of Archives (Columbia University Press, 1965). For a discussion on the significance of these works, see Michael Duchein, “Theoretical Principles and Practical Problems of Respect des Fonds in Archival Science,” Archivaria 15 (1983): 64-82; Anne J. Gilliland and Kelvin White, “Perpetuating and Extending the Archival Paradigm: The Historical and Contemporary Role of Professional Education and Pedagogy,” InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies 5, no. 1 (2009): 1-23. [↩]