First, let’s get this out of the way: I bet Matt Yglesias feels pretty stupid right now. Hahahaha ohhhh I’m going to be depressed. (Yes, I have a political bias. I’ll try to tamp it down for this post.)
Anyway! With White House pages on key issues disappearing (though not permanently! Thanks, NARA), information lockdowns being passed down to entire agencies (at least temporarily), and the possibility of science from the EPA being subject to political review before release, one’s mind tends to drift to questions of an archivist/records manager’s ethical responsibility in an institutional setting. (Didn’t you already write this post, Brad? Yes, I did, on multiple occasions, but this one’s different, I promise.) Yes, you have a responsibility towards your institution/government/whatever, but what is your responsibility towards society? Are archivists, particularly in records management roles, obliged to serve as whistleblowers? Do we save records of historical import on our own volition, despite orders (or, at best, strongly-worded suggestions) from the Powers That Be to show them the business end of a shredder? What do we make of reports that a top advisor to the president is actively avoiding creating a paper trail?
Well. I Have Opinions about all of these things. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for you), an official group blog for a component group of a professional organization is not the place for them. But those sublimated opinions have to go somewhere… in this case, I thought, “why not take a look at what the professional literature has to say about these issues?” I put out a Twitter call for recommendations, did some poking around on some of my library’s databases, and the result is a brand new category on the RM bibliography, which I am tentatively calling Institutional Records and Human Rights. More on this after the jump.
…Yeah, there are a LOT of articles out there about this. (Though, I must say, a surprisingly small number of articles on Records Management and Human Rights/Social Justice from authors and journals in the United States. Let’s get on that, guys.) To prevent myself from falling too far down the rabbit hole, I’ve chosen to limit my scope to books and articles, in English, that deal with records of nation-state actors on questions of justice, and the appraisal, acquisition, preservation, and use of those records in pursuit of justice. This is, it must be said, still a very broad scope– including articles on records of indigenous Australians, on the trustworthiness of government archives in “transitional justice” regimes, and on the political-economic implications of selecting e-records for long-term preservation. But I may at least be able to finish this list before I turn 40. (At least until I start citation-mining the articles on the list and find new ones to explore.)
This is a work in progress, so feel free to peruse/share/suggest additions in the comments– this is an important topic, and I want the bibliography to reflect the full range of scholarship if I possibly can. If anything, the 50-odd articles I’ve selected here are sort of a “seed” to keep the list growing (hence “towards” a bibliography.) That said, a few notes about these selections:
- I have only actually read a few of these so far; many are on the list on the strength of their abstracts. If you are familiar with an article that you don’t think is appropriate for a list on this topic, let me know that too.
- Included on this list are a few articles with which I emphatically disagree. I include them to provide a full picture of the scholarly conversation, but please do not take any article’s presence here as an endorsement of its contents. (Particularly given point #1, above.)
- I am deliberately eschewing discussion of community archives in this list, except where they are in an article as a counterpoint to official state-sponsored record keeping systems. This is, after all, a records management blog.
Thanks in advance for your feedback– happy reading!