The Recent Issue of The American Archivist

Volume 78 (Fall/Winter 2015) of The American Archivist arrived recently, thick and full of interesting articles. This journal has been the voice of the American profession since it inception, and it has gone through many changes since its initial appearance in the early years of the Society of American Archivists. In its earliest years it was the vehicle for publication of papers presented at the SAA annual conferences. Gradually it began to feature work about archives by scholars and others outside of the profession. Mixed in were reports of major Society initiatives and the occasional debate about challenges faced by the profession. This most recent issue suggests that research about archives and archival work, by both academics and practitioners, seems to have reached a new level of maturity.

I have had a long-term interest in the journal. I published my first essay in it in 1974 (yikes) and my most recent book review in it just in the past year or so. I even had a stint as its editor in 1991-1995, so I know about the challenges of putting together its issues, soliciting submissions, and exercising judgment about what should and should not be published. I also know that being the editor of this journal potentially makes you a target because of a perceived gatekeeper role in the continuing evolution of the profession’s scholarship.

The current issue features eleven essays and seven reviews. The topics range over archives and warfare, planning in archival repositories, “whiteness” and social justice, microblogging in China, the relationship of archivists and historians, technology and archival processing, redaction and digitization, preservation and its role in MPLP, marketing finding aids on social media, and archives and education. Drawing from my personal interests, a few of these essays strike me as ones that will serve as benchmarks for future work or, at the least, generate responses (and generating reactions is always reassuring to an editor because it is indication that a journal is being read). Bruce Montgomery essay on the inalienability doctrine and the conventions of war reveals a major gap in how we consider captured state records and the need for archivists to rethink how they approach this issue. Mario Ramirez’s essay critiquing whiteness as an archival imperative continues a testy but important conversation that has been going on over the past decade. Alex Poole’s study of the connection between historians and archivists gives us a new, thoroughly researched benchmark about this. And Matthew Francis’s analysis of 2013 graduates of archival education programs and their ability in landing entry-level positions is useful to all concerned about the continued health of the profession. While his study does not take into account the vast array of what constitutes such programs and the immense differences displayed by individual student interests and abilities, the article provides useful data that will animate debate about how we educate archivists. (My concern about what is not in it is just an example of more research that is needed, not a criticism).

Congratulations to Gregory Hunter, the AA editor, Teresa Brinati, the Society’s Director of Publishing, and others involved in the creation of this issue. I have only one suggestion: either eliminate photographs of the authors or get better images (some were truly horrible and distracting).


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