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Archival Description and Records from Historically Marginalized Cultures: A View from a Postmodern Window

  • Journal of the Korean Society for Library and Information Science
  • 2010, 44(4), pp.115-130
  • DOI : 10.4275/KSLIS.2010.44.4.115
  • Publisher : 한국문헌정보학회
  • Research Area : Interdisciplinary Studies > Library and Information Science
  • Received : September 8, 2010
  • Accepted : October 6, 2010

Donghee Sinn 1

1State University of New York

Accredited

ABSTRACT

In the archival field, the last decade has witnessed much discussion on archives’ broad responsibilities for social memory. Considering that the social role of archives has stemmed from postmodern thinking suggests a paradigm shift from viewing archives as static recorded objects to viewing them as dynamic evidence of human memory. The modern archives and archivists are products of nineteenth-century positivism, limiting their function to archiving written documents within stable organizations. The new thoughts on the social role of archives provide a chance to realize that traditional archival practices have preserved only a sliver of organizational memory, thus ignoring fluid records of human activities and memory. Archival description is the primary method for users to access materials in archives. Thus, it can determine how archival materials will be used (or not used). The traditional archival description works as the representation of archival materials and is directly projected from the hierarchy of organizational documents. This paper argues that archivists will need to redefine archival description to be more sensitive to atypical types of archival materials from various cultural contexts. This paper surveys the postmodern approaches to archival concepts in relation to descriptive practices. It also examines some issues related to representing historically marginalized groups in archival description who were previously neglected in traditional archival practices.

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