American Archivist

 

Volume 66 • Number 1 • Spring/Summer 2003

Gallery of Contributors

Special Section: Users and Archival Research

Primarily History in America: How U.S. Historians Search for Primary Materials at the Dawn of the Digital Age
Helen R. Tibbo

Abstract: The Primarily History project is the first international, comparative study to examine historians’ information seeking behaviors since the advent of the World Wide Web, electronic finding aids, digitized collections, and an increasingly pervasive networked scholarly environment. Funded by the Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation, Primarily History is a collaboration of the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) and the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII) at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. This article reports on a survey that asked historians teaching American history at sixty-nine top ranked institutions how they located primary resources for their research. Information seeking behaviors identified range from traditional print approaches to use of online database, Web searching, and virtual repository visits. Implications are drawn for archives and special collection repositories.

AI: Archival Intelligence and User Expertise
Elizabeth Yakel and Deborah A. Torres

Abstract: User studies in archives have long focused on researchers’ satisfaction, behaviors, and use of primary sources. Yet, archivists have never defined what characteristics denote an expert user of archives. This article reports on a research study involving in depth interviews with twenty-eight individuals. The analysis of these interviews led to the development of a model of researcher expertise that might be incorporated into archival user education to create information literacy for primary sources. The authors assert that there are three distinct forms of knowledge required to work effectively with primary sources: domain (subject) knowledge, artifactual literacy, and the authors’ own concept of archival intelligence. Archival intelligence is a researcher’s knowledge of archival principles, practices, and institutions, such as the reason underlying archival rules and procedures, the means for developing search strategies to explore research questions, and an understanding of the relationship between primary sources and their surrogates. This is separate from domain or subject knowledge and artifactual literacy, or the ability to interpret and analyze primary sources. Archival intelligence encompasses three dimensions: 1) knowledge of archival theory, practices and procedures; 2) strategies for reducing uncertainty and ambiguity when unstructured problems and ill-defined solutions are the norm; 3) and intellective skills.

Thinking like a Genealogist?: Information-Seeking Behavior of Genealogists
Wendy M. Duff and Catherine A. Johnson

Abstract: Until the 1990s archivists gave very little attention to studying their user population. None of the user studies that have been conducted in the last decade have focused solely on genealogists, on of the most frequent users of archives. This paper gives the results of a study involving in-depth interviews with ten genealogists. The findings provide information on the stages of genealogical research, how genealogists search for information, the access tools they use, the knowledge required, and the barriers they face. The findings of this study can be used to improve the design of archival information systems that will facilitate access for this important group of users.

Perimeters with Fences? Or Thresholds with Doors? Two Views of a Border
Barbara L. Craig

Abstract: A commentary on the three recent research projects investigating user communities and their experience in archives, which are featured in this issue of the journal.

Articles

Presidential Materials: Politics and the Presidential Records Act
Bruce P. Montgomery

Abstract: President George W. Bush’s executive order 13,233, issued on 1 November 2001, marked the latest attempt by the executive branch to circumvent or otherwise nullify the key provisions of the Presidential Records Act. Congress passed the Presidential Records Act in 1978 in the wake of the Watergate scandals to assure public ownership and control over presidential materials. Nonetheless, starting with the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who was the first president to be covered by the act, the executive branch has repeatedly attacked the statute through various regulatory schemes and overly broad claims of executive privilege. Indeed, with their historical reputations and legacies at stake, presidents have never fully accepted the concept of yielding control over their presidential materials. This article reviews the troubling history of the Presidential Records Act and the implications of the latest attempts to restrict access to presidential papers.

Oral History in the Archives: Its Documentary Role in the 21st Century
Ellen D. Swain

Abstract: While many archivists and librarians have celebrated oral history’s documentary potential, others have questioned its reliance on faulty and subjective memory. The role of archivists as curator of collections or creator of records, an issue that has arisen anew in recent years, is central to this oral history debate. Drawing on fifty years of archival, library, and oral history scholarship, this article examines how the introduction of oral history in archives and libraries has challenged and informed archival theory and practice in the United States. The article argues that oral history’s contribution and impact in the twenty-first century will depend on archivists’ and librarians’ ability and willingness to work together, in collaboration with other disciplines, to document and provide access to our oral heritage in the digital age.

In a Class by Themselves: Faculty Papers at Research University Archives and Manuscript Repositories
Tara Zachary Laver

Abstract: Faculty papers are common in university archives and/or university manuscript collections, but little current literature exists about their acquisition, appraisal, administration, processing and use. The survey reported herein examined the practices and policies on faculty papers employed by repositories in ARL-libraries and at formerly designated Research I universities. It reports criteria used to identify potential donors, how (and if) archivists pursue of faculty papers, formats of materials sought and retained, level of processing, and use by patrons and staff. More generally, it gauges practitioners’ opinions toward what are often perceived to be large, yet underused collections.

Reviews

Bruce W. Dearstyne, ed., Leadership and Administration of Successful Archives Programs
Reviewed by Edwin C. Bridges

Sam Kula, Appraising Moving Images: Assessing the Archival Monetary Value of Film and Video Records
Reviewed by Mary Ide

Patricia Kennedy Grimsted, Trophies of War and Empire: The Archival Heritage of Ukraine, World War II, and the International Politics of Restitution
Reviewed by Jennifer A. Marshall

Ralph D. Wagner, A History of the Farmington Plan
Reviewed by Nicholas Burckel

Society of American Archivists

Council Meeting Minutes, August 20, 2002
Council Meeting Minutes, January 10-11, 2003

Editorial Policy