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IDNA Celebrates International Archives Day June 9, 2017

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Please join us June 9th 2107 at 3:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time for a live webcast Moderated by IDNA Co-Editor Dr. Pat Franks.  Panelists Alyse Dunavant-Jones, Heather Kohles and Kate Eminhizer will discuss the IDNA project, their experiences and lessons learned along the way.

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Dr. Pat Franks – Co-Editor of the International Directory of National Archives

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Alyse Dunavant-Jones – IDNA Researcher

Heather Kohles

Heather Kohles – IDNA Project Coordinator, Spring 2017

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Kathryn Eminhizer – IDNA Researcher

Friday, June 09, 2017

Time: 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time

Location: Online using Collaborate URL: Join Live Session

Individuals requiring real-time captioning or other accommodations should contact Dr. Sue Alman as soon as possible.

Abstract:

iSchool students share experiences as researchers for the International Directory of National Archives, edited by Dr. Pat Franks and Dr. Anthony Bernier. IDNA will serve archivists, historians, and researchers with information about 198 national archives. Slated for publication in 2018, IDNA has allowed iSchool students and alumni to conduct research on how nations manage and preserve their documentary heritage and to contribute to a work that will share their findings with a wide audience.

Biography:

Alyse Dunavant-Jones is interested in archives and preservation and digital curation. Before pursuing a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science at the San José State University School of Information, she worked in public libraries for seven years. Dunavant-Jones is part of the VCARA and SLA student groups and is active in virtual world librarianship. She is also the iSchool CASA-SAC representative and has served as a GRA for the InterPARES Trust project. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Writing with an IT minor.

Heather Kohles holds a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Photography from the University of Nevada, Reno. After leaving the forensic science community, Ms. Kohles pursued the Master of Archives and Records Administration degree at the San José State University School of Information, graduating in May of 2017. In her previous career, she was avidly involved with ISO accreditation, quality assurance, and policy creation.

Kathryn (Kate) Eminhizer holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public History from Empire State College. She is currently a library technician at a military community library. Her work in libraries, museums, and elementary schools extends for more than 10 years. She served in both the U.S. Army Reserves and the PA National Guard. Her interest lies in archives and the preservation of cultural heritage. Eminhizer is currently enrolled in the Master of Library and Information Science degree program at the San José State University School of Information.

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The Right of Access vs. Cultural Privacy

Heather Kohles
Heather Kohles

In my research capacity for the International Directory of National Archives I researched the national archive of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Alele Museum, Library and Archive.  In my time researching the Alele I came across the Marshall Islands’ National Archives Act of 1989.  This act spells out the various functionaries governing archival retention for the nation.  Included in the act are provisions that no records available to the public can be duplicated as a whole or in part without the written consent of the archivist.  Furthermore, it is understood that the Archivist has the right to deny consent if the reproduction of said record will not be in the best interest of the nation.

In addition, to my research role, I also was tasked as the project coordinator for the IDNA project.  This allowed me access and review of all the country profiles submitted to the project.  I found situations like those spelled out in the Archives Act of the Marshall Islands to be very similar to other nations who wish to safe guard the dissemination of their cultural information.

This might seem counter intuitive to those of us who have grown up in a nation where cultural objects are preserved and made available, especially now with social media and Archive 2.0 platforms, promoting access and retention of archival digital surrogates.  We have come to correlate preservation with the right to free and open access to those items being preserved.  However, other nations, as a reflection of their social, political or religious environments passionately preserve their culture for those in the culture.  For whatever reason, policies for such private cultures protects the integrity and flow of information within the culture it was created, which in turn makes us as researchers responsible for maintaining ethical access practices to ensure international cultures are preserved according to their standards and not “western” expectations.

References

Alele Musuem, Library and National Archive (2000). National Archives. Retrieved from: http://alelemuseum.tripod.com/Archives.html

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (1989). The National Archives Act of 1989. Retrieved from: http://rmiparliament.org/cms/images/LEGISLATION/PRINCIPAL/1989/1989-0047/NationalArchivesAct1989_1.pdf

Interview with Dr. Pat Franks and IDNA Project Members

SCH_SOI_Blue_WebOn February 8, 2017 an interview with Dr. Pat Franks, Svetlana Ushakova, Pamela Lutzker and Inna Gogina was posted to the ISchools website.  In the interview Dr. Franks discusses the inspiration for the IDNA project and researchers discuss their experience during the international research process, the challenges they faced and the countries which they profiled.

For the entire Interview please visit http://ischool.sjsu.edu/about/news/detail/ischool-professors-and-students-create-first-international-directory-national

Climate Change and National Archives

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Mary Malone

I started this project focusing on the national archives of some Pacific island nations.  Not being able to actually visit these archives, I was often distracted by the very beautiful pictures of these coral islands presented by Google during my research; images of blue water and a vibrant sky dotted with big white clouds provided a much needed virtual vacation from the cold, wet winter I was experiencing in Seattle.  But this beautiful, warm paradise can wreak havoc on historical documents and artifacts.  As archivists, librarians, and museum professionals, we are well aware of the risks that these institutions face, including extreme weather, natural disasters, war, aging infrastructure, and the very modern concern of hardware and software degredation and obsolesence.  Archives have always faced some level of risk and accordingly, many archives have some sort of disaster plan to deal with the those disasters most likely to affect their archives.

A particular risks to the national archives of the Pacific island region (including Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia) is the environment, as the tropical climate of these island nations presents a challenge to the preservation of analog records and to the maintenance of hardware necessary to house digital records. Hot, humid environments are the archenemy to archival preservation.  Paper and water just don’t mix.

Not only does the environment pose a challenge to the archives of Pacific island nations, but Matthew Gordon-Clark points out two new risks to these island national archives in his 2011 article “Paradise lost? Pacific island archives threatened by climate change”: rising sea levels and extreme weather events.  As sea levels rise due to global warming, those low-lying Pacific islands are at particular risk of damaging or losing their archives to encroahing sea levels and storm surge water (the author mentions Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Tokolau, and Kiribati at greatest risk).  Even those island nations that sit well above sea level still risk damage to national infrastructure due to rising sea levels, which will impact all areas of governement and life.  Additionally, extreme weather events (stronger and more frequent hurricanes, for example) pose a myriad of risks to all Pacific island countries and their national archives.  This very real possibility should be considered by the national archives of these nations, especially if they have the opportunity to relocate inland to higher ground.

Indeed, changing weather is an issue for all nations and cultural heritage institutions world wide, not just those in the Pacific, and should be addressed in disaster plans to ensure that we preserve those documents and artifacts that are most important to our countries.  Until then, let us hope that these seemingly idylic Pacific islands remain so.

Reference:

Gordon-Clark, M. (2011). Paradise lost? Pacific island archives threatened by climate change. Archival Science, 12(1), 51-67.

Anarchic Archives

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Alyse Dunavant-Jones

I discovered the concept of anarchic archives while conducting research on Angola’s National Archives: Arquivo Histórico Nacional/Arquivo Nacional de Angola.

In a blog post entitled “Field Notes from Angola: Of Archived Archives and Anarchic Archives”, Schenck (2015) describes her experience climbing “a mountain of documents” in the “dusty dark” with the sole guidance from an archivist: “You can climb it and see whether you find anything that might interest you.” She goes on to ponder exactly what constitutes an archives, describes the different places her historical research took her, and offers tips for future researchers in Africa.

When I told my IDNA colleagues about Schenck’s experience, I was surprised to discover that anarchic archives are a common phenomenon not just in Africa, but all over the world. Indeed many researchers and archivists, including IDNA’s Dr. Pat Franks, have sifted through trailers and dug through attic boxes for vital information contained in these orphaned, scattered archives.

Another example of anarchic archives comes from “Anarchic Archives: The Potency and Problems of Maritime Archaeological Archives” (Ransley and Satchell, 2014). Ransley and Satchell argue that maritime archives in the UK are unkempt due to the conditions in which the archives are created (oftentimes at sea) and the “messy politics of archive production” which gives “a sense that these archives are created within an ungoverned, ambiguous legal (and physical) environment” (p. 2). They describe the resulting archives as “dispersed, un-curated and insecure”.

How Can National Archives Help?

Most national archives’ collections and focuses are limited to government records. It is not uncommon for national archives to also collect cultural and historical records of enduring value, but it would be impossible for these institutions to track and secure all records created in a country. This means that, while national archives are often a starting point for researchers, they may not be the finish line. In fact, a researcher may travel to many different offices, institutions, and even private homes to find certain information. This is especially the case in war-torn, post-colonial, and developing countries.

One way national archives can improve researchers’ experiences with anarchic archives is assistance in locating and contacting the archives. National archives often have contact information for state and provincial archives. Additionally, national archives may have contact information for other archives that hold records related to the national archive’s collections and mission.

Schenck describes another way the Angolan National Archives, her “home base” during her time in Angola, assisted her research: “The director wrote the invitation letter necessary to apply for my visa and provided me with a valuable letter, certifying my bona fide status as a researcher.” The director’s letter gave Schenck credibility that helped her gain entrance into anarchic archives as well as government offices.

References

Ransley, J. & Satchell, J. (2014). Anarchic archives: The potency and problems of maritime archaeological archives. Archive Issue of the Archaeological Review, 29(2), 181-197. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/70ec/68dff6d7bf8942bf49dc08dda22f9bfe98e3.pdf?_ga=1.89441563.1426629125.1487705984

Schenck, M. (2015, July 6). Field notes from Angola: Of archived archives and anarchic archives. AHA Today: A Blog of the American Historical Association. Retrieved from http://blog.historians.org/2015/07/of-archived-archives-and-anarchic-archives/