Archival Essentialism and the Archival Divide

Francis X. Blouin Jr. and William G. Rosenberg

in Processing the Past

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199740543
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894673 | DOI:
Archival Essentialism and the Archival Divide

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This chapter concludes the exploration in Part I of the volume of the changing intersections between historical scholars and archivists—between history and the archives. As archivists embraced the “essential” elements of documentation in response to the challenges of new information technologies, many academic historians were rejecting essentialized notions of where and how authority in history is socially, culturally, and politically located. This short conclusion to part I discusses how and why contemporary archivists now think quite differently than their custodial predecessors about the theoretical parameters of archival practice itself, just as many historians now think quite differently from their “scientific” predecessors about how history is shaped. Archivists and historians have come to train differently, have little understanding or even interest in what the other profession does. The result, as this chapter argues, has been the opening of an “archival divide.”

Keywords: essentialism; electronic records; records management; identity archives; the archival divide; information technology; functional analysis

Chapter.  4069 words. 

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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