This blog communicates findings from two research projects.
“Conceptualizing Recordkeeping as Grief Work: Implications for Archival Theory and Practice,” funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant (2018-2020), explores the potential of understanding recordkeeping as a type of grief work. A central focus of the research project is how attention to the affective dimensions of recordkeeping – such as experiences of bereavement and grieving – can 1) inform archivists understanding of what it means to “do right by” (Hobbs 2012) an archive, its creator and those who use it; and 2) potentially transform the way archivists work with archival materials. For example, better understanding of how individuals feel as they create and keep personal records might suggest how they and others will feel if/when they encounter these records at a later time in the care of archivists; this type of understanding can help archivists develop new ideas about how language should be used in archival description (i.e., cataloging), how archivists design physical and virtual reference spaces, and how they interact personally with donors, creators, and researchers (i.e., how they “do right by” an archive, its creators, and those who wish to use it). Findings from the research suggest ways of reorienting archival theory and practice toward a care-centred approach.
“‘Getting to the Heart of the File’: Toward a Person-Centred Theory of Archival Care” is funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant (2020-2023). The project, which cites in its title recent work by the MIRRA project team, aims to explore how care is understood by personal archive creators and how archivists can honour these concepts of care through archival practices, including appraisal and acquisition, donor relations, arrangement and description, and the provision of access.
The specific research questions guiding this research are:
1. How do personal archive creators define records, and how do they articulate their value as personal, and sometimes intimate, documents of their lives?
2. What different types of relationships exist between personal archive creators and their records? What ‘life stories’ do personal archive creators tell about their records and how are records bound up in creators’ own ‘life stories’?
3. How do personal archive creators care for their own records, and what expectations do they have for their future care in archival repositories?
4. How can the personal and intimate relationships that personal archive creators have with their records be respected, preserved, and represented through existing and new archival practices and forms of representation?