Tufts University Digital Collections & Archives Managerial Interview

This is a paper I wrote during my studies at Simmons College.

The archivist that I chose to interview for the purpose of investigating management styles, was Adrienne Pruitt, who is the current collections management archivist at the Tufts University Digital Collections and Archives. She oversees collection management and archival processing. This job includes managing preservation, assessing collections, and planning and prioritizing processing work. This entails overseeing various staff members to ensure that work is getting done and the work gets divided accordingly.

It is interesting to consider the future of archiving and becoming an archivist. Based on Pruitt’s explanation of how she became a manager of the Tufts Archives, it appears as though being an archivist almost instantly means being a manager. While Pruitt received her undergraduate degree in art history, she found an interest in museum work which led to an eagerness to understand curatorial work. In order to work as a curator, she discovered she needed a degree in library and information science, which is how she found her way to Simmons College. After graduating, the jobs she took on consisted in some aspect of management. Some were more managing volunteers and interns, but she slowly moved towards taking on projects and managing a small group, to now managing a staff about ten. Managing just came naturally. I believe her experience from Simmons College greatly influenced her natural ability to manage. Simmons College is very good with trying to ensure that their students are prepared to take on managerial roles including providing some hands on experience in the various courses offered. This likely led to the healthy combination of ways to manage a team.

Pruitt discussed managerial styles. The staff size is about ten ranging from student workers to Simmons graduates, with a few professionals. For the small space that they work in, I thought Pruitt and her director tried to find a balance between being too hands—on and too hands—off. The style seems like a healthy combination of a democratic, paternalistic, and laissez-faire management. Democratic in the sense that the manager, in this case Pruitt, allows employees to take part in decision-making. She and her staff meet individually and collective, sometimes once week, depending on the circumstances. During these meetings she wants to ensure that the staff feels comfortable and also understand what they think is best for the staffing community. Collectively, they divide the work. This segues to the laissez-faire management style. While the staff is able to contribute to thoughts on how the work is divided, Pruitt and the director do divvy up the work between staffing members, while she oversees all operations and aspects. The paternalistic aspect of the management style comes from Pruitt and the director being hands-on in a sense with trying to ensure that the staff members understand all aspects of the archives and have access various training opportunities. At the same time, they make their staff feel welcome and like an additional small family.

The staff assisted in the processing of a collection to prioritizing work. The work is then tackled sometimes collectively and sometimes individually, but help is always available. I believe that by creating this type of management system, the Tufts Archives paved its own path towards creating a safe environment for both staff members and patrons. While I was there, patrons came in and out of the archives happy to begin their research. They had no problem asserting their presence and their research request, which was swiftly attended to. I watched as sometimes staff worked together to try and resolve the patron’s query or get the materials needed.

When looking at the Tufts University website, I wasn’t sure how patrons knew about the Tufts Archives. I asked Pruitt about outreach. In an academic setting, I found that utilizing course classes was key. Many teachers talk about records that can be found to aid in research at the Archives. The actual Archives’ website is very wordy and confusing. It is currently asking users to help in the website’s advancement and will undergo renovation. Websites are key in pulling patrons. It seemed as though patrons were less likely to reach out or come in if their website wasn’t visually appealing. It was an fascinating and thought-provoking admission. I was happy to help in the user survey. I found that I learned a lot more about the Archives and am more inclined to seek out some research services now that I’m more aware of their collections.

The Tufts University Digital Collections and Archives (DCA) “supports the teaching and research mission of Tufts University by ensuring the enduring preservation and accessibility of the university’s permanently valuable records and collections. DCA assists departments, faculty, and staff in managing records and other assets. DCA collaborates with members of the Tufts community and others to develop tools to discover and access collections to support teaching, research, and administrative needs.”

Tufts University never had a formalized archive until 1997 by Russell Miller; however, the university archives was technically established in 1964. The archives now hold over “4,300 cubic feet of office records as well as university and student publications from Tufts University. The Archives is also the repository for manuscript collections by Tufts faculty, alumni, affiliated individuals (such as Edward R. Murrow) and organizations (e.g., the World Peace Foundation). In addition to documenting the history of Tufts, its holdings are strong in environmental studies, theater history, international affairs, broadcast history, and literature.”

Delving deeper into the managerial aspects of the archivist and the archives, was almost like a time warp. In 1997, the Tufts Archives became an official digital collections and archives. It was fascinating to hear that Tufts has been digitally focused for a little over a decade. The inclination stemmed from seeing the rapid growth in technology and believing in its future longevity. The Archives has one of the strongest focuses on born-digital records. Being advanced for its time, Tufts University has almost no back-log. For almost two years, the Tufts Archives began accessioning their collections as soon as they came in, creating simple finding aids to ensure that the collections can be made available to patrons. They are beginning to deaccession certain records and collections, which I can see being a weakness. Accessioning collections and then having to go back and survey the collection and go through to figure out what should be deaccessioned can be extremely time consuming, which has created several projects for the Archives. At the same time, the Archives is going through and editing frequently used collections’ finding aids to make them more detailed.

Often times, archives seek out grant funding or ask their larger organization for help. While it is rare that the larger organization helps financial, it is common to see the larger helping when issues arise. That’s exactly how Tufts University is. The Archives is comfortable seeking help when issues arise and there is easy access to technical support, even though, they at times make mistakes. It was nice that The Archives was able to get “emotional” support. Yet, as far as grant funding, Pruitt has not yet applied to any grants in the four years that she has been there. Grants are not a pressing focus for the Archives at this moment. This kind of shocked both of us. Most archives are constantly actively seeking out grants. I can kind of understand why the Tufts Archives isn’t as in need of grant funding. Being an archives that was essentially a predecessor to this digital-archives movement, Tufts Archives is already there. While many archival organizations are trying to digitize their collections, Tufts Archives had already done that and prepared for this born-digital age. The software and equipment had already been investigated and implemented, but does go through updates. I realized that when starting an archives, it is essential to think ahead and address possible future innovations that impact records collection. While grant funding is not always essential, strategic plans are still very much a part of all archives. Archives, due to storage and newer preservation methods are causing archives to have to undergo renovations. The strategic plans are great in honing in on projects and renovations. Tufts Archives will undergo renovations trying to create more storage space for their collections. In the meantime, the archivists and staff are going through the collections to reassess their values.

Overall, after the interview and browsing the website, I have a better sense of how Archives should be managed. Archives that have begun the digital transfer earlier, do a lot better in the long run. Being more technologically and digitally focused enables an archives to focus on other projects. Grants will be needed in the beginning but become less of a focus as time goes on because the collections are mostly already digitized and preservation methods have been implemented for best practice. Honing in on certain collections of strength with help in trying to describe and process collections. Accessioning every collection that comes in and creating simple finding aids can be both beneficial and a hindrance depending on the organization. Beneficial in the sense that all the collections are available for patron access, but a hindrance because the staff will need to revisit the collections to edit the finding aids and make them more descriptive or deaccession some of the records.

When it comes to staff management, a healthy combination of managerial styles work best. Ensuring staff that they can feel comfortable asking for help in anyway creates an open environment and a safe space. This then translates over to making sure the patrons’ feel comfortable. Sometimes multiple people working on one individual can help expedite an issue or show the patron that they are important. Meeting individually and collectively shows the staff that they are valued. Permitting staff to take part in decisions that impact the archives, makes the small staff team feel more familial and inclusive. There is less room to question certain things because the staff has an understanding of the why. At the same time, advocating to the larger organization helps the archival organization as a whole. The larger organization can often help by getting other departments involved and promoting the archives. As far as outreach and advocacy goes, in an academic archive, the outreach and advocacy can be assisted through the larger organization. The archives can be promoted on their website. Additionally, the archives can utilize academic courses to promote archival use. Asking users about their experience and how to improve the navigation of the website, seems to draw in more patrons due to getting the chance to understand the collections and services of the overall archives.

It all comes down to being able to create a safe environment for both staff and patrons, while ensuring the archives is in the best condition for the records. That means making sure all measures have been taken to properly care for the records and thinking ahead. A good manager is able to create a safe place and make sure the records are using best preservation practices. A great manager is able to ensure that the staff and patrons feel comfortable and valued, while also thinking towards the future in how records will be created and best ways to maintain and preserve all records. The Tufts Archives demonstrates and archival repository that has had great managers and continues to have great managers, which why there hardly any backlog and the staff and patrons appear excited to be there.

Common Grounds: Joint Space for Neutrality and Bias Opinion

This is a paper I wrote during my studies at Simmons College.

According to Italian literary poet, Dante Alighieri, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”[1] Archivists, as well as people in general, have always struggled with following, upholding, and fighting against neutrality. Aligning with Dante Alighieri is South African activist Desmond Tutu, who once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”[2] When considering archives and archivists, the professional archival community has greatly debated the standard position of neutrality.  While some argue that neutrality is for the best, others strongly disagree. Is there a mutual ground? Are there times when neutrality is useful, even when it is clear that the archivists, and the institutions they find themselves in, are never neutral?

Joseph Joubert wrote, “It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating.” While there is no clear cut answer, I believe there is a place for and a way in which neutrality can exist, while a mutual understanding of bias opinion is attainable. There is a time and a place for everything, and as archivists, we are aware, and cannot be naïve to think, that people do not exist without bias. With that concept and understanding, we can assume that people in charge of archival institutions bring their biases. However, is it possible that archives and archivists can run in a similar fashion as libraries and reference librarians? Ideally, reference librarians provide information to patrons without judgement. Consequently, in an ideal world, libraries have the potential to be spaces where people of all backgrounds can access information from all perspectives. If archives and archivists could operate in such a way, should they? There are a multitude of possibilities that can be examined and considered. This paper will explore the idea of neutrality and examine if there is room for both a neutral space and a bias mind.

According to Joan Schwartz and Terry Cook, the institutions in which archivists find themselves in are, in actuality, social constructs. Schwartz and Cook briefly explain the historical standpoint of the bias derived within the archives, “Their origins lie in the information needs and social values of the rulers, governments, businesses, associations, and individuals who establish and maintain them.”[3] From reading scholarly articles, the consensus about the nature of archives seems to revolve around the notion of power. Those who have the power want to maintain it, and with the influence of presentism and the absences of oppressed voices, all understanding of the past and what gets persevered is impacted. There are two groups that hold the power within the archival system. The first, consists of the founders and originators of the archival institutions. The second are the archivists. Again looking to Schwartz and Cook, we can see how archivists wield authority,

in the pursuit of their professional responsibilities, archivists – as keepers of archives – wield power over those very records central to memory and identity formation through active management of records before they come to archives, their appraisal and selection as archives, and afterwards their constantly evolving description, preservation, and use.[4]

From this understanding, we can see that archivists have the biggest impact on the records maintained and how they are accessible to patrons and outside users.

There are two distinct point of views of the archivist. From those who are not within the profession, archivists are considered to be people who collect records from various provenances, or origins, and then make the records accessible to those who may utilize them for research, but archivists saw themselves “as neutral, objective, impartial. From both perspectives, archivists and their materials seem to be the very antithesis of power.”[5] As an archival student pursuing a career in this world, I can see how, for an archivist, it can become difficult to keep a neutral front, I have my own opinions and biases that I bring from my experiences and interests. However, I also understand that at times it is important to have a neutral stance. While Mark A. Green does not truly have a position within the discussion of neutrality, he makes a few valid points. Green examines Eric Ketelaar, a Dutch archivist. In this examination we see that sometimes archivists intentionally make archives safe havens for patrons in the sense that the recordkeeping of documents of some unfavorable people are maintained and unaltered.[6]  Recordkeeping of documents from the Nazis may have, at one point, been considered Ludacris, but those records have been used to prove and bring to justice some Nazi criminals. Though the records may offend Jewish people and other minorities, they are still vital and important. Archival institutions should not only keep records that make society comfortable, but should contain evidence to understanding the past and the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler are a part of the history of the world. Green continues on to the revelation that Vitaly Shentalinsky, historical writer, made about the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB), or Mitrokhin, Archive. Essentially, the archive generated treasures that had originally been taken from their original authors and kept as evidence for alleged treason. In referencing the KGB archives, Green feels as though “On the one hand, Dutch archivists intentionally subverted the recordkeeping system of their occupiers; on the other hand, however, the very records of the KGB preserved irreplaceable literary works for future generations. Had the latter recordkeeping regime been sabotaged or intentionally abandoned or neglected by archivists pursuing social justice, what would have become of them?”[7] I believe that Green is onto something. There can be neutrality in the way in which archivists deem records as valuable or invaluable. Archivists, like librarians, are supposed to acquire resources that the users are interested in, as well as records that encourage the user to explore. However, unlike librarians, archivists must also ensure there is a somewhat balance in the evidence they hold.

As an archival student, I find myself questioning my future role as an archivist. I understand that I am to preserve records of the past, but at the same time, I must decide which records are valuable enough to keep. If we take, for example, the Civil Rights Movement in the United State, we can imagine all the records that should exist, but may have been lost or ill-preserved. Archivists in repositories interested in keeping records that relate to the Civil Rights Movement or this time period, should attempt to acquire records from the point of view of the African American community and this includes their white allies, as well as information and documents from the point of view of the police and the whites who opposed the movement. Of course, being able to collect all of this information this would be the ideal, but sometimes the records do not exist or are not even searched for Looking at the enslavement period, there are a vast amount of records, but it can become extremely difficult to collect the records that have demonstrate of the voices of those who were enslaved. Each scenario poses their own unique problems when it comes to availability of records. Yet, when the archivist has a bias, and neglects some of the voices of the past, certain records are ignored or purposely inaccessible in certain repositories. The explanation for the archivists’ influence on recordkeeping within the repositories, and how they control the power to make them accessible to users, can be reverted back to aforementioned notions of influenced bias, “Though archives, and the people who work therein, are often positioned as neutral, they are very much a reflection of the needs and views of its founders.”[8]

In an article posted by Saraabi, the role of archivists and their bias, or lack thereof, is further examined. Saraabi reiterates archivists’ personal biases, while delving further,

Sometimes these biases are more evident, like which items are deemed worthy for inclusion in an archive, and sometimes they are more subtle – such as the way items are labeled and organized in collections. In terms of the latter there are various factors at play that may hinder neutrality. On a broad scale, the systems which are often used – Library of Congress Classification System and Dewey Decimal System – are shaped by Western philosophy and Christianity.[9]

Considering that the time when the Library of Congress Classification System, created in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and the Dewey Decimal System, created in 1873, were created, it becomes clear how the time period and political atmosphere may have shaped their biases.

A prime example of the bias, that still shakes the archival world, occurred with Library of Congress in 2016. Melissa Padilla was conducting research on immigration in her university’s library. She became angered when she noticed that the subject headings were utilizing the label “illegal aliens” for undocumented immigrants. Padilla, herself, was an undocumented immigrant and consequently became outraged at the judgement bestowed upon people in her situation:

 ‘This term, and the way people used it to criminalize the choices our parents made in order to provide us with better lives, completely detracts from the brave choices and obstacles we overcame in order to survive…I’m not illegal. I’m a survivor that continues to work toward a better future.’[10]

Padilla teamed up with a student organization at her institution, and petitioned that the Library of Congress remove the term from its subject headings. Initially, the Library of Congress agreed to change the subject heading after hearing Padilla’s argument; however, the Library of Congress unfortunately rescinded their decision due to governmental control:

But that decision — at a time when immigration has become a big topic in the presidential campaign and at the Supreme Court — has ignited an angry response from conservative lawmakers who accuse the library of abandoning the letter of the law to pander to immigrant rights’ advocates.[11]

As we keep digesting the arguments of bias opinion, it becomes clear that the Library of Congress was forced to listen to and cater to the people who have the, so-called, “power.” If the system that many libraries and archives within the United States use has been proven to lack neutrality, when their spaces are supposed to be known for their impartiality, then is neutrality even possible? The main reason that the Library of Congress was unable to move forward with the removal of the subject heading “illegal alien,” is due to:

‘the library has bowed to the political pressure of the moment,’ Republicans wrote in a May 10 letter to David S. Mao, the acting librarian of Congress. The letter was written by Representatives Lamar Smith and John Culberson, both of Texas, and Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Republicans who have long advocated stricter enforcement of immigration laws.[12]

Library of Congress is just one of the two major systems mentioned known for having bias, or lacking neutrality, which creates a less than safe and neutral space for users. Reversing systems and taking a look at the Dewey Decimal System, Holly Tomren, university librarian, argues that

The DDC [Dewey Decimal Classification] is a top-down classification system that attempts to organize all knowable things. One need look no further than the 200 main class ‘Religion’ to see that it is a biased system, where Christianity occupies numbers 220-289, and ‘other religions’ are relegated to 299. Because the DDC is the most widely used classification scheme in the world, it is worthwhile to examine its bias.[13]

While I do not plan on delving deeper into the bias influences of either the Library of Congress Classification System nor the Dewey Decimal Classification System, when trying to see if neutrality is achievable, it is critical, more so necessary, to understand how even cataloging systems – used by archives and libraries – lack neutrality.

I feel as though the situation Melissa Padilla found herself in with the Library of Congress, demonstrates why neutrality should be implemented. This is not to say that archives should be entirely neutral. Each archival repository should, and does, have a bias in what they collect and who they give a voice to. There are archival repositories that concentrate on family histories, while others focus more on the individual state that they reside in or federal issued documents. I believe that in this sense, bias intake is important. These biases also help to reduce duplicates of certain documents. Not every archival repository needs to keep vital records because there are already designated archival repositories for that, and that goes along with some other records. Archival repositories are supposed to make it easier for the public to access certain records from all over the world. I feel as though each repository should be neutral in how they provide access and how they describe the items within their repository. Users of these archival repositories should feel safe to enter and know that their research interests are not being judged or influenced by the archive or the archivists. The records kept should refrain from bias terminology when describing repository items and should be easily accessible by all users. While Melissa Padilla provided insight to why and how archival institutions can become more neutral, I think it is imperative to explore the positives having a bias in archival repositories and the argument of those opposing neutrality both with archivists and their institutions.

In his article, “Becoming Responsible Mediators: The Application of Postmodern Perspective to Archival Arrangement and Description,” Joseph Deodato, university librarian, analyzes Terry Cook. He acknowledges Cook’s cautions that “archives may be adhering to concepts and methodologies that are no longer viable in a postmodern world.”[14] Perhaps the concept of neutrality is part of that idealistic past. Deodato dissects Cook’s paradigm shift. Among Cook’s theoretical approaches Deodato summarizes the following:

  1. Records are not neutral representations of the past, but constructed products shaped by the subjectivity of their creators aid contexts of their creation. Moreover, their meanings are neither fixed nor static, but dynamic aid constantly evolving in response to changing contexts and uses.
  2. Archivists are not passive, impartial custodians of the historical record, but its active interpreters and mediators. Their work determines the context in which records will be understood and used.
  3. The focus of archival work must shift from revealing the content of records to revealing their contexts. Adequately documenting the provenance of records requires more than simply identifying the office of their creation, but also their social and cultural contexts, functions, and custodial history (including their history under archival custody).
  4. The organization and narrative imposed on records by archival arrangement and description are not objective recreations of some prior existing reality, but representations shaped by the individual subjectivities of the archivist, the institutional requirements of the archives, and the broader cultural and intellectual climates in which they operate.[15]

Just as Deodato believes this order seeks to demonstrate that “there are a number of ways in which these critical perspectives can be applied to the practice of arrangement and description in order to provide archivists and their users with the tools necessary for understanding records in a postmodern world.”[16] It is imperative to understand that the first point is key to breaking down neutrality: records are not neutral.

We can assess many scholars who talk about neutrality. Analyzing Bergis Jules who asked, whether archivists are ready to confront the fact that our professional practices have upheld, and even facilitated, the institutionalized dehumanization of Black people, indigenous peoples, immigrants, trans and gender-nonconforming people, and other marginalized communities.”[17] Jules’s question investigates how neutrality has been harmful. Neutrality has prevented certain marginalized groups from being heard or properly represented. It is neutrality, and the lack of a bias, that has hindered a universal safe place within an archive. A bias would enable marginalized groups to feel hear instead of standing out in a society where they appear inferior. Michelle Caswell addresses this notion by calling “attention to the phenomenon of ‘symbolic annihilation’ in archives, the process by which archivists contribute to the omission or erasure of historically marginalized groups in the archives.”[18] No matter how we want to look at neutrality, Howard Zinn defines it best:

the scholar may swear to his neutrality on the job, but whether he be physicist, historian, or archivist, his work will tend… to maintain the existing social order by perpetuating its values, by legitimizing its priorities, by justifying its wars, perpetuating its prejudices, contributing to its xenophobia, and apologizing for its class order.[19]

While archivists would like to perceive themselves as neutral beings, we are not. By trying to appear as neutral we are, in fact, only perpetuating the on-going injustice that is occurring. By not addressing the biases and pretending as though we are neutral, archivists fail to correct offensive language and may unintentionally miss out on valuable records.

Jules, Caswell, and Zinn each call into question the role of the archivist and how they structure the acquisition and appraisal process. By remaining neutral, they are following, and supporting, societal discrimination and stereotypes. We must remember that as archivists, and future archivists, our role is not only preserve, but preserve what future people may find of interest and important. By ignoring the issues that are occurring, archivists are engaging in bias. I believe to some extent there is a ground for neutrality and that is in perspective. The way archivists perceive records can be neutral, not discriminatory against records that hold the antithesis of their relicts. I believe that there are some guidelines in which archivists can follow that can allow room for both neutrality and bias understanding. Being bias, or not being neutral, does not always connote a negative entity. Partiality means understanding and addressing societal issues that have clear biases. In a time where social justice is becoming louder in its calls for equality and fairness, archivists can no longer just be neutral to the voices of the world. By remaining neutral archivists are only perpetuating the dehumanization of marginalized groups.

I believe that there is a technique in which neutrality can be incorporated. At the same time, there must be understanding that neutrality is not the primary achievement. A joint space where both neutrality and bias views can be explored and examined, while archivists and archival institutions are considered safe havens in the process. Below I outline a plausible path towards creating a more neutral space that can be followed:

  1. As archivists, we must understand that archival records are not neutral. They were created by biased entities and produced to serve a purpose. The information they provide is not neutral and can be contested and suit multiple purposes.
  2. Archival records must be viewed in a neutral manner in the sense that each record cannot go unnoticed. Each record must be carefully examined and thoroughly questioned. The silences within each record must be poked.
    1. Who is being heard within this record?
    2. Why does this record matter?
    3. What purpose does and will this record serve?
    4. Does this record extend societal boundaries?
    5. Whose voice is missing in this record?
  3. Archivists must reevaluate the way records are labeled. People have the right to feel safe and the language that is used must be neutral. People should not feel attacked or judged in their research topics or personal (self) identification.
  4. Archivists must understand that there is a separation between societal governances and archival record keeping. Similar to the separation between church and state, archival institutions must separate the issues and biases of the world outside.
    1. Archivists must remain constantly up to date in a world that is constantly evolving.
    2. Archivists must acknowledge the evolution of language and how people identify themselves in languages that are not harmful to them.
  5. Archivists must remember that patrons cannot know about information that they do not know is accessible. This means that it is up to the archivists to find, obtain, and house records and resources that the public may one day find valuable, but may not think so at the moment. This bias allows for growth both outside the archive and within.
  6. Archivists must continue to remember that archival records are not neutral entities and at the same time promote that understanding. It is up to the archivist to inform patrons that records do not fulfill one narrative, but multiple. The records can be showcased as evidence in opposing disputes.

Remembering that archivists are people who have created biases based on experiences, there must be room for error and safe judgment. At the same time, archival institutions are governed by their founders, and the laws and missions that hold them in order. Archivists of these institutions must adhere to their missions, while being able to provide the resources necessary for their patrons. The following outlines a plausible path where the lack of neutrality fits alongside the aforementioned process:

  1. Archivists should strive to ensure that their archival institutions are different from other institutions and that their records fit the narrative of their institutions, while also remaining respectful of those who use their repository and the records kept within them.
  2. Archivists should acknowledge that they have biased opinions. Recognizing this can allow for a better understanding of personal flaws, but also use their biases as fillers to search for records that perhaps go against their beliefs, or agree with them, or perhaps to both because archival patrons may have the same thoughts and interests.

I feel as though neutrality goes hand in hand with honesty. If archivists can allow themselves to be honest with the public and their patrons, then a neutral, safe, space can be created.

As we begin to come to a close, I want to take a moment to review. Archivists have continued to debate the notion of neutrality within archival institutions. While archivists may view themselves as neutral, this is not a believable notion. Archivists are shaped by their own experiences and beliefs. Just as archival institutions are shaped by their creators and their founders. Blogger Alexandra points out the obvious way in which archivists lack neutrality:

While archives and archivists have long liked to believe that we are neutral in the process of building collections, we know this is not true. Traces of the archivists hand can be seen in the arrangement and description of collections, but often not in the appraisal, though this may have the largest impact on what information is available within a research collection.[20]

While I only briefly mention archivists and their role in the arrangement and description process, it is important to touch upon the appraisal process of research collections and how neutrality may not be present in any of these steps. Archivists must deem which records are valuable enough to keep. Often times, archivists impose their own opinions on history and what is valuable. This concept is more complex. Acquisition and appraisal of records have standards, but the standards are governed by the individual archive and the individual archivist. There is no common structure or order, leaving grey spaces of misunderstanding and a loss of, perhaps, valuable records.

While I have attempted to redefine neutrality, I have also tried to find ways to incorporate both bias opinion and neutrality. Bias opinion is not negativity, but acknowledgment that each individual is filled with their own bias views. At the same time, archival institutions can be neutral in atmospheric terms. They can be constructed as safe places for the public, where judgment does not permeate the collections and resources can be easily and readily accessible. Neutral is not only a racial issue, but an all-inclusive issue. Neutrality should apply to people of all financial, educational, racial, and disability backgrounds. Neutrality means safe and while people have bias opinions, archivists can work together to make patrons and each other aware of their biases and create safe space within their repositories.

[1] “John F. Kennedy’s Favorite Quotations: Dante’s Inferno,” John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

[2] Gary Younge, “Interview: Desmond Tutu,” The Guardian, May 22, 2009.

[3] Joan M. Schwartz and Terry Cook, “Archives, records, and power: the making of modern memory,” Archival science 2, no. 1-2 (2002): 1-19.

[4] Ibid

[5] Joan M. Schwartz and Terry Cook, “Archives, records, and power: the making of modern memory,” Archival science 2, no. 1-2 (2002): 1-19.

[6] Mark A. Green, “A Critique of Social Justice as an Archival Imperative: WhatIsIt Were Doing Thats All That Important?” The American Archivist 76, no. 2 (2013): 302-34.

[7] Mark A. Green, “A Critique of Social Justice as an Archival Imperative: WhatIsIt Were Doing Thats All That Important?” The American Archivist 76, no. 2 (2013): 302-34.

[8] Saarabi, “Aiming for Neutrality in Collections and Archives,” LIS Theory, October 23, 2014.

[9] Ibid

[10] Jasmine Aguilera, “Another Word for ‘Illegal Alien’ at the Library of Congress: Contentious,” The New York Times, July 29, 2016.

[11] Jasmine Aguilera, “Another Word for ‘Illegal Alien’ at the Library of Congress: Contentious,” The New York Times, July 29, 2016.

[12] Ibid

[13] Holly Tomren, “Classification, bias, and American Indian materials.” Unpublished work, San Jose State University, San Jose, California (2003).

[14] Joseph Deodato, “Becoming responsible mediators: the application of postmodern perspectives to archival arrangement & description.” Progressive Librarian 27 (2006): 52-63.

[15] Ibid

[16] Joseph Deodato, “Becoming responsible mediators: the application of postmodern perspectives to archival arrangement & description.” Progressive Librarian 27 (2006): 52-63.

[17] Samantha Winn, “The Hubris of Neutrality in Archives.” (2017).

[18] Ibid

[19] Ibid

[20] Alexandra DM, “Opportunities for making appraisal transparent when documenting the now.”