Information Studies


INST0041: Concepts and contexts

Term 1 and 2 core module for MA in Archives and Records Management students. 

This overarching module, running across terms one and two is intended to provide students with the necessary contextual and conceptual frameworks to fully understand the challenges of managing archives and records in hybrid and digital environments. It is intended that this module will provide the 'concepts and contexts' that will frame the other more applied modules in the programme that are taught alongside this module. The module will introduce students to the key terms and concepts relevant to developing an understanding of the discipline of archives and records management in a digital age, exploring the political, social, economic and legal contexts in which archives and record managers operate, identify significant continuities and changes in professional conceptual thinking and practice and give consideration of questions of professional identity, ethics and practice in a digital age. Among the topics to be included are conceptual and theoretical models relating to the management of archives and records, professional terminology and definitions, the spectrum of digital knowledge and information management and the place of archives and records management within that spectrum, legislative frameworks and access to information rights, organizational, community and personal approaches to record keeping, digital convergences and the challenges of digital preservation and stewardship, and the utility of participatory, collaborative and non-custodial approaches in supplementing traditional professional practices in managing archives and records.

This module will be delivered across both term 1 and term 2 through a combination of lectures (60 - 90 minutes per week), small group seminar teaching (2 hours every fortnight), individual and group directed study, attendance at visits and other relevant learning events, and participation in online discussions. Module readings, course materials, online discussions and other resources will be conducted through Moodle.

At end of the module students will:

  • Have a clear understanding of the diverse conceptual and theoretical positions which underpin international contemporary archives and records management practice
  • Be able to use these understandings to develop their own personal conceptual framework in which to frame and inform their professional career
  • Understand the broad political, social and legal factors which affect the practice of archives and records management
  • Have an awareness of the challenges and opportunities faced by archivists and records managers in increasingly globalised and digital societies

This module will taught on Fridays am (lectures) and pm (seminars)

Session by session (draft):

  • Introduction: Archives and Records in the Information Society.
  • What is the / a record
  • The legal context - Archives, records and the law 
  • The community and the personal - different models for managing records and assigning value
  • Provenance and original order 
  • Authenticity, trust and reliability
  • Preservation
  • Appraisal, selection and collection
  • Description & preparing for use 
  • Access priorities, reflecting on access and user-centred services 
  • Professional identities 
  • Ethics of recordkeeping
  • Custodialism and post-custodialism
  • Recordkeeping and archival activism: postmodernist approaches and the 'neutral, disinterested' professional
  • Accountability and governance: a recordkeeping paradigm?
  • Cultural heritage, 'the archival turn' and memory - an archival paradigm?
  • Professional identities and digital convergence - digital curation, preservation and archiving
  • Participatory and collaborative approaches practices - personal, community and other DIY archiving approaches

Preliminary reading: It is not essential for students to read these or other texts before starting the module, although a little preliminary reading before the module begins can often be beneficial.

Louise Craven, 'From the Archivist's Cardigan to the Very Dead Sheep: What are archives? What are archivists? What do they do?', in What are archives?: cultural and theoretical perspectives : a reader, edited by L. Craven, Ashgate 2008

Kate Cummings, 'Ways of seeing: contextualising the continuum', Records Management Journal 2010 20:1

Eric Ketelaar, 'Cultivating archives: meanings and identities', Archival Science, (2012) 12:19-33

Laura Millar, Archives: Principles and Practices. Facet 2010.

This module will be taught by Jenny Bunn, Andrew Flinn, Anna Sexton, Elizabeth Shepherd

Further details on this module can be found here