This article explores the application and use of the Society of American Archivists' Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies (GPAS) for curriculum development. The study includes an analysis of the existing archival education curricula and the courses offered in the previous three years. The article also reports findings from an online survey of program directors regarding the usefulness and relevance of the GPAS for curriculum development. Based on the findings, the authors propose several recommendations for steering the ongoing archival education conversation in a more productive direction.
The development and implementation of archival curriculum has been passionately debated within and outside the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and other archival communities. For decades, archivists and educators have discussed the best approaches to train and prepare aspiring and current archivists. The sometimes-contentious divide between practitioners and educators weighs heavily on this discourse, as does the fact that archival education has never enjoyed a singular home, rather coexisting within other parental programs, such as history and library and information science (LIS). Since its inception in 1936, SAA has had the unenvious task of appeasing both sides of the aisle—practitioners and educators—while ensuring the growth of the profession and advancing its identity. One way SAA seeks to accomplish these objectives is by providing guidance for graduate-level curricula in the form of the Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies (GPAS).
Unlike the American Library Association's (ALA) relationship with LIS programs, SAA does not serve as an accreditation body for archival education programs. This places SAA in a delicate position. The GPAS is a suggested frame-work, not a required one, for archival programs to adopt. As explained below, the GPAS consists of a series of topics that archival programs should consider covering to ensure students are properly prepared to become archivists. Thus, it is up to these programs to decide how best to implement the GPAS components, if they implement them at all. The extent to which directors of these programs use the GPAS remains unknown, thereby calling their value into question. As such, this article addresses the following research questions:
How do the current archival education curricula reflect the SAA GPAS?
How could the GPAS be improved to better serve archival education curriculum development?
This article begins with a summary of the development of archival education and a history of the GPAS followed by a description of the research study's methodology. Subsequently, the article presents the study's findings and discusses their implications. The purpose of the article is to generate discussion about the value of the GPAS from the perspective of current archival educators, not to propose an alternative set of guidelines.
Archival education has received a substantial amount of attention from educators and practitioners alike. Issues related to the historical development of archival programs, including curricular and pedagogical approaches, have been explored in detail. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, archival educators sought to draw attention to the emergence and value of these programs, their development, and SAA's role in shaping their future.1 About ten years later, archival programs became the focus of several research projects as scholars evaluated them and their growth.2 Though many of the resulting articles broadly reviewed the state of archival education, a few scholars wrote about more specific topics in archival education such as accreditation and the continuing education and training needs of archivists.3 Despite the surge of attention archival education received from the 1980s until the early 2000s, discussions about it have fallen mostly silent in recent years, with a few notable exceptions.
Mott Linn's recent article about the history of the Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA) and its certification program is a fresh addition to the discourse on archival education. As he explains, the ACA and its certified archivist program emerged primarily as a result of SAA's inability to establish a formalized accreditation process for archival educational programs. Certification, he contends, is increasingly becoming an important criterion for archival employers because it implies an applicant has a standardized base of education and competencies.4 Though Linn does not specifically address any of the requirements or areas that the ACA exam covers, other authors address more current topics.
Archival educators and practitioners are aware of the dynamic nature of archives and the impact of new technologies on the profession. For example, numerous articles focus on the impact of digital curation on archival practices and how it may be addressed in the classroom.5 Digital forensics also receives some attention as an emerging field that blends archival concepts with legal and policing practices.6 But new technologies are not the only topics these authors explore. Several scholars draw attention to social topics such as cultural informatics and social justice.7 These authors argue that these issues can have an equally large impact on archival duties as any technology, so there is a need to ensure that educational programs do not overlook them.
Without a doubt, archival education programs have improved and expanded over the years. However, as Richard Cox recently wrote, “[t]hings look good. But we still have many weaknesses and gaps to contend with . . . .”8 One of these gaps remains SAA's continual role in archival efforts and its revisions to the GPAS.
History of the GPAS
Since its inception in 1936, SAA has sought ways to educate and prepare future archivists. The organization first started to implement archival training programs in the late 1930s,9 but it would not establish its first set of formal education guidelines until 1977.10 Established by the Committee on Education and Training, these guidelines consisted of three courses: an introduction to archival theory, a practicum, and an independent study.11 These guidelines underwent revisions in 1988 and again in 1994.
The 1988 and 1994 versions expanded upon the original set of guidelines by encouraging programs to increase the number of archival courses and hire full-time, tenure-track faculty. The 1994 guidelines, however, represent a slightly different shift in SAA's approach by encouraging the development of independent master's degree programs in archival education.12 Alas, the guidelines never caught on within archival education in the United States because many educators believed that a master of library and information science (MLIS) degree with a concentration13 in archival studies would be sufficient for students.14
Eight years later, SAA's Committee on Education revised and renamed the guidelines with their current title: Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies (GPAS). Though most popular for its recommendations about curriculum development, it should be noted that the GPAS is not simply a list of knowledge areas that educational programs should cover, it also offers guidance for the “minimum standards for archival education programs in terms of mission, curriculum, faculty, and infrastructure.”16
The guidelines were designed with independent master of archival studies (MAS) programs in mind. As shown in Table 1, they were (and remain) divided into two areas: Core Archival Knowledge and Interdisciplinary Knowledge, with the former being subdivided into three other domains: Knowledge of Archival Functions, Knowledge of the Profession, and Contextual Knowledge. The guidelines recommend that eighteen credit hours cover core archival knowledge and that students use their remaining credits in interdisciplinary knowledge areas. The guidelines also stipulate that students should engage in research and be encouraged to write scholarly papers, and that the program should “include practical experience, such as a practicum or internship.”17
The guidelines did not escape some criticism. As Tibbo notes, “there appears to be a lack of reality regarding what can actually be accomplished within a 36–48 h[our] master's degree program and what is really needed.”18 She goes on to point to the vagueness of some of the areas, in particular, “information technology,” as well as the limited number of courses students could take because of the few elective credits available to them in their programs.19
In response to the criticism, SAA revised the GPAS, first in 2005, 2011, 2015, and, most recently, in 2016 (SAA policy requires revision of the GPAS every five years).20 The 2011 version saw substantial revisions to the areas of knowledge (see Table 2; the changes are bolded). In particular, three areas were added to Knowledge of Archival Functions: Nature of Records and Archives, Records and Information Management, and Digital Records and Access Systems (the latter two areas had previously resided in the Contextual Knowledge section). Also, under Interdisciplinary Knowledge, SAA removed Management as a domain area. The 2015 and 2016 revisions made only minor editorial changes to the GPAS without substantial revisions to the knowledge areas.
Overall, the GPAS represents the growth of archival education over the past forty years. As the revisions indicate, archival practices have moved beyond simply acquiring, arranging, and describing archival materials, to duties around digital preservation, electronic records, ethnic and cultural diversity, and privacy and security of materials. The evolution of the GPAS coincided with discussions about what should constitute a “proper” archival education program.21 However, this discourse was primarily based on personal experiences and anecdotal evidence.
The GPAS provides an opportunity to begin a more empirical debate about the state and future of archival education. Such an examination is not completely unheard of in information science studies. Specifically, ALA's accreditation guidelines have received a significant amount of attention from library scholars. However, to date, archivists and archival educators have not allotted the same attention to SAA's GPAS.22 The remainder of this article discusses a research project conducted by the authors to determine the value of the GPAS and its usefulness in archival curriculum development. In the course of this study, the authors gained valuable insights about what archival educators believe should constitute the archival educational program of the twenty-first century.
Understanding the current use of the GPAS and identifying potential areas for improvement requires an analysis of both existing curricula and faculty opinions. Each research question focuses on one of the two areas; therefore, the research study employed a two-phase approach reflecting the research questions: an analysis of current archival programs and their curricula and an online survey specific to the GPAS. Although focusing on one research question, each phase included some analysis of both questions. The following section describes the sample populations and both phases of the study.
The sample population used for both study phases drew from the 43 programs listed in the SAA Directory of Archival Education (DAE).23 The sample excluded programs with less than 9 credits devoted to archival studies. The sample included only archival concentrations within master's degree programs, excluding certificates, associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, graduate certificates, and complete master's programs in archival studies/science. Based on these criteria, the final sample population included 27 programs. Four of these exist as concentrations within master's of arts programs with the remaining 23 within LIS programs.
Addressing the first research question required an analysis of the existing archival education curricula within the sample population. The authors collected a data set comprising courses offered in the past 3 years by each program, including those recommended, but not required. Normalization of the credit data required dividing quarter credits by 1.5, whereby 3 quarter credits equals 2 semester credits for programs operating on the quarter system. Subsequently, the authors developed a GPAS-based codebook including each of the 10 components and 21 subcomponents of the 2016 GPAS.
In preparation for coding, we removed the program rubrics and course numbers from the data leaving only the course titles. We randomized and equally divided the data into 2 groups. Each author coded one group by assigning a single code for each course. Courses covering multiple subcomponents, such as Introduction to Archives, were assigned the more general component code (e.g., Knowledge of Archival Materials and Functions). The authors met and reviewed a sample of each group to ensure consistency and consensus after independently coding their own groups. Descriptive statistics summarized the trends of the coded data.
An analysis of the results of an online survey (see Appendix 2) for directors and coordinators of the sample population's programs addressed the second research question. The 22-question survey included open-ended, Likert scale, and close-ended questions. The majority of questions focused on the past and future use of the GPAS in curriculum development as well as general opinions of the GPAS. The authors distributed direct invitations to the directors and coordinators of the 27 programs to complete the Qualtrics online survey. The survey remained open for 2.5 weeks, with 2 reminder emails sent to the sample population. Of the 27 invited participants, 18 completed the survey for a 67% completion rate. The resulting data were analyzed using descriptive statistics.
Data gathered from each phase described above were analyzed independently. The authors presented the initial phase findings at the 2016 Archival Education and Research Institute (AERI) held at Kent State University as part of a curriculum development workshop. Feedback from the subsequent discussion informed the creation of the second phase. The findings of both study phases are presented here in order of research question.
Research Question 1
As noted, all of the sample population's 27 archival programs were concentrations of larger master's degree programs. These programs ranged in required credit hours from a high of 48 to a low of 30, with a mean of 38 and a mode of 36. The analysis of archival concentrations found programs required an average of 20.6 total concentration credits with a median of 20, a mode of 15, and a range of 9 to 36. The majority of programs included both required and elective courses within the concentration with an average distribution of 50.5% required and 51.5% elective credits.
The GPAS coding of existing courses offered during the past 3 years resulted in a majority (64.7%, n = 507) of courses within the Core Archival Knowledge (CAK) components and subcomponents. As SAA describes, “Core archival knowledge provides the theoretical and practical basis necessary to work as a professional archivist.”24 The CAK category includes 3 main components (Knowledge of Archival Materials and Functions, Knowledge of the Profession, and Contextual Knowledge) and 14 subcomponents. Several of the courses received coding under one of the general main components, with 55 courses (16.8% of CAK, 10.8% overall) under Knowledge of Archival Materials and Functions and a single course (0.3% of CAK, 0.2% overall) under Contextual Knowledge. Figure 1 shows the number of courses coded within each of the 14 CAK subcomponents divided by main component. An analysis of this data identifies a 3-tier division.
The highest tier includes subcomponents covered by more than 5% of all courses and 8% of the CAK courses. In ranked order, the top tier includes Preservation, Records and Information Management, Digital Records and Access Systems, and Social and Cultural Systems. The second tier courses represent 3% to 5% of all courses and 4% to 8% of the CAK courses including (in ranked order) Appraisal and Acquisition, Arrangement and Description, and Management and Administration. The final tier courses cover the remaining CAK subcomponents and represent less than 3% of all courses and less than 4% of the CAK courses.
The subcomponent CAK courses are proportionally divided between main CAK component areas with 65.8% under Knowledge of Archival Material and Functions, 12.2% under Contextual Knowledge, and 4.9% under Knowledge of the Profession (as a percentage of all CAK courses). Inclusion of the general courses increases the Knowledge of Archival Materials and Functions courses to 82.6% of all CAK courses.
The Complementary Knowledge (CK) components include 152 courses, or 30% of all courses. Two of the included programs apply a track-based curriculum within the associated degree programs (one MA and one MLIS). While other concentration programs utilize the elective portions of their degrees, the track-based approach includes the general degree's core courses as well. Therefore, the track-based programs usually contain several nonarchival courses that fall within the GPAS CK components. The 2 programs included in this analysis only account for 8.6% of all of the CK courses (13 of 152).
The CK area does not include subcomponents, and none of the courses were coded as general. Figure 2 displays the division of these courses with the CK components. Like the CAK courses, the CK courses fall into 3 tiers. The top 2 components represent the highest tier with Allied Professions receiving 14% (71) of all courses (46.7% of CK) and Information Technology receiving 8.7% (44) of all courses (28.9%).The GPAS includes Allied Professions as those whose work overlaps with archivists, including “library and information science, computer science, museum studies, oral history, historic preservation, historical editing, social and community organizations, and public history.”25 The second tier includes components with 2% to 4% of all courses: Research Design and Execution (16) (3.2% of overall, 10.5% of CK) and Liberal Arts and Sciences (10) (2% of overall, 6.6% of CK). CK components with less than 2% of all courses comprise the third tier. In ranked order, tier 3 includes Conservation (6) (1.2% of overall, 3.9% of CK), History Research (4) (0.8% of overall, 2.6% of CK), and Organizational Theory (1) (0.2% of overall, 0.7% of CK). Finally, 27 courses (5.3%) do not align with any of the GPAS categories. These courses mainly focus on field work or internship credits.
While the course coding analysis represents a majority of data addressing the first research question, the subsequent survey further explored what topics introductory courses cover. Figure 3 displays the CAK subcomponents that respondents identified as parts of their introductory archival course(s). The participants' courses include nearly all of the CAK subcomponents with only the Contextual Knowledge topics receiving less than 50% responses (Social and Cultural Systems, 46.7%; Legal and Financial Systems, 40%). Moreover, many of the CAK concepts listed under tier 3 rank high among the topics covered in the introductory courses, indicating a view that they should not be covered in separate individual courses.
A subsequent survey question asked participants which of the CAK subcomponents should be covered only in introductory courses, which should be covered in a required full course, and which should be covered in an elective full course (see Figure 4). A majority of participants recommended limiting the coverage of half (7) of the subcomponents to the introductory courses only, including 75% or more for the Nature of Records and Archives (100%), History of Archives and the Archival Profession (83.3%), Social and Cultural Systems (81.8%), and Legal and Financial Systems (75%). Two of the categories were highly recommended for individual required courses (Arrangement and Description, 71.4%; Digital Records and Access Systems, 50%). Finally, participants highly recommended 2 areas for individual elective courses (Preservation, 57.1%; Appraisal and Acquisition, 50%).
Interestingly, the course analysis found 66 of the 507 CAK courses (13%) were required electives within their associated programs either individually or within a pairing (i.e., complete 1 of 3). Although respondents indicated Preservation should be covered in an optional elective course, it is the most often required course (22.7% of required electives), followed by Arrangement and Description (13.6%), Digital Records and Access Systems (13.6%), Management and Administration (12.1%), and Records and Information Management (10.6%).
Research Question 2
The online survey of the sample population provided the data addressing the second research question. Participants indicated how relevant the GPAS is to their own programs, as well as how well the GPAS reflects the skills and knowledge required for future archivists (see Table 3). The survey results indicate a divided opinion regarding the relevance of the GPAS to archival programs, with 50% either strongly agreeing or agreeing that it is relevant to their programs. None of the participants disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement. When considering whether the GPAS reflects the skills required for future archivists, 42% either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement. The figure decreases to 35.7% either strongly agreeing or agreeing that the GPAS reflects the knowledge future archivists require. Overall, most respondents fell into the middle ranges of the Likert scale (somewhat agree, neither agree nor disagree, or somewhat disagree).
The GPAS is only one of several influencing factors coordinators take into consideration when revising their curricula (see Figure 5). Participants indicated recent scholarship, job-posting expectations, student feedback, and other archival programs are more influential than the GPAS. Some participants discussed the importance of considering the relationship between the archival courses and overall degree program requirements as well as external complementary courses.
The survey participants considered which of the GPAS components and subcomponents they would retain for both the CAK and CK areas if they were revising the current GPAS (based on a 5-point Likert scale). For the CAK, all 14 subcomponents received an average value below 2 (1=definitely will; 5=definitely will not), indicating participants positively view all areas (see Table 4). In fact, only 3 areas received negative markings: Outreach and Advocacy received a single probably will not; Records and Information Management received 1 probably will not and 1 definitely will not (the only instance in the data); and Social and Cultural Systems received 1 probably will not.
The participants were more likely to remove some of the CK components from the GPAS (see Table 5). Six of the seven areas received an average value above 2 out of 5 with one exceeding 3 (Liberal Arts and Sciences). Participants unanimously viewed only the Information Technology positively. Nearly a quarter of respondents indicated a negative view of History Research (23.1%), Organizational Theory (23.1%), and Allied Professions (23.1%). Finally, 46% of participants expressed a negative view of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Program directors also suggested the integration of several new areas into the GPAS. A majority of respondents recommended the following areas: communities (64.3%), cultural management (50%), digitization (64.3%), and ethics (74.4%). Although the GPAS already includes “ethics and values” as a subcomponent of the Knowledge of the Profession component, the respondents suggested ethics needs a more prominent place among the guidelines. Additional areas for consideration based on an open-ended question include digital asset management, information governance, social justice and archival records, international aspects of archives, and community-based archives.
Discussion and Implications
The data from both phases of the research study provide interesting (and sometimes conflicting) insight on both research questions. The second phase survey results note the continual nature of curriculum revision. Nearly all of the participants either revised their curricula in the past 3 years or plan to revise their curricula in the upcoming 3 years. Only a single respondent indicated that his/her program had not revised the curriculum and did not have plans to do so in the near future. The regular evaluation and revision process considers many factors, and the GPAS falls in the middle of the pack. One participant noted, “I should say here that we are always making micro-adjustments from year to year based on student comments and new research.”
Other participants stressed the importance of considering the archival education program's relationship with its host program, specifically the strengths of nonconcentration courses. This is part of an effort to “seek symbiosis” between the core LIS or history coursework and the concentration. Because the majority of archival studies programs remain concentrations within LIS or MA degrees, students must typically complete a series of required core courses toward their overall degrees. This limits the number of credits available for the concentration program (most often to 5 classes). Fitting all of the GPAS requirements into such a limited space remains challenging. Additionally, faculty often create new courses without considering the credit-hour limitations of the program. While these new courses offer valuable opportunities to study current topics, their content often overlaps with other areas within LIS. Faculty should consider an approach more synergist with the broader degree programs. For example, the material covered in an archival reference and outreach course would, at least partially, overlap a more general LIS reference and outreach course. Integrating a week or two of archival specifics within the general class would be a better use of resources.
The largest concern with the GPAS is its lack of delineation between what should be covered within introductory courses, which knowledge and skills require stand-alone courses, and which courses should be electives versus requirements. The data indicate the majority of curricula currently attempt to cover nearly all of the CAK components in some fashion within their introductory courses. This reflects an approach in which introductory courses serve as generalized foundational courses introducing students to the developments of archival theory, concepts, and functions. In addition to serving as a core course within concentrations, such an approach allows these courses to also deliver a broad overview of the profession and provide minimum coverage for students outside of archival concentrations (e.g., LIS students who may work in an archival setting at some point or those interested in learning about archives without becoming archivists).
The CAK offers a good foundation for the introductory courses; however, a single course can only provide cursory coverage of the topics. The CAK does not prioritize which topics require additional coursework beyond the introductory courses. Based on the survey data, a majority of program coordinators consider only 7 of the CAK subcomponents to require additional course coverage. Although this is the current opinion of the coordinators, it is not directed by the GPAS recommendations, rather by individual interpretations, approaches, and non-GPAS considerations. SAA should include clear direction regarding this issue within its upcoming GPAS revisions.
The data and their analysis find the GPAS in need of some structural revisions and topical clarification. The CK components are too broadly defined, whereby most nonarchival courses within an LIS program would likely fall under one of the existing components. Further complicating matters, several of the CAK subcomponents are not mutually exclusive, such as Digital Records and Access Systems, and Records and Information Management.
Addressing the aforementioned GPAS issues will require significant revision of the existing GPAS structure. The CAK components would benefit from a stratified system thereby creating priority levels for the subcomponents. This tier-based system would further delineate the fundamental, highly recommended, and tertiary archival topics. Likewise, the GPAS should include a more precise narrative description that elucidates the role of introductory, required, and elective courses within an archival concentration. Several of the CK components should be clarified or removed from the GPAS. If SAA considers some topics outside of the recommended concentration areas important as recommended additional coursework, the GPAS should discuss the contents of broader degree programs within which archival concentrations are nested, such as LIS and history programs. Revisions to the GPAS narrative need to acknowledge the roles of additional curricular factors such as recent scholarship, expectations from job postings, and student feedback.
Despite disagreements over some of its content, this study's findings indicate faculty still value the GPAS's direction as one element within curricular development and revision. There is little doubt that SAA plays a vital role in the development of archival education. Practitioners and educators alike expect this from the organization. The challenges of the process have been quite apparent. Writing in 1994, Robert S. Martin went so far as to say that, prior to the 1990s, “the SAA has failed to function as a typical professional organization in the critically important matter of professional education.”26 How the organization accomplishes this remains up for debate. Paul Conway notes the limitations of educational guidelines, arguing that they “are only as good as the system for monitoring the achievement of expressed goals.”27 Conway's argument focuses on the debate over SAA functioning as an accrediting body.28
SAA's most recent engagement in the accreditation debate in 2009 concluded with the recommendation that SAA should not accredit graduate programs.29 Despite this conclusion, the final report highlights several deficiencies echoed by this study's findings, including the need for “quality markers” and a better structure for the DAE to allow potential students to compare programs. This would also assist educators during curriculum revisions by providing concrete benchmarks associated with the GPAS recommendations.
Prior to 2010, the DAE listed only programs willing to pay a listing fee.30 SAA shifted toward a 2-tier model in 2010 with paid premium and free basic listings in an effort “to make the Directory the single most comprehensive compilation of archival education providers.”31 The DAE eliminated the fee structure altogether in 2017 and currently offers a single free listing type.32 Despite the free listings, the DAE remains an incomplete directory missing several programs. The information within existing entries is often dated as revisions are left to the program coordinators. Furthermore, without the called-for “quality markers” or benchmarks, potential students cannot compare programs equally.
The 2009 accreditation report also notes “an interest in reconciling the evaluation process for archival education programs with the certification of individuals” and specifically recommends, “The creation of a checklist for use by students, employers, and other members of the profession that is perhaps based on ACA's General Knowledge Statements.”33 The ACA provides a list of 13 General Knowledge Statements with additional Knowledge Statements for each of its 7 domains. These statements align well as competencies and could help describe the suggested outcomes for each of the GPAS components. As such, future revisers of the GPAS should consider the ACA statements as guidelines in their approach.
In early 2016, SAA's Committee on Education (CE) was tasked with the revision of the GPAS. Of its 17 members, the CE only included 2 archival educators. The lack of educator representation within the CE limited any GPAS connection with the contemporary pedagogical environment. CE membership required only “a balanced mix of archival educators and of practicing archivists” rather than a specific number.34 Additionally, the CE's assigned duties and responsibilities had rapidly expanded over the past decade to include continuing educational opportunities, the Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) Certificate, and the Arrangement & Description (A&D) Certificate programs.
SAA Council recognized the altered focus within the CE. During Council's August 2016 meeting, members agreed to discuss potential structural changes within the CE as well as the realignment of its responsibilities.35 Council members Amy Cooper Cary, Kris Kiesling, and Nancy McGovern agreed to explore the issue and present recommendations at the November meeting. This study's authors subsequently voiced similar concern during the Archival Educators Roundtable annual meeting several days later (which Cooper Cary attended). During its November 2016 meeting, SAA Council approved the creation of a new Graduate Archival Education Subcommittee (GAES) tasked with “reviewing the needs for graduate archival education, drafting and promulgating guidelines, and providing guidance to the Society in this area.”36 The GAES requires that archival educators represent 5 of its 6 members, thereby addressing the representation concerns previously noted. The GAES is responsible for revising the GPAS, creating a comprehensive list of archival programs, maintaining the DAE, and replacing the CE as the liaison with the Archival Educators Section.37 These changes represent a major advancement for future revisions of the GPAS and the integration of educators (and other stakeholders) into the revision process.
Expectations that SAA could (or would) serve in the same fashion as ALA does in regard to accreditation of LIS programs linger in some circles; however, a more pragmatic discussion would examine reasonable changes within the current structure of SAA. It is time for the discussion to move away from SAA ever functioning as an accrediting body for archival programs. The authors propose several recommendations for revising the conversation and moving it in a more productive direction:
SAA and/or the GAES should consider integrating an evaluative function as part of future GPAS revisions. Such a system could routinely evaluate programs in terms of their GPAS coverage and include a GPAS score (x% of adherence or a point-based system) on the program's DAE entry. This would strengthen both GPAS and the reliability of the DAE.
SAA needs to include more stakeholders in the conversation regarding revisions to GPAS, the oversight of archival programs, and/or the DAE. As SAA increases opportunities, such as the creation of the GAES, archival educators need to reciprocate by re-engaging with SAA governance. This includes joining committees and other leadership positions, but also providing feedback when requested by the GAES and CE.
SAA should ensure that the GPAS aligns with the qualification requirements necessary for taking the Academy of Certified Archivists' (ACA) exam. Currently, these requirements do not align with the recommended minimum credits of GPAS (ACA requires only 9 credits).38 If the ACA serves as a de facto certifying body of SAA, the ACA requirements and examination should reflect GPAS changes.39
The GAES should also consider alternative approaches for defining the framework of the GPAS. Karen Gracy, for example, is leading a team developing a competency-based framework for moving image archival education with the Association of Moving Image Archivists.40 A similar approach with the ACA Knowledge Statements could be beneficial for archival educators, students, and archivists.
The GPAS clearly indicates the growth and diversification of the archival profession. The guidelines are important for archival education, but they have their limitations. The GPAS recommends 18 credit hours in Core Archival Knowledge, yet over a third of archival programs (37%) require less than that for their archival studies concentrations. This continues the trend identified by Tibbo in 2006.41 In several cases, the number of available elective credits within the hosts' master's programs limits the number of credits required for a concentration. Therefore, without reducing the number of required core courses, the archival concentration cannot increase its required course load. The number of faculty available to teach archival courses limits programs' course offerings, as the current fiscal climate precludes most programs from hiring additional tenure-track faculty.
In addition, archival education programs struggle to cover all GPAS topics areas outside of introductory courses, while coordinators indicate a desire to expand the GPAS to include additional contemporary topics. All this begs questions: Are 18 credit hours enough to adequately prepare students for an archival career? Should more concentration programs consider moving toward their own degree programs (master of archival studies/science) rather than remaining within broader degree programs? If an archival program is limited to 12 or 15 credits, what essential archival courses should it cover?
There will never be a universal answer or perfect solution to archival education. Some programs may be fortunate to hire new faculty to boost the course coverage of their programs; other programs will lose faculty. Some programs may develop into MAS programs and be able to adhere closely to the GPAS; others will remain content with a smaller number of archival courses. The dichotomous nature of archival education, and all the variations in between, is a positive sign for the profession, but SAA cannot approach the GPAS with a “one-size-fits-all” mentality. As the organization revises the GPAS to ensure that the guidelines reflect the ever-changing profession, the diversity of educational institutions themselves cannot be overlooked. The GPAS needs to reflect the current practicing climate as much as the current educational climate. In the end, all programs strive to prepare students to become archivists and to advance the profession. Failing to recognize this does a disservice to its future.
Appendix 1: Archival Education Programs Included in Study
East Tennessee State University
Emporia State University
Kent State University
Louisiana State University
New York University
University of Arizona
University of Boston
University of California–Los Angeles
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Maryland
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of North Texas
University of Pittsburgh
University of South Carolina
University of Texas at Austin
University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Wayne State University
Western Washington University
Appendix 2: Survey Instrument
Thank you for agreeing to participate in this study. Please answer the following questions regarding your archives concentration or specialization. Please do not include information about certificate programs in your responses.
What is the delivery method for your entire degree program (MLIS, MLS, MA, etc.)?
❍ Face to face only
❍ Primarily face to face but with some online courses
❍ Primarily online but with some face to face courses
❍ Online only
❍ Online or face to face (the degree can be completed entirely in both methods)
What type of online courses does your entire degree program offer?
❍ Synchronous only
❍ Asynchronous only
❍ Both synchronous and asynchronous
What is the delivery method for your archives concentration/specialization?
❍ Face to face only
❍ Primarily face to face but with some online courses
❍ Primarily online but with some face to face courses
❍ Online only
❍ Online or face to face (the degree can be completed entirely in both methods)
What type of online courses does your archives concentration/specialization offer?
❍ Synchronous only
❍ Asynchronous only
❍ Both synchronous and asynchronous
Approximately how many students are currently enrolled in your master's program (both archives and non-archives students)?
Approximately how many students do you currently have enrolled in your archives concentration/specialization?
How many of your institution's faculty primarily teach courses in the archives curriculum?
Full-time Lecturer/Professor of Practice
How many of your institution's faculty occasionally teach courses in the archives curriculum, but not as their primary field?
Full-time Lecturer/Professor of Practice
How many courses in the archives curriculum were taught by part-time adjuncts during the 2015–2016 AY? Please only include those courses taught by part-time adjunct instructors rather than full time instructors/professors of practice.
The current SAA Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies (2016) recommend 18 semester credit hours in core archival knowledge with remaining credits in complementary knowledge areas.
The GPAS includes the following components:
Core Archival Knowledge
Knowledge of Archival Material and Functions
The Nature of Records and Archives
Appraisal and Acquisition
Arrangement and Description
Reference and Access
Outreach and Advocacy
Management and Administration
Records and Information Management
Digital Records and Access Systems
Knowledge of the Profession
History of Archives and the Archival Profession
Records and Cultural Memory
Ethics and Values
Social and Cultural Systems
Legal and Financial Systems
Research Design and Execution
Liberal Arts and Sciences
Have you revised your archival curriculum in the past 3 years?
When you revised your archival curriculum did you consult with the SAA GPAS?
Are you considering revising your archival curriculum in the next 1–3 years?
When you revise your curriculum will you consult with the SAA GPAS?
Please indicate your view about the following...
Which of the following do you consider (or will consider) when revising your archival curriculum? (select all that apply)
□ Recent scholarship
□ New archival textbooks
□ Student enrollment
□ Feedback from students
□ SAA GPAS
□ Other archival programs
□ University support (funding)
□ Expectations from job postings/advertisements
Is there anything else you consider (or will consider) when revising your archival curriculum?
Please rank the likelihood your program will cover the following topics within courses in the next 1–3 years.
Which of the core archival knowledge components do you cover in your introductory archives course(s)? Select all that apply.
□ The Nature of Records and Archives
□ Appraisal and Acquisition
□ Arrangement and Description
□ Reference and Access
□ Outreach and Advocacy
□ Management and Administration
□ Records and Information Management
□ Digital Records and Access Systems
□ History of Archives and the Archival Profession
□ Records and Cultural Memory
□ Ethics and Values
□ Social and Cultural Systems
□ Legal and Financial Systems
Which of the core archival knowledge items should be covered in entire courses outside of the introductory archival course? Please drag the items to the appropriate box
The following questions ask for your opinion of the SAA GPAS rather than your own curriculum.
If you were revising the SAA GPAS, please rank the likelihood that you would retain the following Core Archival components:
If you were revising the SAA GPAS, please rank the likelihood that you would retain the following Complimentary Knowledge components:
Which of the following should be added to the SAA GPAS? (select all that apply)
□ Cultural Management
□ Records & Information Management
Are there other areas that you think should be added to the SAA GPAS?
1Bruce W. Dearstyne and Diane L. Barlow, “Archives, Records, and Information Management: Creating a Dynamic Curriculum for the Next Century,” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 40, no. 3 (1999): 134–41; Paul Conway, “Archival Education and the Need for Full-Time Faculty,” American Archivist 51, no. 3 (1988): 254–65; Terry Eastwood, “Nurturing Archival Education in the University,” American Archivist 51, no. 3 (1988): 228–52; and Robert S. Martin, “The Development of Professional Education for Librarians and Archivists in the United States: A Comparative Essay,” American Archivist 57, no. 3 (1994): 552–56.
2Richard Cox, The Demise of the Library School: Personal Reflections on Professional Education in the Modern Corporate University (Duluth, MN: Library Juice Press, 2010), 141–80; Jeannette A. Bastian, “Measuring the Success of Internships in an Archives Education Program,” American Archivist 43, no. 2 (2002): 164–74; Richard Cox, Elizabeth Yakel, David Wallace, Jeannette A. Bastian, and Jennifer Marshall, “Archival Education in North American Library and Information Science Schools,” Library Quarterly 71, no. 2 (2001): 153–57; David A. Wallace, “Survey of Archives and Records Management Graduate Students at Ten Universities in the United States and Canada,” American Archivist 63, no. 2 (2000): 284–300; and Elizabeth Yakel, “The Future of the Past: A Survey of Graduates of Master's-Level Archival Education Programs in the United States,” American Archivist 63, no. 2 (2000): 58–65.
3On accreditation, see Fredric M. Miller, “The SAA as Sisyphus: Education since the 1960s,” American Archivist 63, no. 2 (2000): 226–34, and on the training of archivists, see Frank Boles, “Making Hard Choices: Continuing Education and the Archival Profession,” Archival Issues 21, no. 1 (1996): 7–24, and Robert Warner, “Archival Training in the United States,” American Archivist 35, nos. 3–4 (1972): 347–58.
4Mott Linn, “Not Waiting for Godot: The History of the Academy of Certified Archivists and the Professionalization of the Archival Field,” American Archivist 78, no. 1 (2015): 96–132.
5Costis Dallas, “Digital Curation Beyond the ‘Wild Frontier’: A Pragmatic Approach,” Archival Science 16, no. 4 (2016): 421–57; Elizabeth Yakel, Paul Conway, Margaret Hedstrom, and David Wallace, “Digital Curation for Digital Natives,” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 52, no. 1 (2011): 23–31; Christopher Lee and Helen Tibbo, “Where's the Archivist in Digital Curation? Exploring the Possibilities through a Matrix of Knowledge and Skills,” Archivaria 72 (Fall 2011): 123–68; and Peter Botticelli, Bruce Fulton, Richard Pearce-Moses, Christine Szuter, and Pete Watters, “Educating Digital Curators: Challenges and Opportunities,” International Journal of Digital Curation 6, no. 2 (2011), http://ijdc.net/index.php/ijdc/article/view/188.
6Christopher Lee, Matthew Kirschenbaum, Alexandra Chassanoff, Porter Olsen, and Kam Woods, “BitCurator: Tools and Techniques for Digital Forensics in Collecting Institutions,” D-Lib Magazine 18, nos. 5–6 (2012), http://mirror.dlib.org/dlib/may12/lee/05lee.html; Luciana Duranti and Corinne Rodgers, “Educating for Trust,” Archival Science 11, nos. 3–4 (2011): 373–90; and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Richard Owenden, Gabriela Redwine, Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections, Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources, 2010).
7On cultural informatics, see Anne J. Gililland, Conceptualizing Twenty-first-century Archives (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2014); Michelle Caswell, “On Archival Pluralism: What Religious Pluralism (and its Critics) Can Teach Us about Archives,” Archival Science 13, no. 4 (2013): 273–92; and “Educating for the Archival Multiverse: The Archival Education and Research Institute (AERI), Pluralizing the Archival Curriculum Group (PACG),” American Archivist 74, no. 1 (2011): 69–101. For one of the more recent publications about social justice, see Mark Greene, “A Critique of Social Justice as an Archival Imperative: What Is It We're Doing That's All That Important?,” American Archivist 76, no. 2 (2013): 302–34.
8Richard Cox, “Graduate Archival Education in the United States: A Personal Reflection about Its Past and Future,” Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies 2, no. 3 (2015): 4.
9Francis X. Blouin Jr., “The Relevance of the Case Method to Archival Education and Training,” American Archivist 41, no. 1 (1978): 37.
10Cox et al., “Archival Education in North American Library and Information Science Schools,” 144.
11Cox et al., “Archival Education in North American Library and Information Science Schools,” 154.
12Luciana Duranti, “The Society of American Archivists and Graduate Archival Education: A Sneak Preview of Future Directions,” American Archivist 63, no. 2 (2000): 239.
13Universities use different definitions of graduate specializations and concentrations. For the purposes of this study, specializations and concentrations refer to designated subareas of specialization within a master's degree program. Although subtle differences may exist between specializations and concentrations, hereafter this article will use the term “concentrations” as an inclusive term.
14Cox et al., “Archival Education in North American Library and Information Science Schools,” 156.
15Society of American Archivists, Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies, January 2002, Internet Archive, https://web.archive.org/web/20020806103846/http:/www.archivists.org/prof-education/ed_guidelines.asp.
16Society of American Archivists, Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies (2016), http://www2.archivists.org/gpas.
17Society of American Archivists, “Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies,” January 2002.
18Helen Tibbo, “So Much to Learn, So Little Time to Learn It: North American Archival Education Programs in the Information Age and the Role for Certificate Programs,” Archival Science 6 (2005): 236–37.
19Tibbo, “So Much to Learn, So Little Time to Learn It.”
20Society of American Archivists. Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies, 2016.
21Anne Gilliland, Sue McKemmish, Kelvin White, Yang Lu, and Andrew Lau, “Pluralizing the Archival Paradigm: Can Archival Education in Pacific Rim Communities Address the Challenge?,” American Archivist 71, no. 1 (2008): 87–117; Jeannette Bastian and Elizabeth Yakel, “‘Are We There Yet?’ Professionalism and the Development of an Archival Core Curriculum in the United States,” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 46, no. 2 (2005): 95–114; Bruce W. Dearstyne and Diane L. Barlow, “Archives, Records, and Information Management: Creating a Dynamic Curriculum for the Next Century,” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 40, no. 3 (1999): 134–41; James O'Toole, “Curriculum Development in Archival Education: A Proposal,” American Archivist 53, no. 3 (1990): 460–66.
22Kathleen M. Burnett and Laurie J. Bonnici, “Contested Terrain: Accreditation and the Future of the Profession of Librarianship,” Library Quarterly 76, no. 2 (2006): 193–219; Michael E. Mounce, “The Effects of ALA Accreditation Standards on Library Education Programs Accredited by the American Library Association,” LIBRES: Library & Information Science Research Electronic Journal 15, no. 1 (2005), http://www.libres-ejournal.info/867; Russell A. Hall, “Exploring the Core: An Examination of Required Courses in ALA-Accredited,” Education for Information 27, no. 1 (2009): 57–67; and H. L. Totten, “Accreditation of Library Educational Programs,” Journal of Library Administration 11, nos. 3–4 (1989): 5–26.
23Society of American Archivists, “Directory of Archival Education,” http://www2.archivists.org/dae.
24Society of American Archivists, Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies, 2016.
25Society of American Archivists, Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies, 2016.
26Martin, “The Development of Professional Education for Librarians and Archivists in the United States,” 557.
27Conway, “Archival Education and the Need for Full-Time Faculty,” 261.
28Martin, “The Development of Professional Education for Librarians and Archivists in the United States,” 552; and Robert Warner, “Archival Training in the United States,” American Archivist 35, nos. 3–4 (1972): 347–58.
29Society of American Archivists, “Committee on Education Final Report on Accreditation Project,” http://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/EdCommittee%20Accreditation%20Report_Final.pdf.
30Society of American Archivists, 2008 Directory of Archival Education, Internet Archive, https://web.archive.org/web/20080912014503/http://www.archivists.org:80/prof-education/edd-index.asp.
31Society of American Archivists, 2014 Directory of Archival Education, Internet Archive, https://web.archive.org/web/20140327132243/http://www2.archivists.org/dae.
32Society of American Archivists, Directory of Archival Education.
33Society of American Archivists, Directory of Archival Education, 4–5.
34Society of American Archivists, “Committee on Education,” https://web.archive.org/web/20161109222440/http://www2.archivists.org/governance/handbook/section7/groups/Education.
35Society of American Archivists, “Council Meeting, August 1, 2016,” 12, http://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/0816-1%20Minutes_AsAdopted090116.pdf.
36Society of American Archivists, “Council Meeting, November 14–16, 2016,” 13, http://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/1116%20Council%20Minutes_%20AsAdopted010617.pdf.
37Society of American Archivists, “Council Meeting, November 14–16, 2016,” 14.
38Academy of Certified Archivists, Handbook for Archival Certification, https://www.certifiedarchivists.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/ACAHandbook_2018_revised-3.pdf.
39Linn, “Not Waiting for Godot.”
40Karen Gracy, “Competency-Based Frameworks for Moving Image Archiving Education: A Progress Report,” presented at AMIA 2016; Karen Gracy, Dino Everett, and Edward Benoit III, “Competency-Based Frameworks for Moving Image Archiving Education,” presented at AMIA 2015; and Snowden Becker, Janet Ceja, and Karen Gracy, “Developing Audiovisual Archives Curriculum: Retooling the Archival Workforce,” presented at AERI 2015.
41Tibbo, “So Much to Learn, So Little Time to Learn It,” 237–38.