From Christopher A. Lee, Outgoing Editor
All I have to do is to work on transition and technique.
— Usain Bolt, 20121
Serving as the twenty-second Editor of American Archivist has been one of the greatest honors of my career. When I took on this role in January 2018, American Archivist was already a world-class journal with a long and rich history (this being the 285th issue since its founding in 1938). I have aimed to further advance the journal by soliciting and publishing a broad range of contributions that represent the growth and evolution of the profession. I hope archivists, allied professionals, and other interested parties will see American Archivist as an essential venue for openly investigating and hashing out professional issues.
Like many others, I first encountered the journal when I was a student. While pursuing my master's degree (with a concentration in archives and records management, of course) at the University of Michigan School of Information, I eagerly immersed myself in the archival literature. American Archivist was at the epicenter of this immersion. I spent many hours in the library stacks, browsing the shelves that held the back-run of the journal. Many hours were consumed by photocopying, reading, and marking up the articles. The product of these activities still occupies a lot of space in my filing cabinets.
That was more than twenty years ago. Today's students (and the rest of us) can now dive into the full run of the journal through American Archivist online, launched in 20072 and significantly revamped in 20153 and 2020.4 With volume 82, number 2 (2019), we made our first foray into “online first” publication, allowing us to share content with readers before completing the final layout and pagination of the full volume; we do not yet have the procedures or resources to make this standard practice, but it is an exciting option to explore in the future. American Archivist content includes not just articles but also letters from the Editor, Society of American Archivists' (SAA) presidential addresses, book reviews (overseen masterfully by Bethany Anderson since 2015), and various other reports, notes, and documents that reflect archival ideas, developments, perspectives, and debates over time. The letters to the Editor (Forum section) also can be a particularly rich source of perspectives, concerns, and controversies. The letters include announcements and informational notes; critiques, corrections, clarifications, or amplifications related to specific articles, book reviews, or other items in the journal;5 concerns about decisions by SAA leadership6 (including the location of the Annual Meetings in 1981,7 1982,8 and 19989); and discussions of American Archivist Editors' decisions about articles and book reviews,10 featured quotes,11 classification of submissions,12 fact checking,13 and even the cover14 of the journal.
The journal's digital footprint reaches well beyond American Archivist online. Another valuable resource is the SAA Reviews Portal. Launched in 2012 by then Reviews Editor Amy Cooper Cary and Associate Reviews Editor Danna Bell, it has benefited from the great work of Portal Coordinator Alexandra Orchard (2012–2016) and then Gloria Gonzalez (2016–2020) as well as the current Reviews Editor, Bethany Anderson. For digital materials, the metadata is often the initial interface.15 Rather than entering through the “front door” of the American Archivist website, readers often will encounter the journal's content through other paths. The journal is indexed in Google Scholar,16 Historical Abstracts (ABC-CLIO),17 Library Literature and Information Science (H. W. Wilson),18 Scopus (Elsevier), and Book Reviews Index Online (Gale/Cengage Learning).19 Full text is also available through JSTOR20 and the Hathi Trust.21
The journal, and the SAA publications program more generally, has benefited immensely from a talented and dedicated team at SAA. I greatly appreciate the guidance and support I have received from many members of the SAA staff—especially Teresa Brinati (director of publishing), Abigail Christian (Archival Outlook editor and production coordinator), and Nancy Beaumont (executive director)—as well as Meg Moss (intrepid copyeditor). As I finish my three-year term, I have little doubt that the journal will continue to thrive and contribute positively to the archival profession under the thoughtful leadership of SAA staff, members of the Editorial Board, and Amy Cooper Cary as the new Editor. I have great respect for all of them, and I deeply appreciate their talent, dedication, and passion for the journal and the archival profession.
Like the archival profession more generally, the American Archivist Editorial Board—along with Teresa, Abigail, and Nancy—has been actively pursuing measures to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) through the journal. This is an ongoing effort that will continue to require a great deal of listening, reflection, and openness to new ideas and approaches. We should face up to the many urgent opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, while also recognizing our accomplishments.
Several DEI opportunities and challenges relate to engagement and outreach. While American Archivist is open to submissions from anyone in the world on a broad array of archival topics, this does not mean that everyone feels equally able or welcome to submit. Many members of the archival profession or other stakeholders may also have trouble seeing themselves in the pages of the journal based on systemic biases or for other reasons.
Through generous support from SAA Council, the Editorial Board held a meeting in Chicago on February 11–13, 2018, shortly after I came on as Editor, to discuss strategies and plans for the journal.22 From this meeting, we identified a bold set of priorities. The discussion led to proposed changes to the American Archivist Editorial Board section of the SAA Governance Manual23 (approved by Council in June 2019) to add “encouraging submissions” and “promoting content from current and recent issues” to the duties of Board members.
At the meeting, we also committed to increased engagement with SAA component groups and other professional audiences. This has included reaching out to the leaders of SAA sections, encouraging them to contact us with suggestions, concerns, or ideas about the journal, and asking if we could take a few minutes during their section meetings at the Annual Meeting for a personal introduction and overview of how to contribute to the journal as an author or reviewer. In my own section contacts and visits each year, I have given highest priority to groups that I believe are most likely to feel marginalized or underrepresented in the archival literature. Members of the Editorial Board have also reached many groups outside of SAA, through conferences, workshops, and other venues. I have had the chance to encourage potential American Archivist authors and peer reviewers at thirty in-person events in Australia, Brazil, the Netherlands, Qatar, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as numerous online events.24 It appears that our engagement and outreach activities have paid off in terms of visibility, submissions, and the pool of peer reviewers.
The journal of SAA should reflect the broad scope of the archival enterprise and its various participants. This can only happen through an active pipeline of submissions from a diversity of contexts and perspectives. We have seen a dramatic increase (135%) in submissions to American Archivist over the past three years (see Figure 1).
Submissions have addressed a wide array of topics. I have been excited by the many first-time authors who have published their work in the journal. We have also had many submissions from communities and countries that have not previously been represented well in the journal.
All manuscripts submitted to American Archivist are subject to a double-blind peer review process, which means we do not reflect the identity of authors to reviewers, nor do we reflect the identity of reviewers to authors. This process involves three peer reviews: one from a member of the Editorial Board and two from other members of the profession. After identifying individuals whose profiles indicate a match based on the topic of the manuscript, I checked to see if any of the prospects had performed a review recently. The goal is to consider the full set of prospective reviewers and not simply to return to the same ones. I have tried to include at least one first-time reviewer whenever possible.
I am immensely grateful to both the members of the Editorial Board and the other reviewers for this service to the profession, which is vital to the quality and success of the journal. I am also thankful to SAA Council for approval on June 7, 2019, of a change to the SAA Governance Manual, expanding the Editorial Board from ten to twelve members with at least one member of the Board being an international representative who lives and works outside of the United States.26 In addition to providing more talented reviewers for the growing number of manuscript submissions, this also allowed us to increase the diversity and international composition of the Board.
With a larger and more diverse pool of reviewers, we can better reflect the rich array of expertise and perspectives of the profession. I encourage readers of the journal to consider serving as peer reviewers by registering through PeerTrack, the system we use to administer the process.27 We now have 342 registered peer reviewers, which is an increase of 109 percent since December 2017 (see Figure 2). There has been fairly steady growth in the reviewer pool throughout each of the years, with a notable bump each year around the time of the Annual Meeting, suggesting that our engagement activities have had a positive impact.
A useful way for American Archivist to foreground important topics is through special issues or sections. Historically (1938–1997), the journal came out four times per year. This meant that it often required considerable effort for the Editor and the Board to round up enough content. Special issues could help a lot with filling the pages. In the 239 issues published over that period, there were twenty-nine special issues and fifteen special sections. The first special issue was volume 6, number 2 (1943), and the first special section was in volume 6, number 3 (1943).
As with letters to the Editor, special issues/sections have tended to come in spurts over time. In addition to the preferences and style of the Editor and Board, a major factor has been whether it was particularly challenging at the time to stay on production schedule. For example, there were eleven special issues/sections in just an eighteen-issue run from volume 56, number 3 (1993) to volume 60, number 4 (1997). By the mid-1990s, American Archivist had fallen substantially behind in the production schedule. Phil Eppard, Editor at the time, announced in volume 61, number 1 (1998) a switch to a semi-annual (twice per year) production schedule. This meant space in the journal became more precious. An entire special issue would significantly push back articles, letters to the editor, and other journal content not related to the topic of the special issue.
Since the switch to semi-annual publishing, there have been seven special sections and two special issues: volume 63, number 2 (2000) on archival education (Guest Editor, Beth Yakel) and volume 74, online supplement (2011) dedicated to the 75th anniversary of SAA (Guest Editor, Bill Landis). The anniversary issue was produced “out of cycle,” so it did not need to interfere directly with the production schedule of the two regular issues of the year. However, all special issues place substantial demands on the publications team. It is important to take on such a project with an understanding of the associated commitment of resources (largely human time and attention). Electronic publication opens up a wide array of new opportunities that SAA has been exploring and pursuing for the past two decades.28 Electronic publication also incurs most of the costs of print publication (minus printing and mailing), while incurring various additional costs.
At our initial Board meeting on February 11–13, 2018, we identified special sections as a way to actively solicit submissions on targeted topics that we felt were not adequately represented in the literature, including social justice and DEI. Since then, we have considered several proposals for special sections, one of which is a forthcoming special section on design records, led by Guest Editor Karen Trivette. Since fall 2019, we have also been exploring a possible special issue or section dedicated specifically to issues of social justice and DEI.
Another vital tool for representing emerging issues is the classification system used in PeerTrack to identify potential reviewers of manuscripts. When creating accounts, reviewers can indicate their areas of interest and expertise from a designated set of options. The existing (currently forty-nine) categories are useful, but they are also quite limited. This makes it difficult to identify the right peer reviewers for submissions on topics that fall outside of the categories.
We have made significant progress toward updating the categories by first identifying and analyzing the author-provided key words in articles published in the journal to identify potential terms to add. American Archivist online provides key words for all articles since volume 76, number 1 (2013). Since then, authors have used 405 different key words, after combining a few that are variants on the same word (e.g., “website” and “websites”). That is an unwieldy number of terms for a controlled vocabulary to be used by authors and peer reviewers; and such a wide set of choices makes it less likely that the terms selected by the author(s) will match those selected by peer reviewers.
Many of the author-provided key words are quite specific to their associated articles. About 76 percent (306) appear only once, and most of those (e.g., names of specific individuals, organizations, or specialized technologies) probably do not need to be added to a shared set of categories. However, this process has also revealed many candidates for new terms. Archival trends, priorities, and activities that are not adequately addressed in the existing classification include societal issues (e.g., social justice, DEI); specific populations (e.g., Indigenous peoples, students); new technologies and methods (e.g., digitization, web archives), and engagement with stakeholders (e.g., community archives, outreach, teaching with primary sources, donor relations).
I have proposed a new faceted set of categories, with tentative facets being archival function; archival principles and concepts; material type; professional, legal, and policy issues; research design and methods; social/institutional context; standards and technologies; and users, audiences, and stakeholder groups. This is now just a draft for the Editorial Board's consideration, but I hope it will serve as a useful starting point for revisions. It would be beneficial then to periodically revisit these categories.
Many of the objectives for the journal discussed here overlap and are complementary. For example, promotion of a special issue/section can be accompanied by efforts to recruit a more rich and diverse pool of peer reviewers. As Guest Editor of the design records special section, Karen Trivette put out calls and encouraged individuals to join PeerTrack so they could serve as peer reviewers. Before she did so, we decided it would be helpful to first add a new category, “Design Records,” to the classification in PeerTrack. This allowed her to identify appropriate peer reviewers for the special section, because the reviewers she recruited could indicate it as one of their topic areas. Similarly, a special issue on social justice and/or DEI would benefit from adding associated terms to the PeerTrack classifications and could encourage people with associated knowledge, interests, and expertise to sign up as peer reviewers. Again, this also would make it significantly easier to select peer reviewers for new submissions that address such topics.
The American Archivist website provides various forms of information and guidance, including that authors should use the Chicago Manual of Style29 and consult the Dictionary of Archives Terminology.30 But those guidelines still leave a lot of room for flexibility, motivating many publishers to maintain their own “house style” guidance. Internally, we use a style document, an evolving resource to guide our copyeditor's work on American Archivist articles and book reviews. It reflects a variety of specific conventions that we have identified over time (e.g., punctuation, capitalization, hyphenation, some specific word choices, citation details). Our approach has been to stick to the conventions as much as possible for consistency, while also recognizing that authors may have specific reasons to break from those conventions in some cases. In fact, communication with authors about style issues is a great way for the Editor to learn about emerging practices and expectations. Some recent revisions that Bethany Anderson and I have implemented relate to the representation of different groups of people. These include capitalization of Black and Indigenous, as well as use of people-first language (e.g., “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person”). We also have adopted conventions suggested by Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia (A4BLiP),31 such as use of “enslaver” rather than “slave owner” and “enslaved person” rather than “slave.” We have already adopted these conventions, and sharing the style guide can help to make them clearer to authors and peer reviewers. The style guide is a living document that will continue to change over time.
American Archivist is a thriving journal that will continue to evolve. I am extremely grateful for having the opportunity to play a part in its rich history. I cannot pretend to know what all the future opportunities and challenges will be, but I am confident that Amy, the other members of the Editorial Board and SAA staff will navigate them with talent, passion, and dedication.
Featured In This Issue
As explained in a 1990 American Archivist Editor's note, when readers wish to “take exception to, or otherwise comment on, a specific point raised by the author of an article” or “to think further about, and amplify on, ideas that have been introduced,” the journal “should provide a place to present that open discussion—a forum, if you will.”32 This issue of American Archivist includes a letter to the Editor from Katy Lockard, responding to “The Current Status of Catholic Archives: A Survey Report” by Youngok Choi and Emily Nilson.33 Lockard, director of archives and records management for the Catholic Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, and president of the Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists (ACDA), points out the diversity of “Catholic diocesan and religious structures in which Catholic archives and records management programs are situated” and expresses the wish that the authors had provided “a more discrete definition of ‘Catholic archives.'” She highlights ways in which ACDA has provided the “leadership, collaboration, ongoing discussion among peers, and sharing of best practices” called for by Choi and Nilson. Lockard also argues that their “study missed the mark by limiting examination to professional literature, excluding professional speaking engagements, while overlooking some major recent publications.” We would like to thank Choi and Nilson for their valuable contribution to the journal and Lockard for providing vital contextual information about diocesan recordkeeping and associated professional activities.
The archival profession faces vital questions about how to better document, serve, and engage with marginalized groups and individuals. Under enslavement (especially racial enslavement), human beings have been subjected to many brutal forms of marginalization. The heavy structural and personal impacts of this marginalization have persisted through many generations to the present day. It is incumbent on the archival profession to better document, represent, and respect the lives of enslaved individuals, as well as to better serve descendants of enslaved individuals who seek to learn about those lives. In “Reimagining Instruction in Special Collections: The Special Case of Haiti,” Kellee E. Warren makes the case for critical archival instruction and offers a “reimagined instruction session using a fragmentary collection from the Saint-Domingue/Haiti colonial administration.” She argues, “Archival instructors should encourage students to reimagine the stories told from the Saint-Domingue colonial administration collection and from any colonial collections that may be under their care” to better decolonize archival instruction. Robert Nowatzki considers the potential benefits and limitations of several projects that “apply digital technologies to the study of transatlantic slavery” in “From Datum to Databases: Digital Humanities, Slavery, and Archival Reparations.” He argues that “despite the absence of race, and specifically African American history and culture, in much digital humanities scholarship, the study of slavery has been considerably enhanced and transformed by the work of archivists and digital humanities scholars who apply digital technologies [including databases and geographic information system (GIS) mapping] to the study and representation of slavery and enslaved people.” Nowatzki warns that enhancing “our understanding of the history of slavery and to be effective agents of progressive social change” requires awareness of “how data analysis can be driven by false assumptions of neutrality and can unwittingly contribute to the reification and dehumanization of people of African descent that was characteristic of transatlantic slavery.”
A core aspect of archival theory and practice is representation. In “Maintaining Records in Context? Disrupting the Theory and Practice of Archival Classification and Arrangement,”34 Ciaran B. Trace provides a “historical overview of the factors that contributed to evolving notions of archival classification and arrangement from the 1960s to today.” She characterizes “classification as a historically situated interpretive act” with “various disciplinary influences and analytical perspectives.” Trace argues that “competing understandings and implementations of core classification ideas” continue to challenge the profession. In “Preservation and Access for Born-digital Electronic Records: The Case for an Institutional Digital Content Format Registry,” Bethany Anderson, Karl E. Germeck, Cameron C. Nielsen, Christopher J. Prom, and Tracy Popp describe “an evolving approach taken by archivists and librarians at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to build the policies, technical knowledge, and systems for an effective preservation and access program for electronic records.” This includes implementation of a local digital format registry—a mechanism for managing what the Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS)35 calls “representation information”—to support “integration of institutional knowledge with international format registries.”
Thirty-six years ago, the late David B. Gracy II implored archivists to consider the power and importance of the stories that surround archives.36 This issue of American Archivist includes two articles that explore the intersection between archives and fiction. In “Becoming an Imagined Record: Archival Intervention in Autofiction,” Richard M. Cho investigates two works of autofiction: Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald and Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli. Autofiction is a genre of first-person narrative fiction that conforms to various expectations of factual accuracy and reads like a firsthand account in which a focal character (usually the protagonist) shares the same name as the author. Cho argues that these two novels' reliance on “photographs, maps and other iconography, their use of a specific type of narrator, and their intention to supplement the silence of the archive” allows them to serve as “imagined records.” He further states, “Rooted in real sociohistorical traumas, these two novels expand the notions of evidence and the forces that shape archival theory and practice.” Alison Turner explores many similar themes in “The Autologic Archive: Appraisal, Institutional Motives, and Essentializing Identity in Refugee and Asylum Application Narratives, In and Out of Fiction.” She “merge[s] the postmodern critical thinking that scrutinizes bias and power in the formation of archival collections with the refugee and asylee resettlement process in the United States.” Turner argues that “the theoretical accumulation of narratives recorded on applications for refugee and asylum status can be conceived of as a theoretical archive, physically boundless and spread across countries of origin, temporary host countries, and countries of resettlement.” She examines how fictional works by three authors—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dinaw Mengestu, and Imbolo Mbue—help to fill the gap between “what happened to a person and the narrative that is bureaucratically established during the application process.” Turner suggests, “these fictional illustrations of autologic processes might inform archival projects focused on inclusion of marginalized communities.”
In addition to appraising, arranging, describing, preserving, and providing access to records, archivists also have a duty to protect the interests of various stakeholders by placing limits on access. In “Copyright and Preservation of Born-digital Materials: Persistent Challenges and Selected Strategies,” Katherine Fisher elaborates “copyright considerations that archivists and other content managers must be aware of to effectively and legally maintain a collection of born-digital materials.” Based on her study of archival literature and (primarily US) legal sources, “these considerations include the centrality of copying to preservation actions, shifting definitions of ownership, unclear distinctions between published and unpublished content, digital rights management laws and technologies, and the layered copyrights that can exist in complex digital objects and their dependencies.” Fisher discusses several responses to these considerations, including “securing rights ahead of time, adopting legal rationales related to orphan works and fair use, adapting practices from specialized digital preservation subfields, ensuring routine procedures adequately address copyright-related recordkeeping and risk management, and advocating for preservation-enabling copyright reforms.” She contends that “copyright will continue to be a barrier until significant reforms are enacted.”
Bethany Anderson has again overseen an excellent set of publication reviews for this issue of American Archivist. The nine reviews “engage with literature about archival research—and by extension, representations of archives—and also publications by archivists who exemplify the very message of noncomplacency that Dr. [David] Gracy advocated.” As Bethany said five years ago when she took on the role of Reviews Editor, “Reviews provide an important space for personal reflection, reaction, and engagement with the literature that shapes and molds the archives profession.”37 Although Bethany never had the opportunity to take a class from David, we are still sure that he would be very proud of all that Bethany has done to advance the archival profession, both through her contributions to SAA and the valuable work she does in her “day job.”
This year has been one of transition not only for American Archivist, but also for SAA, the archival profession, and the world around us. The journal of SAA flourishes when various members of the profession actively step into the process. American Archivist strives to be the journal for all of us. Please join us in building it together!
–Christopher A. Lee
From Amy Cooper Cary, Incoming Editor
Readers, I am thrilled to be taking on the position of the Editor of American Archivist. As it is for you, this journal has been a cornerstone of my professional life, and it is an honor to have the opportunity to serve SAA, its membership, and the broader readership of this journal. I am coming to this position with equal measures of gratitude and eagerness. To begin with gratitude, I am especially grateful for the way that outgoing Editor Cal Lee has prepared our journal for its next steps. Throughout his tenure, he has championed efforts to improve both process and content for the journal. Efforts such as the Hidden Content Project drew attention to material in the journal's back issues that was not easily discoverable and will continue to help inform the critical process of “breaking out” material in digital issues going forward. His focus on the quality of the publication resulted in work to improve metadata about our back issues, improvement in supporting the use of metrics to evaluate our content, and work to refine the classification of articles with a goal of highlighting diversity and inclusion. A significant accomplishment has been the development of a relationship with the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, which will support the Committee on Research, Data, and Assessment through the development of a data repository, as well as assisting authors with resources to support high-quality statistical research.
Cal's work has also brought growth. The journal has seen a steady increase both in the number of submissions and in the number of peer reviewers during Cal's tenure. Reviews both in the print journal and in the Portal have been reimagined and improved under Bethany Anderson as Reviews Editor. Cal has invited and encouraged international voices on the Editorial Board and in the journal. He has supported the Archives in Context podcast, which highlights the voices of our colleagues, and has increased the Editorial Board's involvement with SAA sections. At the Writer's Forum during our virtual meeting in August of 2020, in spite of a pandemic and a format that forced us all to attend from our living rooms, more than 300 people came to show their interest in involvement with SAA's publications. All of this speaks to the very best aspect of American Archivist, which is its connection to members. Members write our content, read our content, argue about our content, sing our content's praises . . . we teach from it, learn from it, and we are fiercely proud of this publication. I am grateful for Cal's passion for and stewardship of American Archivist, which has brought us so far.
This gratitude is what brings me to eagerness. As with all corners of our profession, American Archivist faces undeniable challenges and inevitable changes. Our growth will need to draw on its deep roots to support resilience in the months and years to come. Spring/Summer 2021 will be our first regular issue that has no print counterpart. If we read our copies on public transportation, we'll be doing it from our e-readers or phones. If we read our copies in the office, we will be clicking through electronic pages on our desktops. If we read our copies in our living rooms, cups of coffee in hand, we will be engaging with our colleagues' words on the screen of a laptop or an iPad. We face a world where the very nature of our work as archivists is changing, and there is a critical need to consider how archival theory and practice reflect these changes. Conversations about archival value, about archives and power dynamics, and about the role of archives in society at large are energizing our profession. We don't face this in a vacuum. SAA Publications—in addition to American Archivist, consider our monographs, Archival Outlook, section newsletters/blogs, case study series, and podcast—is a network of resources that address these changes, and support and enlighten archivists in every area of the profession. American Archivist must remain a vital part of the conversation, and this will require a dynamic and collaborative process.
As I prepare to step into the very large shoes of the Editor of American Archivist, I encourage you to keep finding ways to engage in that conversation and to provide feedback for our ongoing work. Please don't hesitate to contact me (AmericanArchivist@archivists.org) or members of the Editorial Board (EditorialBoard@archivists.org) about our journal, as we explore our profession and the myriad connections we make within it.
–Amy Cooper Cary
“Olympic Notes,” Colorado Springs Gazette, May 24, 2012, Sports, p. 2.
Mary Jo Pugh, “American Archivist for All,” American Archivist 70, no. 2 (2007): 213–17, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.70.2.k663411000373635. After the launch, it took a few more years to digitize and provide online access to the full back run.
Greg Hunter, “The American Archivist Online: Version 2.0,” American Archivist 78, no. 1 (2015): 3–6, https://doi.org/10.17723/0360-9081.78.1.3.
Consider the journal's first letter to the Editor (American Archivist 12, no. 4 : 359–444, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.12.4.4jk8413872481r63), in which Roscoe Hill responds to Fred Shelley's article about J. Franklin Jameson (Fred Shelley, “The Interest of J. Franklin Jameson in the National Archives: 1908–1934,” American Archivist 12, no. 2 : 99–130, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.12.2.q6823q7k77586788), challenging Shelley's claim about how Jameson used the word “archive” instead of “archives.” For a more recent and more substantive example, consider the letter from Elizabeth Adkins in response to “Pluralizing the Archival Paradigm: Can Archival Education in Pacific Rim Communities Address the Challenge?” by Anne Gilliland, Sue McKemmish, Kelvin White, Yang Lu, and Andrew Lau (American Archivist 71, no. 1 : 87–117, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.71.1.781w61g4r2kh3708). She finds one set of statements from the article “to be sweeping, accusatory, and apparently based on personal opinion rather than facts,” contends that “the authors appear to be completely dismissive of manuscript and museum curators, many of whom may be sympathetic to the issues being raised in the article” (American Archivist 71, no. 2 : 315, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.71.2.2747r27728r7vw05). The same issue includes a letter from the authors in response to Adkins.
For example, in 1973, Phyllis Nottingham wrote a letter challenging the recordkeeping practices of SAA related to regional professional groups and proposing changes (American Archivist 36, no. 1 : 155, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.36.1.1557071866k58742). In a 1980 letter to the Editor, Belden Menkus announces that, after twenty-two years in SAA, he is dropping out of the archival profession. “The Future is fast moving down the road; I mean to stay with it as best I can. It will not wait for archivists to catch up with it” (American Archivist 43, no. 3 : 279, https://americanarchivist.org/doi/abs/10.17723/aarc.43.3.q4424u249v8572wt). Menkus was a member of the Association of Records Executives and Administrators (AREA) and ARMA and was unhappy with SAA's lack of attention to records management. See Kathryn A. Scanlan, “ARMA v. SAA: The History and Heart of Professional Friction,” American Archivist 74, no. 2 : 428–50, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.74.2.b52104n3n14h8654.
Letters from John Daly and John Fleckner address the decision to move the 1981 Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists from San Francisco to Berkeley. Daly questions “huddl[ing] in empty dormitories during the dog days” and especially the “dangerously short-sighted thinking” associated with the decision. John Fleckner, 1981 Program Committee cochair replies to Daly, defending the decision (American Archivist 44, no. 1 : 6–7, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.44.1.h3160n0282176585).
In 1979–1981, Sister M. Helena Sanfilippo (American Archivist 42, no. 3 : 277, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.42.3.hu231180l8457465), James O'Toole (American Archivist 43, no. 1 : 6–7), Nicholas Falco, Joseph Andrew Settani (American Archivist 43, no. 3 : 279–81, https://americanarchivist.org/doi/abs/10.17723/aarc.43.3.q4424u249v8572wt), and Timothy Stroup (American Archivist 44, no. 1 : 8, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.44.1.h3160n0282176585) exchanged letters to the Editor about the decision at the 1978 Annual Meeting to hold future Annual Meetings only in states that had ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and the associated decision by Council to move the 1982 meeting from Richmond, Virginia, to Boston, Massachusetts. Sanfilippo states, “As a woman I am offended by these tactics for granting me my ‘rights.'” O'Toole reports that debate on this issue “unfortunately divided the meeting at Nashville and . . . has already cost the Society some of its members.” Falco says, “I've noticed a decided drift the last half decade or so to gradually alienate some archivists by introducing social issues which really have no bearing on the profession.” Similarly, Settani states, “I am profoundly disturbed that a heavily ideologically loaded political issue, meaning the ERA, has grievously hurt the professional status of the SAA. . . . If such highly nonprofessional and detrimental activities are continued, I shall be forced, by my conscience, to seriously reconsider my membership in the SAA.” Stroup asserts that Settani's “disturbance is really quite shallow” and “it is absolutely imperative that we take a united stand against sexual and other invidious discrimination.”
The 1998 SAA Annual Meeting was held September 2–6 at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel in Orlando, Florida. This was a controversial decision, and the event had low attendance (with 874, the lowest attendance since 1985). This issue of the journal following the Annual Meeting includes two presidential addresses from William Maher: “Society and Archives,” given at SAA's 1997 Annual Meeting in Chicago (presumably included here, because Fall 1997 of the journal was a special issue) and “Lost in a Disneyfied World: Archivists and Society in Late-Twentieth-Century America,” delivered September 3, 1998, at the Annual Meeting held in Orlando, Florida. Many corporate archivists perceived his talks, discussing the relationship between commercial forces and the mission of archives, to be antibusiness (see Mark Greene's reference to “corporate archival criticism of Bill Maher's presidential address some years back” in a letter to the Editor, American Archivist 67, no. 2 , https://americanarchivist.org/doi/pdf/10.17723/aarc.67.2.5431766n7206h274). Thomas Berry wrote a letter in response to Timothy Ericson's presidential address (published in Fall/Winter 2005). “We—the free nations of the world—are at war with terrorism. War puts management of military information in an entirely different context than in peacetime. We as citizens have a right to know government information. But we do not have a need to know, when public divulgence of sensitive information jeopardizes national interests and security.” Berry argues that one of Ericson's examples is “to border on the perverse” and “other parts of his article were simply disingenuous” (American Archivist 68, no. 2 : 200–2, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.68.2.p506543680q8763h).
For example, in response to Paul Lewinson's “Toward Accessioning Standards—Research Records” (American Archivist 23, no. 3 : 297–309, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.23.3.v312147488w76134), a letter from Belden Menkus questions the publication of an article that “points up the seeming intent to make the American Archivist function as a journal for the National Archives” (American Archivist 23, no. 4 : 394, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.23.4.c2000898v803311n). A couple of decades later, several letters responded to the publication of John Roberts's article “Archival Theory: Much Ado about Shelving” (American Archivist 50, no. 1 : 66–74, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.50.1.l357257455776g52), Donald Yates indicates that he was “frankly offended” by the article and “Gallows humor is OK in the stacks or off the record but it has no place in the pages of a professional publication” (American Archivist 50, no. 3 : 303–4, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.50.3.c20g59863400906p). Laura O'Keefe and Richard Lytle later replied to the publication of John Roberts's “Archival Theory: Myth or Banality?” (American Archivist 53, no. 1 : 110–20, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.53.1.a56364w710276424), with Lytle writing, “I was offended to be quoted as someone who advances those ridiculous notions of archival theory,” and “he could stop writing fluff pieces attacking archival theory so that others can stop writing fluff Letters to the Editor” (American Archivist 54, no. 1 : 4–5, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.54.1.j714374522361521). A later letter from William John Shepherd praises the “Myth or Banality” article for its “ridicule of contemporary archival theory” (American Archivist 54, no. 4 : 460, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.54.4.g5t0v1395487873m). Also in 1991, Frederick Stielow wrote a letter saying, that the publication of Christopher Ann Paton's article, “Whispers in the Stacks: The Problem of Sound Recordings in Archives” (American Archivist 53, no. 2 : 274–80, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.53.2.9701121pj7j58778) “raises questions on editorial oversight” given what he calls “some rather egregious and misleading” parts of the article. During my term as Editor, we issued a general call and several personal invitations to write letters to the Editor in volume 82, number 2 (2019) in response to the publication and cancelled brown bag discussion of “To Everything There Is a Season” by Frank Boles (American Archivist 82, no. 2 : 598–617, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc-82-02-21). Three individuals took us up on this invitation: Christine Anne George, Dani Stuchel, and Harrison W. Inefuku. All three authors question the decision to publish the article and raise concerns about its content and tone. For further context, see also my Editor's introduction to that issue (Christopher A. Lee, “Listening to Each Other,” American Archivist 82, no. 2 : 259–67, https://doi.org/10.17723/0360-9081-82.2.259) and a statement from the Editorial Board (American Archivist 82, no. 2 : 628–31, https://doi.org/10.17723/0360-9081-82.2.628).
For several years, American Archivist featured quotes relevant to the archival profession. A letter from Frank Burke in response to one of the quotes states, “If the statement by Hilary Jenkinson quoted on page 612 of the October 1965 issue of the American Archivist is a subtle exposition of the policy of the Society of American Archivists, I wish to revoke my membership.” He adds that the quote “exhibits an anti-professionalism of an order which directly contravenes the basis and intent of any professional society.” (“Jenkinson's Philosophy,” American Archivist 29, no. 1 : 164, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.29.1.bx64p0q35l06u066).
In 2010, Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner wrote a letter in response to Carl Van Ness, “Much Ado about Paper Clips: ‘More Product, Less Process' and the Modern Manuscript Repository,” (American Archivist 73, no. 1 : 129–45, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.73.1.v17jn363512j545k), critiquing the decision to categorize the article—which they characterize as an “attack” with “a paucity of supporting evidence”—as research. A response letter from Van Ness states, “My article was submitted to the American Archivist as a perspective, not a research article, with the intent of stimulating thought and discussion” (American Archivist 73, no. 2 : 411–16, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.73.2.57213514753k46x3). In 2013–2015, authors again raised concerns about how the journal categorized and presented their contributions to a series of articles and associated letters to the Editor (volume 76, number 2; volume 77, number 1; and volume 78, number 2) related to the role of social justice in the archival profession. In a letter in response to Mark Greene's “A Critique of Social Justice as an Archival Imperative: What Is It We're Doing That's All That Important?” that appears in the same issue (American Archivist 76, no. 2 : 302–34, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.76.2.14744l214663kw43), Michelle Caswell criticizes the editorial decision to categorize “my response as a letter to the editor to appear in the Forum section” while also publishing Randall Jimerson's as a formal article to appear alongside Greene's” (American Archivist 76, no. 2 : 302–34, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.76.2.14744l214663kw43). In a response to Mario Ramirez's “Being Assumed Not to Be: A Critique of Whiteness as an Archival Imperative” (American Archivist 78, no. 2 : 339–56, https://doi.org/10.17723/0360-9081.78.2.339), Greene wrote a letter stating “after I submitted my critique of the social justice imperative to the journal, I was informed that it would be accepted on condition that I agree to have Rand Jimerson publish a rebuttal . . . immediately after my article in sequence.” He adds, “Only after the conference in Cleveland was I offered the opportunity to respond to his piece, in the same issue, but not sequentially—my response would be placed in the ‘Forum' section, toward the end of the journal” (Mark A. Greene, “A Brief Preliminary Comment on ‘Being Assumed Not to Be'—And a Pledge This Will Not Become Ad Hominem Ad Infinitum,” American Archivist 78, no. 2 : 599–601, https://doi.org/10.17723/0360-9081.78.2.599). Similarly, in a letter responding to “To Everything There Is a Season” by Frank Boles, Christine Anne George objects to Boles being “allowed to publish ‘For Everything There Is a Season' as an article, while my response defending work I spent years on is relegated to the Letters to the Editor section because, to be given equal space, my rebuttal would have to formally go through the peer review process, which means my response wouldn't be within the same issue of American Archivist” (American Archivist 82, no. 2 : 618–22, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc-82-02-22). I would note that, in addition to inviting her to write a letter to the Editor, I also encouraged George to submit a full article on the topic, which would then undergo peer review like all other articles; she has so far declined the second offer.
In 2011, Sandra Gioia Treadway, librarian of Virginia and state archivist, wrote a letter to provide “up-to-date information about the Virginia Pupil Placement Board Records as discussed by Sonia Yaco in her article ‘Balancing Privacy and Access in School Desegregation Collections: A Case Study'” (American Archivist 73, no. 2 : 637–68, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.73.2.h1346156546161m8) stating, “The Library of Virginia is dismayed that the editors of the American Archivist did not attempt to verify the facts prior to publishing Ms. Yaco's article.” Sonia Yaco wrote a response letter in the same issue (American Archivist 74, no. 1 : 12–15, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.74.1.h071xx52gmhg7347). In the following issue, Christopher Abraham, the archivist interviewed by Sonia Yaco for her article, wrote an additional letter saying, “I sincerely regret that I was never made aware of the existence of or invited to respond to either piece [Yaco's article and letter to the Editor] prior to publication.” Abraham also critiques the fact checking associated with the article. “I struggle to understand how the SAA journal staff could find a more stringent review unnecessary for an article that subjects a professional reputation to public scrutiny.” In a response to Abraham, Editor May Jo Pugh conveyed that the Editorial Board “do[es] not think that the article contains personal attacks; we believe that it focuses on institutional policies” and noting that the Board “relies on a rigorous double-blind peer review”; “information and opinions in articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or the Society of American Archivists”; “fact checking is limited to occasional checking of the accuracy of citations, not to information or opinions presented in an article”; and “authors sign a publishing agreement ‘warranting that the content of the Work is accurate . . . does not violate any copyright, proprietary, or personal rights of others . . . [and] that the Work does not contain any materials which are slanderous, libelous, or otherwise illegal. These elements together have aided production of the journal for nearly seventy-five years” (American Archivist 74, no. 2 : 375–77, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.74.2.j36058685r2r260t).
Volume 66, number 2 (2003) of American Archivist used a Sun Mad Raisins political poster as the image on the cover (https://meridian.allenpress.com/american-archivist/issue/66/2). Some members of the archival profession expressed concern that the cover risked creating an adversarial relationship between corporations and archivists. The decision inspired several letters to the Editor on both sides of the debate in the next three issues of the journal—volume 67, number 2 (2004) through volume 68, number 2 (2005)—with the first letter being signed by eight corporate archivists. These were the first letters to the Editor since volume 61, number 2 (1998).
Jennifer Schaffner, “The Metadata Is the Interface: Better Description for Better Discovery of Archives and Special Collections, Synthesized from User Studies,” OCLC Online Computer Library Center (Dublin, OH: 2009), http://www.oclc.org/programs/publications/reports/2009-06.pdf.
“‘American Archivist' in JSTOR,” May 2009, https://www2.archivists.org/news/2009/american-archivist-in-jstor, captured at https://perma.cc/L2AD-2ZLW. JSTOR currently provides access to volume 1, number 1 (1938) through volume 79, number 2 (2016). See https://www.jstor.org/journal/amerarchivist.
The Hathi Trust provides access to digitized copies of volume 1, number 1 (1938) through volume 69, number 2 (2016) before the launch of American Archivist online. See https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000597749.
American Archivist Editorial Board Meeting Minutes, February 11–13, 2018, https://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/AA_Editorial_Board_Minutes_Feb_2018.pdf, captured at https://perma.cc/QP4K-WP78.
SAA Governance Manual, Section VII: Committees and Boards, American Archivist Editorial Board, https://www2.archivists.org/governance/handbook/section7/groups/AAEB.
SAA generously supported my travel to meetings in Chicago associated with the journal and SAA Publications Board during my term as Editor. SAA also reimbursed my travel expenses when teaching classes as part of the Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) curriculum. All other travel was funded by the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), as well as institutions hosting workshops and guest lectures.
This figure reflects submissions through November 2020. The total for 2020 is likely to be somewhat higher based on submissions in December.
SAA Council Minutes, August 1, 2019, https://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/0819-1-Council-Minutes_AsApproved082719.pdf, captured at https://perma.cc/38CG-JPAD.
To register through PeerTrack, visit https://www.editorialmanager.com/americanarchivist.
Robert P. Spindler, Nancy Bartlett, Teresa Brinati, Robin Chandler, Solveig DeSutter, Brian Doyle, Philip B. Eppard, Susan Fox, Ed Galloway, David Haury, Cal Lee, Dennis Meissner, Patti O'Hara, Johanne Pelletier, and Scott Schwartz, “Final Report: Task Force on Electronic Publications,” Society of American Archivists, December 10, 2002, http://files.archivists.org/governance/taskforces/tfep-finalreport.pdf, captured at https://perma.cc/75QP-SZF2.
Alexis A. Antracoli, Annalise Berdini, Kelly Bolding, Faith Charlton, Amanda Ferrara, Valencia Johnson, and Katy Rawdon, “Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia: Anti-Racist Description Resources,” October 2020, https://archivesforblacklives.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/ardr_202010.pdf, captured at https://perma.cc/3TPM-EMWY.
American Archivist 53, no. 1 (1990): 4, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.53.1.c4t50267x050315j.
Youngok Choi and Emily Nilson, “The Current Status of Catholic Archives: A Survey Report,” American Archivist 82, no. 1 (2019): 91–123, https://doi.org/10.17723/0360-9081-82.1.91.
The is the second in a two-part series of articles by Trace on archival classification and arrangement. See also Ciaran B. Trace, “Maintaining Records in Context: A Historical Exploration of the Theory and Practice of Archival Classification and Arrangement,” American Archivist 83, no. 1 (2020): 91–127, https://doi.org/10.17723/0360-9081-83.1.91.
Space Data and Information Transfer Systems—Open Archival Information System (OAIS)—Reference Model, ISO 14721:2012 (Geneva, Switzerland: International Organization for Standardization, approved September 2012, reaffirmed 2018).
David B. Gracy, II, “Archives and Society: The First Archival Revolution,” American Archivist 47, no. 1 (1984): 6–10, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.47.1.k1637u657v841227.
“Bethany Anderson Named Reviews Editor of The American Archivist,” August 2015, https://www2.archivists.org/news/2015/bethany-anderson-named-reviews-editor-of-the-american -archivist, captured at https://perma.cc/ED3A-UPB9.