I am currently reviewing with colleagues the archives program and curriculum and I am reminded of how archives support researchers. Archives are often considered to be filled with historical documents and records and they are, but they those documents and records are more than their place in spacetime as history. Researchers do not always want to use archives for ‘history.’ There is also the idea that there is informational value in archival materials that provides inherent value etc. The informational value also comes from the recordkeeping systems themselves in the multiple contexts the records were created and managed, including the archive itself. I wonder these these possibilities are catered for?
Related to the multiple uses of archives, including their systems, I wonder then what we need to teach our graduate students. I have been to a few Digital Humanities events and can see that people want to use digital information now and be able to access it, link to it, scrape it, combine it, mash it, map it, make music from it and so on. Stepping back from the idea of whether or not archival systems support these multiple uses, what knowledge does a graduate student need to acquire to be able to think about and respond to the different ways that archives can be used? What does it mean to ‘add value’ to an archive?
Archivists might not participate in hack-a-thons, but they need to know what they are and how people use information and data in these contexts. They might need to know how systems support or do not support the use of data in this way. So what literacy do we need to be teaching? Related to my own work, is it OK just to teach the workflow of digital preservation or should we be challenging the nature of preservation? How does this get balanced in a field of practice that needs to engage with theory (but is known for rejecting theory as being non-relevant or too complicated). How can we achieve innovation as a practice if the theory is not being explored in practice? Another thing that I think about in relation to teaching or providing a way to explore innovation is how they we can support students who go out into the workplace and have to do the basics? But then in 5, 10, 15 years time their theoretical experiences in grad school help them think about and develop innovation?
I have heard stories about how students in our field and more broadly in LIS do not realize what kind of skills they have learned until well into their career and well after grad school. How can we make the grad school experience balance the need to explore theory and innovation, as well as meet expectations for practice (from the student and the employer). The situation in the US is different than in Australia as well, but has many similarities.
Something to ponder.