The traditional boundaries of the archival and curatorial professions are today beginning to crumble as archivists and curators increasingly become responsible for all aspects of heritage, be it textual, visual, cultural, built or material heritage. Archivists are responsible often for photographs, maps and printed ephemera, and so are curators. Curators commonly manage archive materials which can either support the object collections or which exist in their own right, and archivists likewise look after objects in a similar context. Both professions are currently debating how their traditional roles are now evolving and being challenged in the ever-changing heritage landscape. The need for cross-domain understanding and collaboration becomes more apparent, as the defining lines between archive and museum collections become more blurred.
Conversely, digitisation and emerging technologies for capturing and accessing heritage collections make it easier to exchange data and information about collections, regardless of definitions as ‘objects’, ‘archives’ or ‘ephemera’. In the digital world, borders between collections are dissolving as public appetite for all things heritage grows and flourishes. Online blogs and exhibitions are now providing a virtual window onto the world of archivists and curators, making it easier for the public to access all aspects of collections and also rendering the professional spheres more transparent to colleagues across the heritage sector.
Long established professional delineations have tended to dictate that archivists work predominantly with unique ‘text-rich’ records - museum and gallery curators focus conversely on unique 3D objects. Archivists are almost without exception qualified at a post-graduate level and typically work across all types of archive, whereas museum and gallery professionals often may focus more on one subject discipline and can also enter through the route of a subject specialist with an academic background.
With Arts Council England now responsible for the museum sector and The National Archives taking on a lead role for the archive sector within the UK, government strategy on the UK’s collections as a whole has become divergent. In a landscape of budget cuts, archivists and curators are finding themselves in charge of museum and archive collections which they are not trained to manage and where they may feel out of their professional comfort zone. An Archives in Museums SSN (Subject Specialist Network) operated between 2005 and 2008. Whilst this Network focused on providing skills and training for museum staff and volunteers working with archives, it is no longer active and it can therefore prove difficult to find professional development opportunities that straddle both disciplines and to establish professional networks and informal support across both sectors.
These recent trends pose numerous questions about the intersection of archives and museums. For example:
- What are the commonalities and divergences between archival theory and material culture theory, and how can these inform professional practice on both sides?
- What is the professional impact of the recent divergence of government strategy and funding for archives and museums?
- How have archivists and curators developed historically as two different professions?
- How are the traditional roles and skillsets of the archivist/curator and their areas of expertise being challenged into the 21st century?
- How is digital technology changing the way that archive and museum professionals interact with archive and object collections and with each other?
- How can archive and museum ‘best practice’ in collections management, cataloguing, accessibility and interpretation be shared, rethought and improved?
This special issue of Archives and Records seeks to explore approaches to archives and museums taken from a wide range of disciplines. The issue aims to provide a space for encounters between researcher and practitioner discourses, and to encourage the fertile cross-pollination of ideas from archivists, curators, educators, users and scholars.
We invite papers on any aspect of archives and museums. Contributions might consider, but need not be confined to, the following themes:
- The archivist and the museum professional
- Training and CPD
- Collections management, standards and best practice
- Definitions of objects, archives and ephemera
- Material culture and archival theory
- Cross-sectoral and cross-domain working in the culture and heritage industries
- The impact of the digital world on archives and museums
Prospective authors are invited to contact the Guest Editor, in order to discuss proposed articles for a special issue of Archives and Records which will appear in spring 2018:
Dr Charlotte Berry firstname.lastname@example.org
The deadline for expressions of interest is 31 Dec 2016. All submissions will be double blind peer-reviewed and should be presented in line with the Archives and Records style guidelines. The final deadline for article submissions is 30 June 2017.
Archives and Records is an international peer-reviewed journal which publishes original research contributions to the fields of archives and records management and conservation. Published on behalf of the Archives and Records Association and originally published as The Journal of the Society of Archivists, it deals with the very latest developments in these fields, including the challenges and opportunities presented by new media and information technology. As well as being issued to ARA Members, Archives and Records has over 3,000 Institutional and Individual subscribers around the world. The journal is published in hard copy and online by Taylor & Francis twice annually. Topics of recent and forthcoming special issues include ‘Archives and the visual arts’, ‘Born digital description’, ‘The local record office in the UK’ and ‘Archives and public history’.
- Guest Editor: Charlotte Berry (email@example.com)