Reading Archives

With this blog, I am planning to offer, as regularly as possible, critical observations on the scholarly and popular literature analyzing the nature of archives or contributing to our understanding of archives in society. I hope this blog will be of assistance to anyone, especially faculty and graduate students, interested in understanding archives and their importance to society.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Taking Count

We are accustomed to thinking of archivists being the custodians of census records, rather than generating their own census material. The Society of American Archivists recently published the most extensive enumeration of the profession in the United States in the American Archivist (vol. 69, Fall/Winter 2006, pp. 291-527).

The census, named the A*Census (the full official title is the Archival Census and Education Needs Survey in the United States) and under the able leadership of Vicki Walch, was conducted in 2004 and, with the assistance of an advisory board and special consultants, its published results include a general overview of the archival community and studies on graduate archival education, continuing education, diversity within the profession, leadership, and the impact of individual certification. The census is based on 5620 responses, from a total original mailing list of around 12,000. There is also a data set that can be acquired from the SAA for use by researchers.

This is a remarkable benchmark for the archival profession, and it will surely be used extensively in future years.

At the moment, the various reports drawing on it look inward with identification of trends, needs, and calls for action, but hopefully, as other scholars from other disciplines explore the meaning of the archive, the census might see more creative and interesting uses.