Builders of Bridges: Part I – Being Subjective

Being objective or impartial is deemed a strong quality in an archives when working with donors or creating a fonds in the archives. But perhaps that thought needs to be revised slightly.

When I attended the 2016 ACA conference in Montreal, Heather Home from Queen’s University Archives purposed that archivists become more subjective. She gave an example from their archives of one particular donor’s records where all mention of the donor’s daughter abruptly ends after a certain point in the records. Home was curious as to why this was the case, so she took it upon herself to do more research and found that the daughter had killed herself. So Home was able to fill in a big silence in the records. A nephew of the donor was impressed with the work done by Home and eventually came forward with some missing records that helped further explain relationships in the family.

This demonstrates the important role archivists can play in the creation of fonds. Many archivists such as Home and myself have become friends with donors over the years as a result of more active involvement. This emotional involvement is all a process of developing trust with donors assuring them that their records are important and will be well cared for by the archive.  I think this active role is great as long as we take care to ensure that our personal involvement does not lead to any sort of preferential treatment of the records.

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Part of a conference session looking at collaboration between Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) and Wikimedia Canada