Permeable Binaries, Societal Grand Challenges, and the Roles of the Twenty-first Century Archival and Recordkeeping Profession

By Anne J. Gilliland

Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, UCLA

Download (PDF)

Licensed according to this deed.




Building upon recent work, this paper demonstrates how 21st century recordkeeping concerns are integral to societal grand challenges that have been identified by governments, think tanks, scholarly organisations and affected communities around the globe. Using the example of forced displacement and migration the paper focuses on ways in which recordkeeping is inextricably linked to both the causes and possible digital, policy and educational mechanisms for addressing certain aspects of societal grand challenges. These linkages are significantly under-explored and under-addressed in our field. The paper's principal arguments are that archives and recordkeepers have social and ethical responsibilities toward those individuals who are least empowered to engage with official records and recordkeeping practices or to maintain their own records; and that responding will require implementing archival and recordkeeping practices and policy at supra-national and meta-archival levels. This paper suggests some actions and reconceptualisations therefore, that might move us in that direction.


17 September 2015


Draft submitted for publication in ARANZ Archifacts journal as part of the proceedings of the 2015 ARANZ Conference, Footprints in space and time, 7-9 September 2015, Auckland. Permission required for further reproduction.


Digital Equality/Equity: the Contribution of the Archive? Public lecture in celebration of 25 years of records continuum research and education at Monash University. In a world awash with information, the role of records and archives looms large in individual and collective lives. Records are championed as agents of transparency and accountability, but they also, often at the same time, control, disempower and oppress, both intentionally and unintentionally. While the technologies of information production appear to have been democratised with the rise of ubiquitous and pervasive information and communication technologies, a growing body of scholarship is questioning the capability of our existing institutionalised recordkeeping and archival frameworks to adequately support the exercise of human and cultural rights, and contribute to social justice and social inclusion agendas. For this lecture in celebration of 25 years of records continuum research and education at Monash, we have invited leading archival scholars Professor Anne Gilliland from UCLA and Dr Andrew Flinn from UCL, to reflect on the challenges recordkeeping and archival professionals, researchers and educators must confront to ensure intergenerational transfer and interactive use of individual and community knowledge, memory and culture in a data saturated world. How do we ensure that recordkeeping and archiving contributes to digital equity and plays an empowering role in people's lives?


Anne Gilliland is a professor specializing in archival studies in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA. She has worked extensively teaching, supervising, cosupervising and mentoring Master's and Ph.D. students from UCLA and several other universities and countries. She is also the Director of the Center for Information as Evidence (CIE) at UCLA. Her recent work addresses conceptualizations of the record, the archive, and evidence in an increasingly digital, postcolonial and globalized world, and she is committed to supporting the development of archival education programs around the world that produce rigorous, reflexive, critical, culturally sensitive, technologically competent, and globally aware archival practitioners, researchers and educators.