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Chapter 4 January 27, 2010

Posted by Kate T. in Chapter 4.

I am supposed to be kicking this discussion off to talk about how issues of power are presented and discussed in Chapters 3 and 4, but perhaps as many of you were, I am more interested in discussing the concepts related to Memory that Jimerson brings up in Chapter 4. So, forgive my digression.

There is, as always, much to discuss. You can pick virtually any paragraph (or even sentence) and that could lead to a discussion on its own. Upon reflection, there are two issues that stuck with me. The first is the way Jimerson deploys the concept of memory in this chapter. Perhaps like some of you, I had a class in graduate school about archives and memory, so I’m sure my reaction to this chapter was shaped by that. Memory is a nebulous concept, and here Jimerson expands and abstracts the concept to present four different types of memory—personal, social, historical, and archival. Perhaps because of the framework I am already bringing with me, I found this approach less useful than discussing the relationships between the distinct entities of history, archives, social or collective memory, and personal memory. What did you think of Jimerson’s presentation of historical and archival memory?

My second issue is one that has been raised previously in the comments, but it reverberated as I was reading the second half of Chapter 4.  Archivists work within institutions, each of which has a mission and collecting policy (at least it should!). Archivists serve the needs of the institution which employs them. While I agree with Jimerson’s concluding call for archivists to expand their collections to include materials relating to traditionally underrepresented people, I think this discussion would have been more useful if it had acknowledged and addressed the conflicts that arise when one attempts to do so in a setting where that is not a primary objective of one’s employer. While I agree that one of the audiences archives serve is the future, our actions in the present are very much governed by the present concerns of our employers and other stakeholders. Perhaps this will be addressed in later chapters (perhaps even in the very next one), but it is difficult for me to read calls for action in the abstract without thinking of the practical implications in the institutional settings with which I’m familiar.