Keynote Speaker: Elizabeth Shepherd

Friday 11 April 9.30-10.30

Elizabeth Shepherd
  • University College London

Culture and evidence: conflict or continuum?

Archives have the potential to change people’s lives. They are ‘a fundamental bulwark of our democracy, our culture, our community and personal identity’. They are created to enable the conduct of business and accountability, but they also support a democratic society’s expectations for transparency and the protection of rights, they underpin citizen’s rights and are the raw material of our history and memory. Archivists and records managers have a responsibility to ensure that these qualities are protected and the values are exploited for the public good. I want to examine these issues in the context of the historical development of archives and archivists in 20th century England. My research lays the foundations for understanding how and why the modern archives and records management profession developed in England. I will use this research to investigate the historical conflict (or is it a continuum?) between archives as culture and as evidence. Much of this picks up on the idea of the ‘inside’, since the story identifies and highlights the contributions made many fascinating individuals who established archives services and professional practice in England in the 20th century. They shaped the archive in a very real way and their individual enthusiasms, interests and understandings set the course of the English archival profession. To a great extent it was these individuals, rather than government or legislation, that set the boundaries of English archives, they decided what was included (acquired) and what was not (of archival value.) Towards the end of my paper, I will move from the past to the present to consider the role of academic research in investigating these issues and to discuss some projects at UCL in which we are looking at the questions of identity and accountability and how the various values represented in archives can be described and re-presented. In conclusion, I will consider the more fundamental questions: what are archives and what are they for, or if you prefer, ‘what good are the archives’?

Dr Elizabeth Shepherd is a Reader in archives and records management at University College London, School of Library, Archive and Information Studies, teaching principles of archives and records management, records management and management skills for archivists. She was programme director of the MA in Archives and Records Management at UCL for a decade from 1992. She is currently Departmental Graduate Research Tutor and Chair of the Departmental Research Committee. She has helped to establish a research centre, ICARUS (International Centre for Archives and Records Management Research and User Studies) within SLAIS (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slais/research/icarus/). ICARUS seeks to develop knowledge and enhance understanding of the creation, management and use of records and their role in society and to map, monitor and evaluate significant changes in the archives and records domain using robust evidence-based methods. Elizabeth’s research interests include the relationships between records management and information policy compliance and the development of the archive profession in England, which is the subject of her PhD and of a forthcoming book (2008). She serves on the editorial boards of Archival Science and the Records Management Journal, is a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Peer Review College and Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Research Assessment Exercise 2008, Panel 37. She has published numerous articles and (with Geoffrey Yeo) the internationally best selling book Managing Records: a handbook of principles and practice (Facet Publishing, 2003). Details are at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slais/elizabeth-shepherd/

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