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International Congress on Archives 2004 - pres 186 MYBURGH B ARMA 01 (Page 2)

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International Congress on Archives 2004 - pres 186 MYBURGH B ARMA 01
International Congress on Archives
The Nexus and Praxis of Records Management and Archives: Is there a difference?
Sue Myburgh, ARMA International Ambassador


Dedication to Hella Jean Bartolo, 1950 ­ 2004.
We would like to dedicate this paper to our friend and colleague, Hella Jean Bartolo of Malta, who was to have
contributed to the work. Hella passed away in June after a long illness. She was a member of both ICA and
ARMA. She will be remembered for her endeavours in reconciling the North American and European views of
recordkeeping, and for her passion for internationalization.
Is there a difference between records management and archives? What are the similarities and differences in the
theory and praxis of these two disciplines? What are the sets of assumptions, principles and practices that define
archives and RM? Can there be greater collaboration and synergy between records management and archives?
Why is this important?

While many of these questions have been previously tackled elsewhere, at least in part, (e.g. Cox, Cook, Roberts),
finding workable answers is becoming more urgent. There are few who would disagree with the statement that the
work of records managers and archivists is changing ­ along with associated information professions such as
librarianship, museology and art curatorship.

In this paper, we begin by identifying and examining the reasons for this change, which include the development
of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), globalisation, postmodernism and the Information
Economy. Next, we examine how these issues have influenced the development of new recordkeeping theory, in
particular noting the widespread adoption of continuum theory, as well as the shift of focus in the information
professions from the document to information. Following this, similarities and differences in the practice of
recordkeeping, as well as the specific tasks and duties of records managers and archivists, are noted, with specific
reference to how an inclusive and integrated program might be developed within an organisation.

This is followed by the ways in which the professions as a whole might converge, noting the advantages of such
convergence, and the role that relevant professional associations might play. Nonetheless, there remain cultural
differences between various countries' recordkeeping traditions: these are examined in the light of the foregoing.
We conclude with some comments regarding the desirability of drawing the professions closer together, and how
this might be achieved.
Some reasons for the changing professional landscape
This is an indicative, rather than inclusive list, and items are not listed in any particular order.
It is sometimes claimed that ICTs are eroding many of the distinctions between custodians of information and
custodians of artifacts, including museum curators, librarians, archivists, records managers and IT specialists.
ICTs are often noted as the primary force for the changing theories in archives and records management.

However, there are multiple simultaneous forces which also influence such changes. Society at large has changed,
and continues to change, and people behave differently and have different expectations. These changes include
different forms of government, war, economy, education, democracy, internationalism, language and so on. Some
of these have, in turn, changed because of ICTs.

The expectations of professional work of records managers and archivists is likewise changing: issues regarding
intellectual property, disposal, Freedom of Information, privacy, surveillance, legislation and so on are in a
constant state of flux and change.
The key precepts of postmodernism include:
A rejection of absolutism in favour of relativism. There is no single, absolute, objective truth, but
multiple, subjective truths relative to one's social context;
The belief that knowledge is interpretive and not founded in the 'truth' of grand metanarratives; this
includes an examination of the production of meaning in shaping human existence;
A rejection of modernism's privileging of rational discourse (and universal reason) as the sole avenue to
'truth', in favour of alternative forms of knowing that are partial, historical and social;

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