Agency in the archive: a model for participatory recordkeeping

Gregory Rolan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    34 Citations (Scopus)


    To date, definitions of participatory archiving or participatory recordkeeping have been elusive. The use of the single term ‘participatory’ for disparate and seemingly contradictory activities raises a number of definitional and practical issues. This paper is an attempt to address these issues by describing the various manifestations of such engagement in terms of a consistent framework; answering Huvila’s call for “a model of different degrees of participation in archival contexts” (2011, p. 1). Literary warrant was employed to explore models of participatory recordkeeping, and the ‘ladder of participation’ approach was shown to have a number of shortcomings when applied to recordkeeping informatics. This linear, meta-narrative approach was rejected in favour of a continuum approach to modelling participation. Based on the Records Continuum Model, a Participatory Recordkeeping Continuum Model is proposed that describes the distanciation of participants from the activities represented by records. A number of examples of participatory engagement reported in the literature including community archiving, Archive 2.0 initiatives, traditional researcher engagement, and participatory recordkeeping were examined and successfully described using the model. The paper concludes that any treatment of participatory engagement with records that attempts to solve problems of severe disenfranchisement requires a continuum approach—the Records Continuum Model to deal with the complexity of records and a Participatory Recordkeeping Continuum Model to understand the complexity of participatory agency. The Participatory Recordkeeping Continuum Model can be used to not only situate existing literature, projects, and systems, but to determine future system requirements for participatory engagement.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)195-225
    Number of pages31
    JournalArchival Science
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


    • Continuum
    • Model
    • Participatory
    • Recordkeeping
    • System

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