‘These are not just pieces of paper’: Acknowledging grief and other emotions in pursuit of person-centered archives

  • Jennifer Douglas School of Information, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  • Alexandra Alisauskas Libraries and Cultural Resources, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada
  • Elizabeth Bassett School of Information, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  • Noah Duranseaud School of Information, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  • Ted Lee School of Information, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  • Christina Mantey School of Information, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
Keywords: Grief, Emotions, Recordkeeping, Archivists, Listening

Abstract

This article reports on findings of a series of interviews conducted with 27 archivists on the topic of grief and other emotions in archival work. Centering the words of the interviewed archivists and demonstrating a research ethic of deep listening, this article describes how the interviewed archivists encounter and experience grief and other emotions as part of working with records, researchers, and donors. Interview participants highlighted a lack of preparation for the emotional dimensions of archival work as well as difficulty and damaging silences surrounding emotions in the archival work. This article argues that a first step toward transformative change in the way archival education programs and workplaces address the emotional dimensions of archival work requires sincere and committed acknowledgment of these dimensions and of archival work as person-centered and relational.

Author Biographies

Jennifer Douglas, School of Information, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Jennifer Douglas (she/her) is an associate professor at the School of Information at the University British Columbia, on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people, where she teaches courses on archival arrangement and description, personal and community archives, and research methodologies. Her research is focused on the intimate and emotional dimensions of recordkeeping, and she is most interested in what records do in people’s lives and what people do with their records.

Alexandra Alisauskas, Libraries and Cultural Resources, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada

Alexandra Alisauskas is a Learning and Engagement Librarian at the University of Calgary and a recent graduate of the MAS/MLIS Program at the School of Information at the University of British Columbia, pursuing the First Nations curriculum concentration. Alex also holds a PhD in Visual and Cultural Studies from the University of Rochester and was previously an arts writer, researcher, and educator. Her current research explores contemporary art, artists’ and writers’ archives, and person-centered approaches to library, archival, and information services. She lives as a grateful guest on the traditional territories of the people of the Treaty 7 region in southern Alberta.

Elizabeth Bassett , School of Information, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Elizabeth Bassett hold a master’s degree in English from the University of Victoria as well as dual master’s degrees in Archival Studies and Library and Information Studies from the University of British Columbia. Her research interests are focused on personal archives and literary archives. She is currently working as Digital Access Librarian at the West Vancouver Memorial Library.

Noah Duranseaud , School of Information, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Noah Duranseaud (they/them) is a Digital Collections Specialist and Researcher at the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. They have a Master of Archival Studies from the University of British Columbia School of Information, where they specialized in community archives and records accessibility. Noah is grateful to live and work on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tseil-Waututh people.

Ted Lee, School of Information, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Ted Lee is a doctoral candidate at the University of British Columbia’s School of Information where he studies how different discursive communities within archivy have affected the development of archival professionalism and how archivists view their own professional identities and their work.

Christina Mantey , School of Information, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Christina Mantey completed the dual masters degree in Archival Studies and Library and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia. As a registered nurse with a background in patient care, she is interested in how archivists engage with and are affected by interactions with donors, researchers, and family members. Christina currently works in the children’s section of her local library.

Published
2022-07-29
How to Cite
Douglas J., Alisauskas A., Bassett E., Duranseaud N., Lee T. and Mantey C. (2022) “‘These are not just pieces of paper’: Acknowledging grief and other emotions in pursuit of person-centered archives”, Archives & Manuscripts, 50(1). doi: 10.37683/asa.v50.10211.