Archivists on Archives and Social Justice

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Abstract

To foster a deep understanding of what an archive is and what it can offer qualitative psychologists interested in lives, contexts, and social justice, we present a qualitative study that examines the construct, archive, empirically. Based on interviews conducted with archivists from five archives ranging in size and scope from a large institutional archive to a small, intimate family archive the article examines how archives engage with vital social justice questions. Applying the Critical Incident Technique (Flanagan, 1954), we analyze archivists’ narratives via psychological models of justice. In each interview we highlight matters of social justice in archives on displaced scholars in World War II, the AIDS epidemic, Lesbian histories, the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, conflict and protest resulting from a college’s closure, and the entwinement of a family’s history and their social justice values. This understanding of archives from the perspective of archivists theorizes the construct, archive, and conveys the rich empirical resources that archives offer researchers.

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