Archivist Toolkit


“Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.” Douglas Adams

Just when I was considering retiring this blog and sticking to my reflective writing practice, along came #GLAMblogclub. Timing was key, the shitstorm of global politics and recent conversations about archivists and our professional responsibilities. Then Cassie Findlay, who has a knack for getting in with the words I want to say, but better (thanks Cassie) tweeted this;

It really feels like we are living in an important time doesn’t it? I’ve been casting around for something in my living memory to pin this feeling to and I keep returning to 1989/90. In the six months after I left high school several historic events happened. The Berlin Wall came down, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, in Czechoslovakia the Velvet Revolution happened. With breathtaking naivety I was drunk on the possibilities these things represented. Obviously, things are unfolding somewhat differently this time. The difference is this time I feel equipped to be more than a passive observer. 

Twenty eight years later I have more perspective, experience, and a new archivist toolkit. So, 2017 will be about using this toolkit to get better at embedding political activism into my professional practice. It has taken some doing but I’m finally in a place professionally where I have the opportunity to influence decision making, practice change and lead projects. I’m not saying its great power (yet), but I do feel the responsibility.

So just to get started, here are a few things I’ve been thinking about;

The planet

Melbourne University Archives have just installed solar panels! This is brilliant, and the kind of leading the way you expect from that corner of the world. Now it is up to the rest of us to step up.

Given all the other ways I try to reduce my footprint on the planet I’ve been conveniently hiding the amount of flying I do in a part of my conscience marked ‘but travel’, and ‘but conferences’. I fear the time may be rapidly approaching when this is no longer a plausible defense. Social media provides a great platform for networking, amplifying messages and sharing links to materials but there are a lot of people who only use it at conference time. We need to start finding new ways to build and work with our global network of activist archivists (and allies) that fills in the gaps between conferences or even dare I say it, replace them.

Smashing the patriarchy

I will continue chipping away at the patriarchy in my workplace. We built patriarchivedotcom as an online place of deposit for materials and stories (and for those if I don’t laugh I’ll cry moments). More time needs to be spent redefining the scope and promoting it to the world. Please if you aren’t already, follow  the twitter handle @patriarchivists or add some content.

As the manager of a mostly male team I have been thinking a lot about emotional labour and and how this creeps into our workplace culture. Things like birthdays or  morning teas when it is almost always the women bringing the cake and tidying up afterwards. Or doing the collection to buy the flowers. Don’t get me started on the apologising. Unless these things get called out they become part of an unacknowledged and accepted culture.

Actively engaging

Locally, I’m excited to be on the organising committee for the 2017 Australian Society of Archivists Conference. With the theme of Diverse Worlds we are looking to dust off (sorry) some uncomfortable but important topics. How we address the archival silences, how we make collections and our profession more representative? Running in parallel with the Information Technologies Indigenous Communities Symposium (ITIC) it will be a week full of stimulating content, new ideas and connections and by popular demand *drum roll*, a craft corner. I can feel a separate post about craftivism forming already.

Finally, I was going to add that I’d like to learn how to stop procrastinating but given I’ve left this until the 30th to write it that probably doesn’t need saying. There still more to say so I’m sure I’ll find a way to chisel the theme for February into an activist kind of shape.


About Michaela Hart

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2 Responses to Archivist Toolkit

  1. Jess says:

    This Morning I was pondering something along the lines of archival silence (what is it when when we don’t identify that something should have been kept etc).
    So, how can we tell where archival silences are?

    Liked by 1 person

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