Privacy, openness and archives in the public domain

Silvanus, Genevieve (2018) Privacy, openness and archives in the public domain. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Abstract

This research investigates the issues surrounding access to archives at non-national archives in England with a multi-stakeholder perspective. Using a combination of focus groups with non-managerial archivists, academic researchers, non-professional family and local historians and a series of semi-structured interviews with leading experts, it attempts to show the issues in the “real world” rather than an idealised one. The results suggest that archivists are working under severe pressure from external forces beyond their control. These include financial, managerial and political pressures, which in turn affect all aspects of archives from location within an organisation to the ethos of the archive, to detail in catalogues and opening hours. Archives typically hold legacy collections, and must balance the needs of a variety of stakeholders, including depositors, those mentioned in the records and users. Archivists cannot therefore allow the access they should theoretically be able to, but individuals often allow as much access as is practicable within these constraints. The users, however, interpreted this as preferential access. Indeed, both user groups felt strongly that archivists granted preferential access to academic researchers and those with whom they had built a relationship. The importance of personality (of archivists and researchers), trust and relationships in promoting access and building collections was demonstrated throughout. Indeed, these human aspects were shown to be as important as the legal framework and ethical codes in determining levels of access to records. Misunderstandings between users and archivists were evidenced repeatedly, many of which could possibly have been prevented by greater transparency and communication. This research is unique as it does not focus on only one type of user, but asked similar questions to archivists, family historians and academic researchers allowing these conclusions to be drawn. The scope is also unique as it focuses on ‘typical’ local authority and university archives rather than those of international standing or national level archives.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: access, closed records, local authority archive, university archive, multi-stakeholder perspective
Subjects: G400 Computer Science
G500 Information Systems
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Computer and Information Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2019 13:24
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2019 08:31
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/39779

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