I Just want to set the World On Fire with Records (A Law and Ethics Case Study)

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to describe the ethical considerations given a particular situation.
  • Students will be able to explain their course of actions and potential consequences of those actions.

Scenario

You’re a reference archivist at an institution that collects political paper collections. A journalist from a gossip website has asked to see portions of a collection of a recently retired Senator. This part of the collection has been sealed for ten years according to the deed of gift. Keep in mind these are not the official records of the senate, but the personal papers/office records of the senator. This doesn’t mean that there are not materials that could be deemed federal records or state secrets. The collection was minimally processed due to it restrictions, and this former Senator is embroiled in a civil suit with a former staffer about sexual misconduct.

Questions

  • What issues are at play here?
  • How would you go about dealing with the issue of access?
  • What if the journalist threaten to make a FIOA or Open Records request?
  • Does the journalist employer factor into your decisions?
  • How would you handle a discovery request related to the civil suit?

That’s the Way the boxes Tumble (An Arrangement and Description Case Study)

Learning Objectives

  • Explain how provenance and original order are useful for organizing records.
  • Describe principles of hierarchical levels of arrangement.
  • Define structure units: fonds, collection, record group, series, subseries, filing unit, item, “component.””

Scenario

You’re a new archivist at Zeta University in the processing department. You’ve been assigned to review and arrange three new collections that have arrived other the last several days.

One collection is a local author’s personal paper collection. This collection is approximately ten 1 cubic foot boxes. Reviewing it you’ll note that some correspondence has been organized chronologically by correspondent. While the rest was just thrown into boxes. The author’s novel manuscripts are not arranged at all, but various drafts and galley proofs of works are held together by rubber bands. There is also a box of awards and other nick-nacks.

The other materials are a bit more complicated. It seems that a very tiny, but strong localized earthquake occurred in your storage area. That or Jerry had come through at some point. Jerry always leaves destruction in his wake. Regardless the other materials you need to arrange are a categorical mess. You know that this grouping of records is all university records, but you can make out records from the History Department, including some faculty papers (1 Cubic foot) which includes two folders of photographs that have been well labeled, papers from the registrars office including reports and student records (10 cubic feet), and correspondence from the Office of the President (5 cubic feet). All of the materials are rather jumbled and a mess. You should also remember that you already have an office of the president collection that has three series: Correspondence, with subseries by year; Reports; Board of Governors. Governors.

Questions

  • How would you arrange these collections?
  • How much long do you think these arrangement activities would take an archivist? How might you determine using the best guess the amount of time it would take to arrange these collections? What resource could you use to help make this guess?
  • Which collection should get priority?

Bibliography