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This research group investigates implications and challenges of transitions in technology and society on recordkeeping values, functions, methods and techniques.

Description of the research group

This research group focuses on questions related to the creation, use, functions, management and values of records and archives in the past and present. The perspective we take is not primarily the archive as an object but archiving as a process. Deep knowledge and understanding of past and current methods, techniques and cultures of creation, use and management of records is a prerequisite to understanding the major challenges of preserving documentary, archival heritage in a meaningful way. The framework of this research group is the records continuum: an inclusive model to study integrated recordkeeping processes from past and present.

This research group is mainly interested in investigating ‘turns’ in recordkeeping in both past and present. One of the most important issues in the domain of recordkeeping today is the transition from traditionally institutionalized, office-centered forms of records creation and records management to network-based, platform-oriented and distributed data and information management. New questions come up that are fundamental for recordkeeping communities, institutions and existing archival infrastructures. The digital turn requires a rethinking of the existing recordkeeping functions, methods, techniques and infrastructures and a recalibration of traditional archival values such as authenticity and provenance. The multitude of questions that arise from the digital turn vary from fundamental issues of what constitutes a record if content, form and structure are no longer inseparable entities, to rethinking the necessity of traditional functions such as appraisal and selection.Archival scholars use the label of records and archives to define and delineate specific qualities of recorded information. Recorded information is entitled as records if the function and provenance of the recorded information is known: why, by whom, when, how was information created, recorded and used? Only then records can have evidential value. Within this framework, managing records is primarily oriented towards preserving archival qualities, which means preserving and giving access to evidential value. The claim that records and archives play a pivotal role in providing institutional and societal transparency and accountability is based on these qualities. However, there are many reasons to critically review and reconsider these evidential claims. Influenced by decolonization philosophies, more attention is being paid to analyzing the politics of archiving: understanding the mechanisms of inequality of power between record creators and record subjects, the power of silencing and control, the power of recordkeeping technologies and their impact on creating societal memory. The power of these mechanisms raises questions about “fair” recordkeeping and creating “fair” memories? 

In this research group, implications and challenges of transitions in technology and society on recordkeeping values, functions, methods and techniques will be investigated. By comparing and critically analyzing various informational and recordkeeping perspectives, their values, methods and tools from the past to the present, we expect to gain a better understanding of the fundamental challenges for contemporary archival practices and to be able to contribute to the development of sustainable and “fair” recordkeeping concepts and methods. The aim is to bring together researchers from different disciplines (archives-, information-, organization-, media- and legal studies, data science, heritage, history, art and administration) to find answers to the many questions and the different perspectives the recordkeeping communities are confronted with. Close collaboration with communities of practice is of crucial importance to achieve these aims. 

Envisaged results 

Articles, expert meetings, debates, PhD dissertations, toolkits. Several projects are connected to this group:  

  • Recordkeeping and information cultures: records, archives and accountability  

    Archivists claim a strong connection between records, records management and accountability. Archival legal frameworks are largely based on the idea that properly managed records are indispensable for accurate control of governmental agencies. Important research has been done how the relationship between records, records management, transparency and accountability can be understood. In our project we will especially focus on an understudied part, the role and impact of information culture on effectiveness of recordkeeping. The aim is to get a better understanding of the power of information culture in recordkeeping on different levels: societies, communities, agencies.  This research will be predominantly comparative. In the short term (2020-2022) this project will result in conference papers and journal articles with participants Fiorella Foscarini (University of Toronto), Charles Jeurgens (UvA), Ragna Kemp Haraldsdóttir (University of Iceland), Gillian Oliver  (Monash University), Lian Zhiying (Shanghai University). 

  • Digital recordkeeping and sustainability (2020-2024)

    Ephemerality of cultural performances, 3-D building information modelling in infrastructural designs and construction works, fluidity of smart-cities concepts. Only a few very diverse examples which share at least one fundamental feature with respect to archiving: the inadequacy of traditional archiving strategies to keep a reliable and complete representation of the features and behavior of the different forms of information. This project seeks to identify vital characteristics that are valuable to keep in different disciplines and situated practices and to develop new strategies for ‘archiving’ them. The concept of ‘archiving by design’ will be critically analysed. We will investigate several case studies, and organize workshops and present papers in close cooperation with institutional partners such as National Archives and Ingenieursbureau. 

    This research will result in (conference)papers, dissertations, presentations and guidelines. Participants: Annet Dekker, Charles Jeurgens, Theo Kremer, Erik Saaman, Meung-Hoan Noh, Geert-Jan van Bussel. 

  • Decolonizing records and archives (2020-2024) 

    Decolonizing the archive has become a much-debated issue in the archival discipline. Archival theorists and members of marginalized groups have successfully addressed this subject within the archival discipline. Decolonizing archives is a concept with many different forms of expression and with debates conducted from very different contexts and perspectives.  Although the debate about the necessity of decolonizing archives originated in countries with a history of settler-colonialism such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, this doesn’t imply that the issue is not relevant for countries with different colonial histories, such as the Netherlands. Decolonization archives is seeking ways to dismantle the hegemony of the custodial institutions in archival knowledge production and acknowledging that archival infrastructures are the key to agency. 

    In this project with several sub-projects, we work closely with institutions such as the International Institute of Social History, the National Archives and Studio Polat and we participate in several projects.  

    • 2020-2021: participating in a NWO funded research project The Critical Visitor. Intersectional Approaches for Rethinking & Retooling Accessibility and Inclusivity in Heritage Spaces. The proposed research project takes an “intersectional approach” towards inclusivity and accessibility. Consisting of fifteen consortium partners from the heritage sector recommendations of inclusion will be developed and tested. The aim is to enable cultural institutions to implement daily working practices (selection, collection, preservation, display, interaction) that alleviate structures of exclusion. In this project the UvA research group Archives and Records in Transition contributes from the perspective of recordkeeping. In this project we especially, but not exclusively study the relationships between colonial archives, digitization, societal power and the ‘cultural archive’. Through a focus on archives that were seized or displaced during the processes of colonization and decolonization we will study the opportunities and dilemmas of digitization of these records in the context of inclusivity and accessibility. Using (displaced) colonial archives gives us a good opportunity to investigate the power dynamics of digitization and the possible socio-cultural implications. The contribution of our research group to this project is a workshop and article. (Michael Karabinos and Charles Jeurgens) 
    • 2020-2024: Strategies of decolonizing the archives. In this project we will investigate and analyse colonial practices of recordkeeping, current practices of decolonizing archives and records, the conceptual and practical dilemmas of decolonizing archives and records, the ensuing (methodological) debates. The ultimate aim is to identify best practices of decolonizing archives and to translate these into useful approaches for archival institutions by developing toolkits and methodologies. The project will result in conference papers, presentations/conferences, journal articles and toolkits, dissertations. Participants: National Archives, IISH, Studio Polat, Michael Karabinos, Charles Jeurgens, Nico Vriend, Lillyana Mulya.    

Societal relevance

The research group contributes to current debates in the recordkeeping and heritage communities.   

Research Group Type: Network & Project group 
Duration: 2021-2025 

Group Coordinator

Prof. dr. K.J.P.F.M. (Charles) Jeurgens

Faculty of Humanities

Departement Mediastudies

Members of the research group  

  • Dr. Geert Jan van Bussel (HvA)
  • Dr. Giovanni Colavizza (University of Bologna)
  • Shiva Darbandi (PhD candidate)  
  • Dr. Annet Dekker (UvA)  
  • Dr. Fiorella Foscarini (University of Toronto)
  • Shahidul Haque (PhD candidate)  
  • Dr. Ineke Huysman (Huygens-ING)
  • Dr. Hoda Homavandi
  • Sigfried Janzingh (PhD candidate)
  •  Dr. Michael Karabinos (UvA)  
  • Dr. Ragna Kemp Haraldsdóttir (University of Iceland)
  • Theo Kremer (Ingenieursbureau Amsterdam)
  • Mrinalini Luthra (Globalise)
  • Lillyana Mulya (PhD candidate)  
  • Prof. Gillian Oliver (Monash University) 
  • Ahmet Polat (Studio Polat)
  • Dr. Erik Saaman (Nationaal Archief)  
  • Csaba Szilagyi (PhD candidate)  
  • Nico Vriend (PhD candidate)  
  • Dr. Lulu Wang  

Institutional or professional partners 

  • Nationaal Archief Den Haag  
  • I-Partnerschap, ministerie van BZK