In the last few decades the fundamental changes in archival thinking and archives management have been profusely discussed in many archival journals. According to many scholars these changes have taken the shape of a real Kuhnian paradigm shift. In this research seminar we will investigate how valid this idea of a paradigm shift actually is.
No one disputes the far-reaching consequences of the digital techniques on our very existence. It is this digital revolution that has deeply influenced archival thinking. These changes in archival thinking of records and archives management can be summarized as a transition from analogue to digital, from custodial to non-custodial, from matter to mind and from rear-end activity to front-end activity. But do all these changes really meet the Kuhnian features of a paradigm shift? In this research seminar we will investigate these claims made by archival scholars. For our reference we will make use of the theories as formulated by Thomas S. Kuhn in his book The structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago 1962, 1970).
The purpose of the research is:
a. to collect and to analyze a body of archival literature that claims the need for a fundamental new theoretical framework in order to be able to understand the archival- and informational developments that are faced nowadays.
b. to get a deep knowledge of the developments in archival thinking and archives and records management.
c. to relate the theories of Thomas Kuhn with the claims of archival scholars of a current paradigm shift
Questions that will be investigated: Based on what kind research do archival scholars claim the need for a new theoretical framework? What arguments are used in the intellectual debate? How does the new theoretical framework look like? How do the theoretical notions and theoretical claims affect the archival profession? How do these claims relate to the theory of scientific change as formulated by Thomas Kuhn?
General learning objectives
The student has acquired:
- The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;
- The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
- The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
- The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
- The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;
- The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
- The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;
- The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
- (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.
Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation
- Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following:
- in the specialisation Archival Studies: archiving in a colonial context; insight into the significance of archiving processes for the way in which a society deals with its documentation heritage in general and its historical practice in particular; disclosure, including digital disclosure, of archives as part of the broader heritage sector.
- Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus on the following:
- in the specialisation Archival Studies: theoretical foundations of archivistics; assessment and selection of archives.
Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar
The student develops:
- Thorough understanding of the theoretical frameworks archival scholars use(d) since the early 20th century
- The ability to confront the theories of Thomas Kuhn with the claims archival scholars make about the paradigmatic shifts that take place in the archival realm
- The ability to critically reflect on the interaction between theoretical notions of archival scholars and the professional practice in the archival realm.
- (ResMA only): the ability to carry out an exploratory research in the archival field on one of the claimed changing archival functions.
Mode of instruction
- Seminar, with research classes in the institutions that keep the collected materials
Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hrs = 280 hours
Lectures: 28 hours
Time to study compulsory literature: 150 hours
Preparation lecture / assignments: 27 hours
Writing the final paper: 75 hours
Written paper (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-15
Measured learning objectives: 3-7
Assignment 1 (written analysis of the major changes that can be observed in the literature of one of the archival functions – archival function will be selected based on student’s interest)
Measured learning objectives: 3-5, 7, 13-15
(ResMA only): The written paper contains the results of an exploratory research in an archival instution (archival function and institution will be selected based on student’s interest)
Measured learning objectives: 3-5, 7, 13, 16
Written paper: 70 %
Oral presentation: 15 %
Assignment 1: 15 %
The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficent
Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline
Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.
Literature will be made available via Blackboard
Assignments are posted on Blackboard, students receive feedback in the class and via Blackboard.
Will be made available via Blackboard
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