Private archives - from random collection to a more
research-based selection of records and other
Ellen Røsjø, 20 kilometres (1000 archives in
total, 294 private archives).
Oldest document 1651.
650 000 photographs.
Films (160 documentaries, and
1100 News Reels).
The Commission of the Poor, on the
Norwegian documentary heritage list
Oslo City Archives: Advisor in record
keeping for the municipality &
Custodian of records (1992-).
Some facts and figures on private sector
archives in institutions
ABM-utvikling / The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum
Authority’s report “Til kildene! Kartlegging av regionale og lokale
arkiver“ / To the sources! Survey of regional and local
archives“ (ABM-skrift # 40) from 2007 shows that preserved
archives do not sufficiently represent a comprehensive and
representative societal documentation. Important sectors of
society are too weakly documented and there are large regional
Archival statistics show that out of the total holdings of paper
archives - in 59 archival institutions – in 2011 only 17 % were
from the private sector.
40 % of the pupils in Oslo have an immigrant
Total population: 29.6 % with immigrant
background in 2012
What can they find out about the first
Who can they identify with? Oslo City
Archives – the city’s memory… but:
Where are the immigrants own
voices we asked in 2004?
330 registered ethnic and multicultural
organizations in Oslo
Which traces of their activities will be
preserved here in 100 years?
(awareness: if you don’t leave a trace…)
The ”Oslo Multicultural Archives Project”
- motto: Everyone has the right to a past!
(Edvard Bull, Norwegian historian)
The “Oslo Multicultural Archives Project” was an
attempt to obtain a more representative societal
The purpose of the project was to collect, preserve and make
available a number of archives from new minorities in Oslo.
The aim was that Oslo City's cultural diversity
should thus become part of the city's memory
and could be used in our outreach work.
The project period March 2004 – 2007.
Funding by The Norwegian Archive, Library and
Museum Authority, Arts Council Norway and
The Fritt Ord Foundation
The project resulted in about twenty
A booklet and the exhibition “Our
traces" / "Spor etter oss "
Theatre about immigration a century
ago - in our repository - in 2005 in
cooperation with Nordic Black Theatre,
for pupils 2006-08
A study package for pupils in Oslo
(Robert Levin f. eks.)
Follow-up: with The MiRA Centre we
interviewed leading women in
immigrant communities (8 edited in a
book, Multiple voices – minority women in
organizational life )
Research project: Majority and minority
perspectives in archives selection and preservation
Examined content of public
agencies’ records that dealt
with immigrant organizations
with private records collected.
That the public archives
expressed the government's
vision and a top-down
That we would find these
people's own perspective and
voices in their own archives.
— Funding: Arts Council Norway &
The Fritt Ord Foundation
«Quod non est in actis, non est in mundo»
(If you’re not in the archives, you don’t exist)
The archive is a selective memory.
Automatic preservation of public
archives (by law).
Private archives are rather
randomly preserved - dependent on
legislation, tradition and the
resources society is willing to spend
on this field.
Result: a distorted societal memory.
«Quod non est in actis, non est in mundo»
(If you’re not in the archives, you don’t exist)
The Norwegian Archives Act,
to secure archives of considerable
cultural or research value or that hold
legal or important administrative
documentation, so that these can be
preserved and made accessible for
Major weakness: The
Nordic Black Theatre. Drama i hukommelsen
relationship between purpose
and measures only applies to
Theoretical background – Booms, a more societal
Classical archival theory does not discuss the archival value of
A more societal approach, based on archives reflecting the
society that creates them, was addressed for the first time by
Hans Booms in the 1970s.
His approach was that the records should reflect values through
the societal functions of the records creator and to preserve a
diverse societal documentation on society's own terms.
(Booms, Hans (1991-92): Überlieferungsbildung: Keeping Archives as a Social
and Political Activity, Archivaria 33 (Winter 1991-92).
This is also the orientation of the function based archival
appraisal methodology that was developed in Canada in the late
1980s, inspired by Booms.
Appraisal - the archivist’s “first
Terry Cook: “Appraisal is the critical act by archivists.
Helen Samuels and Richard Cox have called it the
archivist’s “first responsibility”, upon which everything
else depends. As archivists appraise records, they
are determining what the future will know about its
past: who will have a continuing voice and who will be
silenced. Archivists thereby co-create the archive.”
(Cook, Terry (Ed.): Controlling
the Past. Documenting Society
and Institutions. Essays in
Honor of Helen Willa Samuels.
Bodil Lundsten Buchacz: Hvorfor er du så sinna
Oldemor / Why are you so angry great
There is no political power without control of the archive,
if not memory. Effective democratization can always be
measured by this essential criterion: the participation in
and access to the archive, its constitution, and its
(Derrida, Jacques (1995):
Mal d’archives: une impression
freudienne (Archive Fever:
a Freudian Impression), p. 15)
Marit Hosar: Quod non est in actis, non
est in mundo, detail
Verne Harris – the political power of the
“Appraisal brings into sharpest focus the power
wielded by archivists. The power of what the French
philosopher Jacques Derrida calls consignation.*
Which stories will be consigned to the archive and
which will not. This power of the storyteller is ultimately
a political power. Which is why, in a democracy, society
must find ways of holding archivists accountable for
their appraisal decisions.”
(Harris, Verne (2007): Archives and Justice. A South African Perspective
(Society of American Archivists, Chigaco 2007 p. 104)
*Begrepet consignation på fransk og engelsk oversetter jeg med nedskrivning
Samuels l - a model including both public and private
archives in the selection process
“An objective of the analysis in Varsity Letters is to
demonstrate that both official and non-official
materials are required to achieve an adequate
documentation of an institution. The work tries to
merge these perceived disparate approaches by
demonstrating how and when both types of records
are needed, how they support and complement
each other, and therefore why they must be
examined in an integrated approach. With the
emphasis placed first on what is to be documented
- the function - the location of the record, which
office or individual actually holds the material,
becomes a secondary issue.”
(Samuels, Helen W. (1991-92): Improving Our Disposition:
Documentation Strategy. Archivaria 33 (Winter 1991-92), p. 133)
“Yet, if archivists perceive their responsibility
as documenting an institution, then the
intervention to create or ensure the creation
of records must also be an integrated part of
their documentary activities. Archivists,
however, need not be the people who
actually create records. Their most important
roles are as analyst, planner and agent who
create an awareness about documentary
problems. Archivists can then work
knowledgeably with appropriate individuals to
carry out oral history, photographic, video or
other documentary activities as needed. To
achieve this, archivists must do archival
research sufficient to articulate a coherent
(Samuels 1991-92, p. 137)
Majority and minority perspectives… – the
contents of public and private records
To improve the documentation of
immigration & new minorities Oslo
City Archives and then Oppland
County Private Records Archives
and Drammen City Archives have
been collecting private archives, oral
records and various types of
What do records of public agencies
(in Oslo City and one Ministry)
dealing with immigrant organizations
hold about these organizations?
Were the public records a one-sided
expression of the central or local
Some results – Public archives l
The Oslo Refugee and Immigrant Agency
managed funding that the immigrant
organizations can apply for. My review of
the Agency's records largely confirms the
The public archives are created from the
public offices’ own needs. The
municipality’s and the state's need for
documentation of how the granted money
is spent decides the contents.
The Oslo Refugee and Immigrant
Agency's processing of the applications
reveals a variety of associations, which of
these who succeeded in obtaining funds
and which activities the Agency
supported or rejected to fund.
Their policy influenced the financial
solidity of the organizations.
Public archives ll
In a sense, public records are narratives of power and
powerlessness as Kaisa Maliniemi concluded in her research
project What did the archives hide. An examination of Kven and
Sami in the public records in Kistrand (Porsanger) and Nordreisa
1865 to 1948, (ABM media as 2010). This meant that she had to
read the documents "against the grain" in Laura Stoler’s
Majority and minority perspective is important - the central focus
is the majority's view of the minority and its expectations and
assessments of the minority. We do not know whether minorities
would have organized themselves formally to the same extent
without the government's system for funding, or if this would
have come later as a result of integration.
The minority meets in a way the majority's desire to form an
organized society that mainstream society can relate to.
Private archives l
What is found in the
organizations' and individuals'
Do we see more traces of "direct
voices" as my hypothesis was?
We find their correspondence,
reports, posters, magazines,
minutes, photos and newspaper
clips. We can often trace a far
more multifaceted material that
spans a much longer period of
We can meet their own thoughts
about their status and follow the
shift in mentality as time goes by.
Private archives ll
May consist only of fragments.
The records we collected from a
dance group and a theatre don’t
reflect their artistic activity,
although both records contain
photographs. But this can be
supplemented by other
documentation as Samuels has
Private archives can also be so
much richer and give a more
complete picture than any traces
you may find of the same In short, in private archives you
phenomenon scattered in can find people’s own voices and
different public archives. perspectives that are not in the
Private archives lll
Unique content: Private archival material indicates individual group
activities, efforts, self-understanding, needs and problems. The
material is in fact created by these people based on needs that
Unique because the material was compiled in a very special way.
Even if all documents were to be found scattered in public records,
the private archives still have their unique value due to their special
aggregation of the documents.
From this material we will also be able to track partners of
correspondence and thereby identify other archives, both public
and private, where we may find more material.
Descendants and others will be conveyed distinct traces and
perspectives they don’t know about their ancestors.
What are the consequences?
- if we only preserve the public records?
We create a fairly distorted picture of the
new minorities if we just preserve the public
archives, which largely exclude their own voices
from our collective memory.
This will have consequences for the archives'
outreach and communication work and for the
users’ opportunity to search information of
relevance to their own identity.
The examples brought up relate to the
documentation of new minorities. They can be
seen as representative of the situation for the
preservation of private archives.
How can we proceed in order to make informed
choices of strategies to obtain a better societal
Other types of documentation, research and
Acknowledging that the archives preserved in
our institutions are deficient, we need to
supplement them with other archives and
other documentation, such as interviews,
photos and videos as pointed out by
Archival institutions do not have to produce
this, but they should feel a responsibility to
ensure that initiatives are taken and secure
that documentation for preservation.
Samuels also argues that we must engage in
archival research to be able to make
coherent documentation plans.
There must be a division of responsibility
between the archival institutions.
Cooperation and participation
Documentation plans are no
guarantee for success.
In order to collect private archives,
outreach and communication
work, cooperation and contact with
organizations, institutions and Forente minoriteter in Oslo City Archives – the
individuals are essential. song ”Oslo”
Guiding private records creators
we want to get documentation
from if needed.
Continual contact and exchange
gives mutual benefit and better
Web 2.0 and interaction
Eric Ketelaar has pointed out that
archival institutions using Web 2.0 have
begun stimulating forms of user
interaction. The user becomes more and
more a co-creator. (Ketelaar, Eric (2008): Archives
as Spaces of Memory, Journal of the Society of Archivists,
vol 29, no 1, April 2008).
Ketelaar illustrates how outreach
activities can result in the preservation
of new archives and vice versa.
Digitizing records to make them more
accessible and letting the public upload
their own stories and documents can
facilitate democratization - use, sharing,
improving information, and a broader
preservation is possible.
Less distinction between public and
Web 2.0 and interaction - effective
A new relationship with our users? See them:
Less as patrons [låntakere, gjester] and clients, and more as
us: Connecting communities with records
(Elizabeth Yakel: “Who Represents the Past? Archives, Records and the Social Web” in Cook, Terry (Ed.): Controlling the
Past. Documenting Society and Institutions. Essays in Honor of Helen Willa Samuels. SAA 2011)
The Participatory Archiving Model says: “Participatory archiving
encourages community involvement during the appraisal, arrangement,
and description phases of creating an archival record.”
(Katie Shilton and Ramesh Srinivasan: “Participatory Appraisal and Arrangement for Multicultural Archival Collections”,
Archivaria 63 (Spring 2007)
An integrated societal memory! I
Material from the public sector has a very dominant
position, practically independent of archival value.
If we are to overcome this situation, the focus
of our selection and preservation policies
radically has to change: More resources must be
allocated to private archives and
Funding scheme for private archives – 15-20 mill.
NOK (instead of 2 mill. NOK – now to be reserved only for
museums according to white paper)
Strong regional archival institutions – especially to
preserve and communicate electronic records
An integrated societal memory! II
Active outreach work from the institutions and interaction with the
private archives creators - to preserve a larger share of
Establish a research agenda to improve the profession’s ability to
document society on the basis of coherent documentation plans for
the sectors of society (Helen Samuels).
Only then will we lay the groundwork for an integrated societal
memory that will provide relevant societal documentation as a basis for
rights, research, historical analysis, visibility, identity formation,
experiences and entertainment.
We will also obtain a better relationship
between the Norwegian Archives Act’s
mission statement and the policy
instruments for the preservation of
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