Competency A Collection

MARA Competency A

Articulate the ethics, values, and foundational principles of archives and records management professionals and the important role recordkeepers play in social memory and organizational accountability.

“Archivists [and recordkeepers] bring the past to the present. They’re records collectors and protectors, keepers of memory. They organize unique, historical materials, making them available for current and future research.” (Talking Points, 2009, p.6.) 

Lisa Lewis, winner of the SAA’s Best Elevator Speech contest in 2007

What do you understand this competency to mean?

ARMA describes the core professional competencies of records and information managers as the “knowledge, skills, characteristics, or traits that contribute to outstanding performance” (2007, p.1).  MARA Competency A requires one to be able to articulate the ethics, values and foundational principles of archivists and records management professionals because one plays an important role in protecting social memory and preserving organizational accountability. I am passionate about ethical behavior surrounding those in power and individuals of society that lack power. As an information professional, it is imperative to understand the role one plays.

In his Presidential Address to the Society of American Archivists [SAA] in San Francisco, Mark Greene recalled his initial answer to ‘what is an archivist?’ as “a cross between a librarian and a historian” (2009, p.18.) Soon the description was dissatisfying, and Greene amended his response to “someone who ‘identified, appraised, preserved, arranged, described, and provided access to historical material’” (2009, p.18.) He lamented how the listing of the tasks performed on the job, diminished in comparison to the importance of the purpose of archives and recordkeeping in modern society.

NARA provides a great description of the archivist’s role on their website: “Archivists are specially trained in preserving the original material and helping people obtain it” (“What is an archivist?”, para. 3) and on the same page, a description of Records Managers: “Records managers …make sure they are creating records that reflect the work they do…Records managers also make sure that agencies are storing their records properly and are bringing the most important ones safely to the National Archives to be attended to by archivists and conservators” (“What is an archivist?”, para. 7). These descriptions make the connection from Records Managers to Archivists pretty clear.

What course assignments or other work products are you submitting as evidence of your mastery of this competency?

I have chosen several works that present my views about my understanding of the ethics, values, and foundational principles of archives and records management professionals. These projects, as well as class discussions, explore the role information professionals play in preserving and constructing social memory.

Why did you select these particular work products as evidence for your mastery of this competency?

From MARA 200
Context: Children Overboard
This short essay relates a maritime incident when a ship filled with asylum seekers from Western Africa had sunk off the Australian coast. Through the unauthorized release of several photographs of children seen floating in the waters, reports arose accusing the asylum seekers of throwing their children overboard in order to engage the help of the Australian government. This incident occurred in October, 2001, the Howard government was able to use the incident to win reelection. Later the Australian Senate Select Committee inquiry found that the Howard government had misled the public. This is evidence of “the important role recordkeepers play in social memory and organizational accountability.” 

From MARA 200
Professional Journal and Association Analysis
This paper explores the professional journal Information Management (IM) and the Twin Cities chapter of ARMA International. It examines the focus, content and value of the professional organization for records and information managers (RIM). By examining the content of several issues of Information Management, the professional journal of ARMA International, I have drawn conclusions about the reliability and relevancy of the publication to my education as a digital archival and records administrator. This is evidence of my understanding of the “ethics, values, and foundational principles of archives and records management professionals.”

From MARA 200
Protocols for Native American Archival Materials
This paper examines materials related to the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials. It attempts to parse the differences in the socio-cultural frameworks of archival institutions and Native American peoples. The disconnect between traditional/indigenous knowledge systems and the Euro-centric mindsets of traditional archival institutions can be seen by comparing sources, ranging from international organizations to local communities. The paper finds that although many conversations have begun between archives and originating Native American communities, there is still much work to be done. This is evidence of my understanding of the “ethics, values, and foundational principles of archives and records management professionals and the important role recordkeepers play in social memory and organizational accountability.” 

How do your selections show not simply learning but also application?

I have been acutely aware of the professional expectations of archivists and recordkeepers throughout my studies. My work demonstrates an intellectual understanding of the competency. I have demonstrated the crossover and the connections between the two areas of my Master’s program. In order to gain practical experience with the profession, I have used this competency to secure my two professional experiences.

For my two professional experiences, I have chosen two seemly very different internships. At the American Crafts Council [ACC], I administrated a CONTENTdm database. In order to populate metadata fields so that users could access the data, I had to first refer to organizational archives for historic information. At TIES [Technology and Information Education Services], a Minnesota software developer, I am referring to State and Federal regulations to provide the software developers the information needed to administrate the data stored in iContent database. Both professional experiences actively play “the important role recordkeepers play in social memory and organizational accountability” (MARA Competency A).

What have you learned?

I enjoyed exploring the cultural discrepancy between the Australian (Oceania) and Canadian Archivists idea of archivists/recordkeepers as possessing the same professional attributes and the view in the United States of America (ironically considered the ‘North American viewpoint’) where archivists and recordkeepers are regarded as very different. “The recordkeeping profession and archival institutions in our society are charged with the mission of building and managing frameworks and systems which assure the preservation and accessibility of accurate, complete, reliable, and authentic records and archives” (McKemmish, 2005, p.16).

The schism between archivists and recordkeepers remains firmly established in the United States of America. A comparison of the SAA, the American Librarian Association [ALA], ARMA International, and the Association for Information and Image Management [AIIM], are among the professional organizations that foster the “ethics, values, and foundational principles of archives and records management professionals” (MARA Competency A). I place myself firmly betwixt the two extreme ideas of archivists as keepers of historical cultural memory and recordkeepers as the managers of current evidentiary proof of administrative, fiscal, or legal requirements. MARA has helped me understand the necessity of both archivists as recordkeepers and recordkeepers as archivists. I am a professional member of AIIM as well as the Twin Cities Archivist Roundtable [TCART], as well as the Midwest Archives Conference [MAC]. Records professionals and Archivists inform each other’s practice.


ARMA (2007). Records and information management core competencies, v. 4903 (PDF Version). Educational Development Committee. ARMA International. Lenexa, KS. Retrieved from

Greene, M. (2009). The power of archives: Archivists’ values and value in the post-modern age. The American Archivist (72/1) 17-41. Retrieved from

What’s an Archivist? (n.d.). About the national archives. National Archives and Records Administration [NARA]. Retrieved from

Society of American Archivists [SAA] (2009). Say what? Talking points on the value of archives. Retrieved from

Society of American Archivists [SAA] (2011). SAA core values statement and code of ethics. Retrieved from