Competency B Collection

MARA Competency B

Recognize the social, cultural, and economic dimensions of records, recordkeeping, and records use.

“Indigenous cultural knowledge has always been an open treasure box for the unfettered appropriation of items of value to Western civilization. While we assiduously protect rights to valuable knowledge among ourselves, indigenous people have never been accorded similar rights over their cultural knowledge.”

Greaves, “Tribal Rights” in Brush and Stabinsky (Eds.) Valuing Local Knowledge: Indigenous Peoples and Intellectual Property Rights (Island Press, Covelo, 1996).

What do you understand this competency to mean?

“I’m a late-20th-century, postmodern refugee” (Thrussell, 1999). That much is true. Postmodern is one of those words that people throw around without having a clear understanding of what it actually means. Specifically postmodernism is well defined by Gary Aylesworth in his essay for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “the Modern paradigm of progress as new moves under established rules gives way to the Postmodern paradigm of inventing new rules and changing the game” (2005). As a postmodernist, I accept pluralism and uncertainty. Even though I often believe that somehow my opinions are “right” and others are “wrong” – I know that is not really true – it just feels that way sometimes.

Postmodern philosophy recognizes there is no “truth”. People experience their own reality. Truth is relative. Nesmith states that “despite [our] efforts, our means of communication are still quite limited in what they can convey, and…they are much more powerful and central than we have assumed in forming [our] understanding” (2002, p.26) of what we know of our reality.

I can weave together the path archivists have taken from physical to digital records. The positivist notion of archivists shaping and re-interpreting knowledge by the physical arrangement of records has changed due to the “flexible and wide-ranging…relationships and perspectives” of electronic records (Nesmith, 2002, p.35). The postmodern archives is challenged by inconceivable amounts of digital records assessable through search engines without interaction with, guidance of, nor interpretation by the recordkeeper. Instead of Foucalt’s idea, “Truth does not exist unless it is known,” the postmodern archives is faced with the recognition that “what is ‘truth’ for one individual is not necessarily so for someone else” (Pierre, 2004, p. 149).

It is in this way that I recognize the social, cultural, and economic dimensions of records, recordkeeping, and records use. The danger is in relying solely upon singular records, or assets in an archives, or data within a recordkeeping system. I will be challenged as a new professional to not passively act as the “help desk” for organizational assets.

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

I have selected my research paper that explores the Protocols for Handling Native American Archival Materials. My research examines the social and cultural differences between Western European society in relation to indigenous populations, comparing and contrasting the issues from a local to an international level. I have also included my report on the Restoration Project for Damaged Documents that was launched in Japan after the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011. The report explores the social dimensions of recordkeeping practices that had been in place in Japan since feudal times. Lastly, I have included a narrated training presentation to introduce an information governance program to a fictitious pharmaceutical company, Kharmaceuticals. The presentation emphasizes how an overarching information governance program can mitigate risk, control costs and optimize revenue for an organziation.

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

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 Research paper demonstrates my “recognition of the social and cultural dimensions of records, recordkeeping, and records use.”

From MARA 259
The Tohoku Japan Earthquake of 2011
In March of 2011, the world was shaken by the news of an earthquake that delivered a devastating tsunami to the coast of northern Japan. Amid the horrific loss of life and property, the records of that region of Japan were placed in great jeopardy. As Japan had switched to a more modern system of centralized governmental districts, the older, historic records had often remained neglected in obscure and unsecured archives, sometimes even in the homes of the heirs of former officials. Nearly a year after the tsunami, the Restoration Project for Damaged Documents was launched. Hundreds of volunteers were enlisted to help collect, repair and restore the remains of historical documents of this region of Japan using low impact drying methods and digital copying of the documents which will eventually be made available to the Japanese public. This case study demonstrates my “recognition of the social dimensions of records, recordkeeping, and records use.”

From 284
Kharmaceuticals Information Governance Plan Presentation
Data governance programs allow organizations to mitigate risk, optimize revenue, and control costs. Implementation of an information governance program is not a one-time project; it requires a shift in organizational culture. Better data requires the attention of all the members, the processes, and the technology of an organization. It requires changes in how every member of an organization thinks about data. And most importantly, it is not something that will be finished; it is an ongoing process. This presentation demonstrates my “recognition of the economic dimensions of records, recordkeeping, and records use.”

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

I have grown so much as a professional through the MARA program. When I started the program in 2011, I had a narrow view of the role archivists played in shaping cultural knowledge. My first example “The Protocols of Handling Native American Archival Materials” was the first scholarly research paper I had ever written. Although I could rewrite it now, and remove my circular repetition of facts, I am extremely proud of the work that I did. I have participated in many professional development activities related to cultural sensitivity in relation to being an educator. The research I performed, by seeking out Native Americans in my area, by reading archival documents, specifically minutes from the Society of American Archivists Round Table sessions discussing the protocols, and the minutes from the American Library Association’s discussion of the same topic was the most satisfying research I had performed up to that point in my life.

I am passionate about recognizing the social, cultural, and economic dimensions of recordkeeping. This is not simply seen in the items found in historical archives, it is seen in the graduation rates from inner city school districts, the hiring and firing records of organizations, the digital assets utilized by organizations – and to what purpose they are used.

What have you learned?

‘Fairness in all things,’ much like ‘Do no harm,’ should be the ‘words’ of recordkeepers everywhere.

I really enjoyed the multifaceted curriculum looking at archives and records management professions throughout my studies. A holistic a holistic approach to archives and records management program that takes cultural, economic, and social dimensions into account makes so much sense. I found the final year in the MARA program to be definitive in relation to where I want to go with my career.

I had struggled to find an opening for a records management internship where I could practice what I have learned in the course of my studies. I have placed a lot of thought into rounding out my MARA degree with authentic experiences from both archives and records administration. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to do just that. Master of both, not master of one, which is a fundamental shift of my intentions at the outset of my studies. Because I am a person that looks at the bark and the woods – sometimes I miss the trees. This program wrapped up the forest for me. Now I know what trees inhabit the forest of Archives and Records Administration.


Aylesworth, G. (2005). Postmodernism (Summer 2013 Edition). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, E.N. Zalta (ed.) Retrieved from

Nesmith, T (2002). Seeing archives: Postmodernism and the changing intellectual place of archives. The American Archivist 65(1), p. 24-41.

Pierre, P. (2005, May). The academic library: A post-modern Lazarus? Australian Library Journal 54(2), p. 148-154.

Thrussell, D. (1999). Late twentieth century boy. Third Mall From the Sun. Hymen Records, Germany. Released Sept. 1999.