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Reviewed by:
  • Managing Archival and Manuscript Repositories
  • Janice Simpson (bio)
Managing Archival and Manuscript Repositories by Michael J. KurtzSociety of American Archivists, 2004

In the early 1990s, the Society of American Archivists (SAA) introduced their Archival Fundamental Series; a set of seven titles conceived and written to provide a foundation for modern archival theory and practice in North America. Like the Basic Manual Series that preceded it, this series was intended to have widespread application for a general audience within the archival profession. As the series editor, Mary Jo Pugh, explained, "the purpose was to strengthen and augment the knowledge and skills of archivists, general practitioners and specialists alike, who perform a wide range of archival duties in all types of archival and manuscript repositories." The past decade has witnessed significant changes in information technology and organizational complexity, and these developments have had an effect on the archival profession. Archival projects are getting more complicated and sophisticated, and archivists are fulfilling their traditional functions of appraisal, arrangement, description, preservation, and access in new ways. In response to these changes, the SAA has taken the initiative and updated the series.1

The purpose of the new series remains the same, but the individual texts are being rewritten in light of evolving standards and practices. Managing Archival and Manuscript Repositories by Michael J. Kurtz is one of the titles in the series; it updates the original publication by Thomas Wilsted and William Nolte published almost twelve years previously. The first chapter of Kurtz's text, "Management Theory and Practice," provides an introduction and context for the chapters that follow. This chapter defines management, emphasizes the importance of effective management, and provides a brief history of management theory. The chapter discusses how successful management techniques have evolved and describes management challenges peculiar to the current archival environment.

Chapter 2, "Leadership in Management," replaces what was only a paragraph in the Wilsted and Nolte text. Kurtz states that "the fundamental skill a good manager must possess [End Page 125] is leadership" and that leadership and management are not distinct; there must be "leadership in management." Subsections of the chapter include vision, the value of self-knowledge, and mentoring. According to Kurtz, good leaders need to develop a vision of what they hope to achieve as individuals as well as a clear understanding of their institution's history and what their archives hope to achieve. They need a clear vision of the profession's goals and how their individual goals fit into these, and an ability to select a course of action that leads to achieving their goals. This chapter includes easy-to-read charts listing archival leadership skills, vision, and styles. What I found particularly interesting was the discussion on the roles and responsibilities of archival managers and how they have changed as part of the "information revolution." This is discussed in more detail in chapter 7, "Managing Information Technology."

A comparison of Wilsted and Nolte's chapter entitled, "Organizational Structure" with Kurtz's chapter entitled, "Organizational Complexity: A New Management Paradigm and Foundations of Organizational Success," demonstrates how drastically the working environment has changed in the past ten years. If what Kurtz says is true, the new paradigm is one of complex organizational relationships. Exploiting new technologies to build new relationships/partners, improving support structures, maximizing teamwork, and using new management techniques such as coaching and mentoring to achieve the desired results differs radically from traditional methods. Kurtz explores organizational theories, organizational culture, organizational relationships, and how the knowledge of these assists with better management. It is notable that a clearly written mission statement that outlines organizational placement, legal authority, defines collecting and access policy, and overviews staff accountability and responsibility is considered by Kurtz still to be the most critical component of a well-managed archive.

The following chapters address each of the areas a good manager should be concerned with: "Planning and Reporting," "Project Management," "Managing Information Technology," "Human Resources," "Communication," "Managing Archival Facilities," "Financial Management," "Fundraising and Development," and "Public Relations." All but the chapter on facilities is useful for a manager in any organization, however each chapter also uses examples that are pertinent to archives.

In the chapter "Planning...


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