- Encyclopedia of Archival Science ed. by Luciana Duranti and Patricia C. Franks
The Encyclopedia of Archival Science is described by its editors as "a foundational reference work" (p. ix). Since reference works are those in which we seek authoritative facts and information, generally through brief or occasional consultation, the Encyclopedia of Archival Science certainly fits the bill. But any encyclopedia, at least etymologically speaking, has a loftier pedagogical goal: to contribute to a round education (enkyklios paideia). And from this pedagogical perspective, the book here reviewed is an excellent and very timely contribution. Instructors for archival courses will undoubtedly find in it articles that can be very conveniently used to introduce important subjects and concepts in the classroom.
This is the first contemporary encyclopedia that focuses exclusively on archival science. The existing Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, 3rd ed. (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2011) deals with archives as part of the larger universe of the information sciences, and although its entries are longer, they are limited to only a few of the central archival functions, specialties, institutions, and concepts. [End Page 168]
Although the word does not appear in the title, this is avowedly an international encyclopedia. In listing the advisory board, the editors placed particular emphasis on their geographical provenance, and this is understandable for a field in which cultural differences in practices, methods, and theory loom very large. International, yes; but, at the same time, overwhelmingly North American, with more than 75 percent of its approximately 110 contributors coming from Canada and the United States, about 20 from European countries, and the remaining handful from Australasia. Their geographical origin aside, most contributors are described as "authorities in the area," with only a handful being "emerging scholars and archival students" (roughly a 6–1 ratio).
The international nature of the encyclopedia does not merely reflect an attempt to be inclusive in this day and age of globalization. Instead, there is an important connection between the geographical provenance of the authors and the nature of their contributions. It makes sense, for instance, that Australian scholars were assigned some topics that we identify mostly with their archival culture (e.g., Postcustodialism, Records Continuum, Series System); this is also partially true for European contributors (e.g., Protocol Register, Archival Fonds), although most of their entries cover the broader or more generic disciplinary terms (e.g., Archival Method, Archival Science, Archival Education, Archival History, Records Management, Archival Standards, Auxiliary Sciences).
The general criterion cited as the driver of the selection process is the harmonization of the universal or international goals of theory and standards with a practice that necessarily addresses local and unique aspects of archival material. As for the perspective adopted by authors, the editors encouraged a combination of personal expertise and/or experience with common and alternate points of view. Overall, the resulting encyclopedia successfully reflects both elements.
Not counting cross-references and bibliography, entries range in size from about 300 to 2,000 words. The shorter entries, following the simplest structure of definition, concept explanation, and conclusion, are generally restricted to narrower, technical terms; the longer ones, in contrast, introduce the reader to the historical discussion as well as to current perspectives on a central concept. Judging it in pedagogical terms, the encyclopedia provides much-needed entry-ways into fundamental concepts, by laying out different points of view rather than advocating a single one. This is a most welcome approach, not only from the student's perspective but also, as mentioned above, from the instructor's. In using readings to introduce central concepts for discussion, too often educators have to resort to articles that, although fundamental, clearly advocate a particular perspective. The main pedagogical contribution of this work is to help alleviate the relative paucity of archival publications that focus more on introducing a topic than pushing a particular interpretation of that concept. [End Page 169]
The preface provides some basic information as to the development process, and it is on this aspect of the overall work that the remainder...