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  • Curated Issue of Information & Culture:A Journal of History
  • Ciaran B. Trace

This special issue of Information & Culture brings together a curated set of previously published articles from the last two decades of the journal's more than fifty-year history. These articles represent the wide scope of actors, disciplines, and viewpoints that have helped make the journal the space in which to frame and debate the nature of the information domain from a historical perspective.

In new and thought-provoking essays accompanying the original articles, the authors look back on the contribution that these articles made to the intellectual life and growth of the journal and its subject matter, outlining:

  • • the initial inspiration for the article (the issues, opportunities, disciplinary dynamics, or tensions that served as initial drivers)

  • • the beliefs, values, attitudes, assumptions, and challenges that accompanied the writing process

  • • the personal intellectual and scholarly trajectory of which the article is/was a part

  • • the role of the article in helping to define, delimit, or shape the broad field of information history

Three of these articles are drawn from the journal in its second incarnation as Libraries & Culture (1988–2006).

Richard J. Cox's article, "The Failure or Future of American Archival History: A Somewhat Unorthodox View" (2000), outlines the trajectory of American archival history research, arguing that the study of archives and records lends itself to a more expansive scholarly approach. In this worldview, archival history is seen as interdisciplinary in nature, forming part of a growing scholarship on the history of literacy and writing, on social memory, and on the societal impacts of technologies.

Jonathan Rose's article, "Alternative Futures for Library History" (2003), also looks to situate a traditional field (in this instance, "library [End Page 1] history") within new or established modes of historiography. Among the options that Rose considers are the idea of reconstituting library history as a subfield of information science, mainstream history, or the history of the book. Proposing what he calls a more "radical solution," Rose argues that the emerging academic discipline of book studies offers library history the greatest opportunity for intellectual cross-fertilization.

Christine Pawley's article, "History in the Library and Information Science Curriculum: Outline of a Debate" (2005), reminds us that, disciplinary differences aside, a strong scholarly community dedicated to the study of information history is only possible when our constituents' interest in historical perspectives is nurtured and maintained. With a primary focus on pedagogy, Pawley outlines a series of practical steps and theoretical justifications for the inclusion of history and historical methodology in the library and information science curriculum.

The fourth article is drawn from the journal in its incarnation as Libraries & the Cultural Record (2006–12). William Aspray's article, "The History of Information Science and Other Traditional Information Domains: Models for Future Research" (2011), embraces a view of the information domain that expands beyond institutional histories of libraries, archives, and museums to take into consideration homes, places of work, and other social spaces as places where information and information-related behaviors can be studied. Drawing upon the literature of the fields of history of information technology, social informatics, and business and economic history of technology, Aspray highlights "key problems, methods, and approaches" that can help enrich the field of information science history.

The final article is drawn from the journal in its current instantiation as Information & Culture: A Journal of History (2012 to the present). James W. Cortada's article, "Shaping Information History as an Intellectual Discipline" (2012), draws firmly from the notion that information history is situated in a space that transcends academic and disciplinary boundaries. Seeking to create a more cohesive and sustainable view of the subject matter of information history, he sets out five key questions that form an agenda and a set of guiding investigations for the field. These questions interrogate not only the nature of information but also its role in society and the contexts in which it has "flourished and existed."

What these articles have in common is that they provide an intellectual lineage for the field that we have come to define as "information history." Whether exploring the role of history within traditional information domains (libraries, archives...


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pp. 1-3
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