Archival anxiety

Another master’s paper update!

My advisor and I have finally scoped my master’s paper ideas well enough so that I have an actual research questions/problem to define and solve.  The question, as it stands now, is “Will increasing archival intelligence reduce archival anxiety?”  There has been a lot of work done in the field of library anxiety, which is the thought that people have a fear of the size of the library, lack knowledge about the location of materials, lack knowledge about how to begin the research process, and lack knowledge about what to do.  This is called Mellon’s Theory of Library Anxiety, and I think that it applies just as well, if not more, to archival repositories.

Everyone has anecdotal stories of people who have archival anxiety and who are overwhelmed, confused, and distressed when they interact with an archival repository.  Both in person and online, there are repositories that are foreboding and jargonistic.  So what I am going to try to do is to create a series of multimedia tutorials that try to increase people’s archival intelligence.  If we can explain and define our terms for them, perhaps people will be able to use our collections more easily.

However, there isn’t really any literature on archival anxiety.  Only one article that I have found even mentions “archival anxiety.” Its a 2006 article by entitled “Introducing Undergraduate Students to Archives and Special Collections,” Greg Johnson, who is a curator of special collections at the University of Mississippi, talks about archival anxiety and relates it back to Constance Mellon’s library anxiety article.

So I’m currently trying to determine the population to try and survey for this study.  Its proving to be a bit of a problem; I’m going to try and find out classes that are going to be coming to the SHC early next semester to try and inflict my survey upon.  Hopefully this will work.

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