Archeion 21: A Project for Networking the Formation of Archives in the 21st century

Frank Upward, Joanne Evans, and Gillian Oliver


“The era of the postcustodial archive has arrived without adequate archival control mechanisms. Archivists and records managers have not been in the game and no-one has filled the breach, so the frontier of change can only grow wilder. Immediate and widespread professional input into future practices for ethical and evidence-based nanosecond archiving is needed now, rather than in ten years’ time; yet it is hard to see where it will come from.”

Frank Upward, Barbara Reed, Gillian Oliver and Joanne Evans, Recordkeeping Informatics for a Networked Age (Monash University Press, p.15 (forthcoming))

In this workshop led by Frank Upward with the assistance of Gillian Oliver and Joanne Evans participants working in groups will be invited to critique a framework for the networking of archivists and others involved in the formation of archives as windowing, framing, and landscaping mechanisms for the 21st century. They will also be asked to discuss a central issue: how broad is the archival profession if it takes on the task of helping to form, order, and manage the cloud based components of the archival multiverse?

Archeion21 requires a recasting of the archival discipline to include the formation of modern archives using nano-second communication and recording technologies but many interconnected elements are involved in joining the dots in modern archiving processes today. Each dot has its own underlying complexity. The introduction to the workshop will present many of the inter-connected elements involved in new ways of going about the cultivation of archives. It will apply this analysis to emerging continuum and informatics based frameworks creating a trellis upon which archives can form. Workshop participants will review and discuss whether that trellis can work as a framework for networking. Is the simple frame robust enough to cater for all the complexities underneath the notion of ‘archiving’?

Many challenging questions will be raised, and of course will not be answered. It is not just because ninety minutes is never enough time. Time changes everything and the answers will always need to be kept under review. Who, at present, in relation to archiving processes are the change agents and are they bringing more order or expanding the chaos? Is an expansion of chaos in relation to access a good or bad thing? Can the gaps between what archivists say about their profession and what archivists actually do be bridged? Can professionalism in Informatics (archives) hold together Cultural Heritage Informatics, Recordkeeping Informatics, Data Informatics and all the many possible prefixes that can be used in front of the simple word informatics? Is there a way of re-establishing the basic patterning role that series played in forming paper-based archives? Where do the traditional custodial institutions fit within Archeion 21 (and in continuum theory they must fit somewhere if archives are an inter-connected multiverse)? How do you make the transitions between the vision and actual practices? Is the emphasis that will be placed upon teamwork as a means of connecting the dots unrealistic? Is globalization a fruitful source of an evolutionary approach to a collaborative and diversifying Archeion 21 or will it be a stultifying force? Are individuals and our professional groups up to the task? Is the whole project just another postcustodial archival fantasy?

Length: 90 minutes

Number of workshop participants: no limits other than those provided by the room for group discussions.

Anticipated outcomes:

At best, individual participants will go away with their own perspectives on a common framework and will be able to contribute in their own way to the inter-connected formation of archives in their time and place. At worst, they will at least have developed a greater understanding of the concept of simplexity in archival continuum theory.

Prerequisites: none


Frank Upward worked as an archivist, records manager and information manager before accepting a position at Monash University where he designed and taught in a wide range of courses. He is best known internationally for his records continuum model and his collaborative work with Sue McKemmish but in fact describes himself as an information continuum theorist. He is currently, involved in collaborative work with Gillian Oliver, Barbara Reed and Joanne Evans on recordkeeping informatics. The latter project is part of his wider interest in continuum informatics as the provider of a pragmatic framework for cultivating the formation of archives in this century.

Joanne Evans – I am an ARC Future Fellow in the Faculty of IT at Monash University, with my research relating to the design and development of archival information systems, with particular emphasis on recordkeeping metadata, interoperability and sustainability. I am particularly interested in exploring the requirements for archival systems in community environments using inclusive systems and research design approaches. With digital and networking information technologies throwing down many challenges for archival and recordkeeping endeavours, in both my teaching and my research I like to explore how they may help us develop better archival and recordkeeping infrastructures, in turn enriching our understanding of records, archives and archivists in society. My Connecting the Disconnected Future Fellowship research program is investigating the development of a participatory archival design methodology.

Gillian Oliver currently teaches and conducts research in records and archives at Monash University, Australia, and was previously based at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Her most recent professional experience prior to this was as part of the foundation team established to initiate digital archiving capability at New Zealand’s national archives. Gillian’s PhD is from Monash University, and this doctoral study was the catalyst for her ongoing research agenda in organizational culture and information culture. She is a co editor-in-chief of Archival Science.