Extending grand challenges within and beyond archival and recordkeeping scholarship

Eliot Wilczek, Heather Soyka, and Anne Gilliland


List of Prerequisites for Participants:

  • Read pre-publication draft of AERI Grand Challenges report (planned to be available in June)
  • Bring thoughts about future research at the intersection of records, archives, and grand challenges.

Societal grand challenges and what are sometimes referred to as “wicked problems” are complex, multifaceted and widely recognized problems. Grand challenges have broad applicability and interdependencies that require extraordinary breakthroughs and the engagement of multiple areas of expertise.

The AERI Grand Challenges Working Group has drafted a report that focuses on recordkeeping as a pivotal aspect that must be engaged when attempting to address grand challenges. This report identifies thematic areas of societal and archival grand challenges. It argues that transformative research relevant to recordkeeping imperatives, frameworks, processes, technologies and standards can significantly contribute to addressing many of society’s most pressing challenges. Additionally, the report underscores the need for such research in recordkeeping and archival studies, and outlines directions for cross-cutting research that connects with other disciplines.

This workshop connects squarely with the AERI 2017 theme of “Windows, Frames, Landscapes” by developing opportunities to reach across boundaries, spaces, and multifaceted challenges. The workshop will provide space and a framework for participants to identify possible collaborations that will build upon the foundation and spirit of the AERI Grand Challenges report. By galvanizing the creativity and international scope of the AERI community, this is intended to serve as a springboard for conceptualizing further scholarship on the intersections and directions of records, archives, and grand challenges.

General Structure of Workshop Activities:

Introduction (20 minutes)

  • Workshop organizers will review the AERI grand challenges report. More broadly,
  • organizers will contextualize the intersection of grand challenges, archives, and recordkeeping and suggest possible research directions.

Groups (50 minutes)

  • First, there will be an open discussion among all workshop participants, identifying areas
    of research interest.
  • Break up into groups based on research area. These research areas can build on the thematic sub-groups that were part of the AERI Grand Challenges Working Group, but workshop groups do not have to be confined to these pre-existing groups.
  • Groups will discuss and outline possible research projects and collaborations.
  • Groups may use a provided rubric to guide group discussion.

Wrap-up (20 minutes)

  • Reporting back from groups, share ideas, and wrap-up.

Workshop Total Length
90 minutes

Preferred Maximum no. of Workshop Participants

Anticipated Outcomes
Identify and provoke collaborations among participants to develop papers and research projects that build on the AERI Grand Challenges Working Group report.


Eliot Wilczek is the Corporate Records and Archives Manager at The MITRE Corporation. He has previously worked as a records manager and archivist at Tufts University, Brandeis University, and Bowdoin College. He has a PhD and an MS in library and information science and a MA in history, all from Simmons College.

Heather Soyka is currently a postdoctoral fellow for DataONE, which is a National Science Foundation- funded project that is concerned with open access and use of multi-national, multi-scale environmental and ecological science data. Her work with DataONE is centered around community engagement and outreach related to research data sharing and reuse. She holds a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh iSchool, and has been an active participant in the summer AERI institute since 2010.

Anne Gilliland (www.dunrunda.co) is Professor and Director of the Archival Studies specialization in the Department of Information Studies, as well as Director of the Center for Information as Evidence, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). She is a faculty affiliate of UCLA’s Center for Digital Humanities. She is also the Director of the Archival Education and Research Initiative (AERI). She is a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists and recipient of numerous awards in archival and information studies. She is an Honorary Research Fellow of the Centre for Global Research, RMIT University in Melbourne and has served as a NORSLIS (Nordic Research School in Library and Information Science) Professor (with Tampere University, Finland; Lund University, Sweden; and the Royal School, Denmark), and as an Honorary Professorial Research Fellow, Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute, University of Glasgow. She has also taught courses as a visiting faculty member at Renmin University of China in Beijing and the University of Zadar, Croatia. Her interests relate broadly to the history, nature, human impact, and technologies associated with archives, recordkeeping and memory, particularly in translocal and international contexts. Specifically her work addresses recordkeeping and archival systems and practices in support of human rights and daily life in post-conflict settings, particularly in the countries emerging out of the former Yugoslavia; rights in records for refugees and other persons displaced due to factors such as conflict, politics, climate change or economic hardship; the role of community memory in promoting reconciliation in the wake of ethnic conflict; bureaucratic violence and the politics of metadata; digital recordkeeping and archival informatics; and research methods and design in archival studies.