Archival Anxiety and the Vocational Calling

Author: Richard J. Cox

Price: $35

Published: March 2011

ISBN: 978-1-936117-49-9

372 pages


This book is number 4 in the Series on Archives, Archivists, and Society, Richard J. Cox, editor.

Many worry about the health of the archival profession and its mission, a topic explored in this book by one of the profession’s respected leaders. The initial part of the book consists of three essays exploring the notion of archival calling, including a lesson about a lost opportunity for advocating the critical importance of the archival mission and a very personal reflection on the author’s own calling into the archival field. The second part of the book concerns one of the pre-eminent challenges of our time, government secrecy, and how, if left unchallenged, it can undermine the societal role of the archival profession. The third part of the book considers one of the most important issues facing archivists, indeed, all information professionals, the possession of a practical ethical perspective. The fourth and final part of the book concerns the matter of teaching the next generation of archivists in the midst of all the change, debates, and controversies about archives and archivists. In a brief concluding reflection, the author offers some final advice to the archival community in charting its future.

A substantial portion of the archival profession is anxious about a variety of issues. The challenges archivists face are the result of a growing recognition of the importance of records in our society and its organizations, although these challenges are pushing archivists to think well beyond the cultural mission so many archivists have chosen to emphasize. The days of archivists sitting quietly in their stacks and waiting for the occasional researcher to appear are long gone (if they ever really existed). Archival anxiety may be the result of this community being shaken out of its complacency.

Richard J. Cox is Professor, Archival Studies, University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences. He has worked as both an archivist and records manager in a private historical society and in state and local government. Dr. Cox is the author of fifteen books on archives and library and information science topics. He is the only three-time winner of the Waldo G. Leland Award given by the Society of American Archivists for the best book on archives in a given year. He is also a Fellow of the Society.

Table of Contents:



Chapter One. The Archival Calling

Chapter Two. Public Memory Meets Archival Memory: The Interpretation of Williamsburg’s Secretary’s Office

Chapter Three. Public and Private History in Colonial Williamsburg: A Memoir of a Half-Century and A View to a Calling


Chapter Four. Empty Temples: Challenges for Modern Government Archives and Records Management

Chapter Five. Secrecy, Archives, and the Archivist: A Review Essay (Sort Of)

Chapter Six. The National Archives Reclassification Scandal


Chapter Seven. Archival Ethics: The Truth of the Matter

Chapter Eight. Archives and Archivists Listserv Controversy

Chapter Nine. The Anthony Clark Case, SAA, and Professional Ethics


Chapter Ten. Revisiting the Archival Finding Aid

Chapter Eleven. Teaching Unpleasant Things

Chapter Twelve. Rearguing Archival Appraisal in the Age of Forgetfulness