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The Identity Complex: The Portrayal of Archivists in Film
Archival Issues (2015)
  • Anne Daniel
  • Amanda Oliver
When Obi-Wan Kenobi speaks to the Jedi Archives’ archivist in Stars Wars: Attack of the Clones he is informed that if a record is not in their archives it does not exist.[i] The archivist is stern, terse and absolute in her belief in the completeness of her records. This interaction presents an unwelcoming image of archives and archivists, and is one of many films to present a complex image of archivists.
Previous research focusing on the representation of archivists suggests that the archival profession has an image problem. Randall C. Jimerson states that, “The problem which archivists share with librarians and others is not just how to project a more positive image but how to reach agreement on exactly what image the profession wishes to send forth.”[ii] If the archival community cannot agree on the image of an archivist, can we expect the media to provide an accurate representation of the profession?    
This analysis of the presentation of archivists in film resulted in several key findings. Although some archivists possessed the stereotypical qualities identified in previous literature, the film archivists[FJ1]  examined in this study overwhelming possessed unexpected qualities and behavioral attributes not found in past studies, such as power, rudeness, and unethical behavior. Many characters exhibited multi-faceted personalities and few fit the stereotypical qualities identified in previous research studies.
This paper examines how archivists are represented in film with the conclusion that archivists are presented as complex, and possibly ambiguous, characters who do not fit into stereotypes identified in previous research studies. This examination of the complexity of film archivists also considers how these representations may pose a risk to the archival profession and  provides an opportunity to discuss the profession’s identity.

  • Archival Science
Publication Date
Fall December 7, 2015
Citation Information
Anne Daniel and Amanda Oliver. "The Identity Complex: The Portrayal of Archivists in Film" Archival Issues Vol. 37 (2015) ISSN: 10674993
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