Skip to main content
Identity Construction in Documentary Appraisal: Conflict, Inclusion, and the "Collecting" Archive
  • Kimberly D. Anderson, University of California, Los Angeles

Appraising archival material with the intent to document or represent a specific institution, community, or other entity involves identity construction on the part of the archivist. In order to judge records as representative or part of a given entity, the archivist must have a concept of the boundaries of the given entity’s identity and whether or not the proposed records fall within these boundaries. In order to determine boundary, identity must be constructed and reinforced by the archivist. Four primary identity constructions are proposed: Accepted by All, Self-Identified/All-Else Excluded, Insider Accepted/Outsider Excluded, Outsider Accepted/Insider Excluded. Archivists should be aware and wary of identity construction and reinforcement as part of their role. Once a document enters a repository and is marked as representative of or about a given identity, it becomes a source for researchers who may later use it to reconstitute the given identity in the form of historiography. Archival sources may be all that remains as source material for reconstructing the past, and thus what is selected is especially crucial. If archivists intend to document a given community, individual, or institution they should try to find records that support all of the identity construction specified in order to provide fully representative material. As an aid to identifying and selecting these sources, archivists are encouraged to reflect on their own identity in relation to the collection materials.

Publication Date
Citation Information
Kimberly D. Anderson. Identity Construction in Documentary Appraisal: Conflict, Inclusion, and the "Collecting" Archive. (2007)
Available at: