On the persistence of public memory: value and appraisal in archives Presentation Transcript
“Public memory suggests that whatever comes into an archives, by whatever route, is important for society’s collective sense of its past. Archives in this sense are testimony to the loss, imagined and real, of societal memory” (Cox 234).
“the notion of public memory… suggests the ability of society to be constantly forming and reforming the manner in which we view a record or artifact – making one wonder, if memory is a criterion for appraisal, just how many times an appraisal decision would change over a few decades” (Cox 241). › Zelizer’s “history-in-motion”; “collective memory is more mobile and mutable than history” (Cox quoting Barbie Zelizer, 240).
“Archival appraisal is… an artifact of its times, and the documentation we should have of the appraisal process could be very useful in helping both users of archives and archivists themselves to comprehend the effects of appraisal decisions” (Cox 245). “The vicissitudes of public memory may force archivists to reimagine appraisal not as a one- time act in regard to a specific group of records, but as a continuous process” (Cox 253).
During WWII 22,000 Japanese Canadians were stripped of their Canadian citizenship and property and “uprooted” to internment camps on the basis of posed national threats. › The issuing of the “JP” form – a document that attested to property and financial status; 17,135 cases were reported on this form › By 1949, all Japanese Canadians were released and given their citizenship back; however, property had been absconded by the government. Only 1,434 claims were sought and awarded compensation in 1950
“Up until the 1970s, Japanese Canadians did not publically talk about those events or question their fairness” (Roberts-Moore 69). “Beginning in 1983, the NAJC mounted a continuous campaign for redress from the federal government for the treatment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War” (Roberts-Moore 70). › The usage of records in the National Archives of Canada
NAJC’s 1984 brief: Democracy Betrayed: the Case for Redress › “made use of archival documents to prove that the uprooting of the Japanese Canadian community took place because of “racism and political opportunism”” (Roberts-Moore 70). › The study concluded the economic losses suffered by the Japanese Canadians totaled $443 million in 1984 dollars. $333 million in income loss; $110 million in property loss In 1988 – the Redress Agreement awarded $21,000 to each eligible Japanese Canadian who suffered losses during their internment and $12 million to the NAJC to undertake activities that promote human rights
“In 1994, the National Archives of Canada undertook an archival appraisal of those records and recommended that certain administrative and operational records as well as an electronic database be acquired as the archival record. Only a small example of case files were recommended for transfer since their contents duplicated records already held by the Archives or were largely administrative in nature” (Roberts-Moore 72). “The Custodian of Enemy Property and Bird Commission records with their extensive case files were acquired by the National Archives long before the Archives developed its macro-appraisal theory, methodology, and strategy. Application of conventional appraisal criteria determined that the records had high archival value. Although the National Archives has recently adopted the strategic approach embodied in macro-appraisal, there is no question that these records have archival value” (Roberts- Moore 73).
What kind of value, if possible, can we as archivists assign to public memory when appraising our collections? Keeping the NAC/NAJC case in mind, how can archives and archivists address the changing value of records with the constantly evolving perception of public memory while answering their own questions about appraisal?
Cox, Richard. “Appraisal as an act of memory” in No Innocent Deposits, 231-258. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2004. Roberts-Moore, Judith. “Establishing Recognition of Past Injustices: Uses of Archival Records in Documenting the Experience of Japanese Canadians During the Second World War.” Archivaria 53 (Spring 2002): 64-75.