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INF 389J - Appraisal and Selection of Records, Spring 2014, unique#28865 - Assignments
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Class participation (20% of grade): Students will be expected to read assigned readings, come to class prepared to discuss them critically, and then actually contribute to the discussion. Often the readings on any given day will contradict one another or exhibit other tensions. Don't be surprised; instead, be prepared to discuss and/or complain about these contradictions. We will also carry out some in-class appraisal exercises, both individually and in teams, and I expect you to participate fully as requested.

Online discussion (20% of grade): Students will be expected to contribute at least one substantive posting, based on the week's assigned readings, to the week's Discussion on Canvas by Saturday midnight of the previous week. The online discussion will provide a springboard for discussion in class; you should offer your own observations but may also reply to others' posts.

Contribution to construction of the Keep-o-meter (20% of grade): The whole class will collude during the course to construct a theoretical Keep-o-meter by focusing our discussions in class around how to place different theorists' concepts of appraisal on a "Keep-o-meter" (apologies to PolitiFact's Truth-o-meterTM) that will include obviously a scale from "keep" to "toss" but that also needs to be nuanced in a bunch of ways. This activity is an experiment that will call for some design skills as well as taxing our ability to think in several dimensions.

Formal Research Paper (40% of grade): Each student will write a formal paper on appraisal, 15-20 pages double-spaced and exclusive of endnotes, appendices, and bibliography. The paper should be a scholarly and professional production adhering to the most recent Chicago Manual of Style (because if you want to publish where most of the appraisal literature is published, that's what you'll need to use).

Now what will the paper be about? I have posted several sample topics below and students may review the syllabus and propose others for approval if necessary. Whatever topic you choose, you must then choose a local archives (i.e., an archives in Austin) to serve as the central example for your paper (you can use others with which you are familiar for ancillary examples). There are no exceptions to this requirement, because it is important for you to be able to experience the archives in its context in order to understand its appraisal practices. Your topic should address the evidence of appraisal practices available to you from your chosen archives. In carrying out your research, you are not to pester the local archivists, but investigate for yourself what they do, seeking out relevant documents, making yourself a connoisseur of finding aids and catalogs, and generally learning how to see an archives critically using only the information available to archives users and the community in which the archives is situated (this includes newspapers, newsletters, and the beliefs that users may have about the archives--whether true or not). You should use course readings as a base for your research, but you should also go beyond course readings into the general archival literature.

Potential Paper topics:

Each of these topic sentences designates a broader area than your paper will need to cover. I expect that you will come up with an idea in this area and will create for me a proposal in the form of a paragraph that gives me something of a flavor of the research you want to do, the direction you want to take, and the kind of arguments you might make.

  • Scientific history and the requirement to have archives
  • Government legitimacy and the requirement to have archives
  • Archival appraisal/reappraisal and its effects on cultural memory
  • Jenkinson and creator selection of materials to preserve
  • Schellenberg and value appraisal as selection criteria
  • Community participation in documentation strategy
  • Reflecting organizations through functional analysis/macro-appraisal
  • Appraise and/or schedule? Appraising public records
  • Appraisal policies for faculty papers
  • Monetary worth, desirability, and the appraisal of private records
  • Economics of archives as a cultural good in the long term
  • Effects on appraisal of the comparative costs of paper vs digital collections
  • The influence of use and customer base on appraisal: history and theory
  • How does appraising digital-only objects--databases, email, blogs, wikis—differ from appraising physical objects (or not)?
  • What if we Kept It All? (Discuss and contextualize the arguments pro and con.)

Students should choose the topic and identify the example repository (ask experienced SAA student chapter members if you don't have a clue) by February 3, when you should turn in your choice in the form of a paragraph stating how you plan to tackle the subject. The completed paper is due on April 28, the last class day. Do not wait until April to start work on this paper.

Grading policy:

Since class participation is so important in this class, attendance is also important: you can't participate if you are not there. If you are actually ill I don't want you to come and spread contagion, but please notify me if you must miss class and I will suggest a make-up activity. Grading itself will make full use of the plus/minus system.