Intro to Archives and Records Management – Syllabus

This course is an introduction to the archives and records management fields. It provides a survey of principles and practices applied by archivists and records managers and their inherent issues. It is an introduction to the fields and will present terms and concepts that will be used in other courses, explain how components of archives and records administration fit together, as well as how archives and records administration relates to other aspects of information management. We will discuss the nature of documentation and record keeping in contemporary society and the different types of institutions with responsibility for records.

The course will be a combination of lecture, discussion, and problem solving. It requires participants to conduct independent research and writing. Critical reading of course materials is essential to stimulate active participation in class discussions.


By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Define the basic terminology and concepts used in records management and archival administration. See A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology:
  2. Describe the evolution of methods and technologies used to create, store, organize, and preserve records.
  3. Discuss the various environments and cultural contexts where records and documents are created, managed, and used and the reasons why societies, cultures, organizations, and individuals create and keep records (research, ongoing operations, accountability, litigation and organizational memory, et al.)
  4. Describe the core components of archival programs (appraisal, acquisition/disposition, inventory, arrangement, description, preservation, access, use and outreach) and explain the relationships among these components.
  5. Describe and discuss legal and ethical issues surrounding archives and records administration.
  6. Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of current issues in the archives and records management professions.
  7. Discuss archival topics, both in an online and face-to-face environment.


All readings are listed below. The selected readings and videos are not a comprehensive representation of the course themes and topics. The readings will scratch the surface of existing broad and deep discourse. I have selected them as a means to start critical thinking and discussion.


Assignments. General Instructions (see individual assignment instructions in Canvas)

  • Only Canvas submissions will be accepted. If there are problems with the electronic file of your document, I will try to let you know as soon as possible. However, it is ultimately your responsibility to make sure the document is readable.
  • Assignments’ due dates are listed below and in the assignment descriptions in Canvas. If the assignment is not submitted by the due date/time, 10% of the assigned points will be automatically deducted.  For each twenty-four-hour period the assignment is late, an additional 10% of the total assigned points will be deducted.  Exceptions to this rule will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Under no circumstances is poor time management a reasonable excuse for a late assignment.

If, after reviewing the assignment schedule, structure, and course outline, you can see areas where a reasonable accommodation would improve your experience and ability to learn, please let me know and I’ll do my best to make adjustments!


Item Total Points Due
Class Participation 100 points Throughout
Online Discussion 300 points Throughout
Quiz 1 150 points Week 4
Quiz 2 150 points Week 7
Final 300 Points Week 10
TOTAL 1000 points

A core component of this course is the discussions we have in class. As such, attendance in class is important for the anticipated learning and outcomes. In addition, your attendance will be a factor in the Class Participation grade.


This syllabus serves as a preliminary guide to the content of this course. As the instructor, I reserve the right to make modifications to assignments, exams, and readings as needed to better achieve course objectives. That said, my m.o. is that modifications will move assignment dates further out – I won’t move any assignment dates ahead in the calendar unless the class votes on it and more than 2/3 agree that it’s the best course of action.


For each class meeting, you should be prepared for discussion and in-class exercises by being up-to-date with the readings. I will evaluate class participation through my own assessment of your contributions in our class discussions. The rubric I’ll use for evaluating participation is described in the participation assignment on Canvas. In addition, if you tend to speak up in class, I encourage you to spend more time listening. If you tend to be quiet, I encourage you to speak up during class discussion.

In-Class Discussion:

How this works (over the quarter): The small group discussion will require each of you to lead a discussion group twice during the quarter on a selected article (you can pick, but each person has to pick a different one) in that week’s readings.

How this works (each class period): We’ll do 2 rounds each for the discussion leader, roughly 25 minutes each, at either the first or last half of class – it’ll vary depending on if we have a guest speaker. Halfway through we’ll play “musical chairs” (not literally), and the leader will stay in the same place, so they’ll lead two different groups of classmates in discussion.

The leader will take notes on that week’s discussion for their selected article, and the synopsis will be the leader’s online discussion post for that week ~250 words minimum. The in-class leadership will count for in-class participation, the online synopsis will count for your online participation grade.

Questions? Concerns? Need accommodation? Let me know!

Online Discussion

Aim for 250 words for both your post and your response posts. You can comment on one specific article if you want to dive deep, UNLESS you are one of the in-class discussion leaders. Aim to only do that for a few of the weeks.

There are 300 points possible for the online discussion, and each week is worth 50 points, so in order to get full points, you need to do the above for at least 6 of the 9 weeks that we’ll have posts open. You have 2-3 weeks per week’s discussion post to comment.

Classroom Environment

I encourage you to think of this classroom as a brave space, where we will:

  • Approach controversy with an initial assumption of good faith intent. Different views are to be expected, and should be honored, with a group commitment to understand the sources of disagreement and work cooperatively toward shared understanding.
  • Own intentions and impact. I expect all students to acknowledge and own that even questions and statements from a place of positive intent may still have negative impact.
  • Challenge by choice. No one is required to participate in every discussion, but I encourage all of us to challenge ourselves to share and question. If you aren’t quite sure how to phrase something, you can preface it with something like “This is a first draft thought.”
  • Respect. I encourage you all to think about what respect looks and sounds like to you, and to model and enact that when interacting with others in the classroom.
  • No personal attacks. This is closely tied to the above guideline, “respect.” I encourage everyone in the classroom to closely examine and be aware of the difference between a personal attack on an individual or group of people, and a challenge to an individual or group’s beliefs that may evoke a defensive emotional response. In the latter case, self-reflection and examination of the root of that emotional response and discomfort can be both productive and enlightening.

Disability Services

[University of Denver-specific language about Disability Services]

Preferred Name/Pronouns

I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the quarter so that I may make appropriate changes to my records and make a note to myself so I don’t forget!


Your University of Denver e-mail address is your official address and is the one I use when I initiate correspondence with you. I try to answer e-mails as quickly as possible but there are times when the volume is quite high. Also, remember that I am an adjunct with another full time job, so I ask that you give me at least 24 hours to respond!

Incomplete Grades 

Only extraordinary circumstances qualify for discussion of an Incomplete (IN) grade.  It is up to you as the student to make me aware of these circumstances as soon as they occur and well before the last week of classes.  It is up to me, as the instructor, to grant an IN grade.  Medical emergencies will need validation by a health professional.

Student Responsibilities 

As a student in this course, you are responsible for attending class, participating in class discussions, completing readings, assignments, and projects. Your assignment grades will be based upon the criteria described in class meetings, in assignment instructions and in this syllabus.

As a community of practice and as new professionals, I ask for your help in creating an environment in which we will support each other in difficult conversations, always remain considerate, and acknowledge that intellectual freedom means that differences in opinion are a wonderful thing (see: “Classroom Environment” section for clarification of what this looks like in practice in this classroom).

This is a graduate level course; as such, I expect your best and honest effort to go beyond the descriptive and to the level of well-reasoned, analytical expressions both in person and in writing. I expect you to be prepared for class by being up-to-date with the readings, therefore, plan your time wisely.

Readings: Week 1

Topic: Introduction and Overview

Resources (read through all of these before the start of class):

Read: Caswell, Michelle. “The Archive” is not an Archives.” Reconstruction 16.1 2016:

Readings: Week 2

Guest Lecture – Records Manager

Topic: Records, records management, and recordkeeping  

Atherton, Jay. “From Life Cycle to Continuum: Some Thoughts on the Records Management-Archives Relationship.” Archivaria, no. 21 (1986): Archivaria, January 1986, Issue 21.

Cumming, Kate. “Ways of Seeing: Contextualising the Continuum.” Records Management Journal 20, no. 1 (2010): 41-52.

McKemmish, Sue, Shannon Faulkhead, and Lynette Russell. “Distrust in the Archive: Reconciling Records.” Archival Science 11, no. 3-4 (2011): 211-39.

Tansey, Eira. “The Necessary Knowledge.” (blog post). Annotated text of keynote given on 10/25/2017 at the National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s “Digital Preservation 2017” Conference in Pittsburgh, PA

Trace, C.B. (2002). What is Recorded is Never Simply `What Happened’: Record Keeping in Modern Organizational Culture. Archival Science 2 (1-2),137-159.

Note: The below reading and podcast contain, in parts, graphic descriptions of torture and other human rights abuses. An understanding of the significance and extent of these human rights abuses, documented in the archives at Hanslope Park, are key to an understanding of the archival/records component of both the reading and the podcast. However, at the points where you hear content warnings about the description of specific abuses, you can skip over those sections and still get a sense of the historical narrative sufficient to understand and discuss it in detail.

We’ll discuss the specifics of the archives in class, in the context of an understanding of what archives, records, documents, etc. are, so you’ll need to have an understanding of the relationship between the British colonial government in Kenya, the Mau Mau uprising, the actions of the colonial government in suppressing the uprising, and how the archival records held at Hanslope Park played a key role in actions that took place in the 21st century.

Listen: “Radiolab. “Mau Mau,” July 3, 2015.

Alternative Read: Parry, Marc. “Uncovering the Brutal Truth About the British Empire,” 

Potential Future Readings On This Topic:

Becker, Snowden and Jean-Francois Blanchette. (2017) “On the Record, All the Time: Audiovisual Evidence Management in the 21st Century” 23 (5/6). 


Topic: History of archives, types of archives, overview of archival functions 

Academy of Certified Archivists. (2012). Handbook for Archival Certification. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. — download and review Role Delineation Statement for Professional Archivists, p. 17-24. [NOT A READING FOR IN-CLASS DISCUSSION – BUT DO READ!]

Cook, Terry. “What Is Past Is Prologue: A History of Archival Ideas since 1898 and the Future Paradigm Shift.” Archivaria, no. 43 (1997): 17-63.

Duchein, Michel. “The History of European Archives and the Development of the Archival Profession in Europe.” The American Archivist 55, no. 1 (1992): 14-25.

Harris, Verne, and Sello Hatang. “Archives, Identity and Place: A Dialogue on What It (might) Mean(s) to Be an African Archivist.” Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 25, no. 2/3 (2000): 41-60.

O’Toole, James. “Back to the Future: Ernst Posner’s Archives in the Ancient World.” The American Archivist 67, no. 2 (2004): 161-175.

*If anyone has readings about/from the archives perspective about ancient/medieval/early modern archives from Latin America, East Asia, and Africa (other than Egypt) let me know! 


QUIZ 1 & Guest Lecture 

Topic: Appraisal and Acquisition

Carter, Rodney. “Of Things Said and Unsaid: Power, Archival Silences, and Power in Silence.” Archivaria, no. 61 (2006): 215-33.

Cook, T. (2011). ‘We Are What We Keep; We Keep What We Are’: Archival Appraisal Past, Present and Future. Journal of the Society of Archivists, (32)2, 173-189.

Greene, Mark A. “I’ve deaccessioned and lived to tell about it: Confessions of an unrepentant reappraiser.” Archival Issues 30, no. 1 (2006): 7-22.

Ham, F. Gerald. “Archival Choices: Managing the Historical Record in an Age of Abundance.” The American Archivist 47, no. 1 (1984): 11-22.

Robyns, M.C. (2014). Using functional analysis in archival appraisal : a practical and effective alternative to traditional appraisal methodologies. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Read Chapters 1,2, & 3. Focus on Chapter 3 for in-class discussion.

Summers, Ed (2016). “On technical difficulties.” 

Tansey, Eira (2016). “Institutional Silences and the Digital Dark Age” Society of American Archivists Records Management Roundtable (blog).


Guest Lecture

Topic: Arrangement & Description 

Don’t feel like you need to memorize it, but review so we can discuss it in class:

Pay specific attention to Appendix C (Crosswalks)

Also explore:


Topic: Preservation, Conservation, and Disaster Planning

Baynes-Cope, D. (1994). Principles and ethics in archival repair and archival conservation. Society of Archivists Journal, 15(1), 17-26.

Fleischer, S.V., & Heppner, M.J. (2009). Disaster planning for libraries and archives: What you need to know and how to do it. Library Archival Security, 22(2), 125-140.

Gracy, K.F. (2013). Moving images preservation work: The evolution and integration of moving image preservation work into cultural heritage institutionsInformation & Culture: A Journal of History, 48(3), 368-389.

Harvey, R., & Mahard, M.R. (Eds.). (2014). The preservation management handbook : a 21st-century guide for libraries, archives, and museums. Lanham: Rowan & Littlefield. Read (skim) Chapters 1-3.

Tansey, E. (2015). Archival adaptation to climate change. Sustainability : Science, Practice, & Policy,11(2).

Great resources, but not required reading: 

Pacifico, Wilsted, Pacifico, Michele F, Wilsted, Thomas, & Society of American Archivists. Task Force on Archival Facilities Guidelines. (2009). Archival and special collections facilities : Guidelines for archivists, librarians, architects, and engineers. Chicago: Society of American Archivists.

Northeast Document Conservation Center. “Preservation 101.” (2015).

NEDCC Preservation Leaflets: Great brief, free “how-to” leaflets on specific aspects of preservation. 

Image Permanence Institute. 

The IPI’s tool “Dew Point Calculator.” Great data visualization tool to show the impact of temperature and relative humidity in concert with one another.

Pocket Response Plan (PReP) Templates (Council of State Archives). 


Quiz 2

Topic: Reference, Access and Outreach 

Read both works by Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin together & discuss together:

Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin, Amma Y. (2009). The Battle before “The Souls of Black Folk”: Black Performance in the 1901 Pan-American Exposition. (preface, xiv-xx and “Restoring the Live Event to the Archive” 25-28).

Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin, Anna Y. “The Story” AND “From the Archives to the Stage” At Buffalo: The Musical. and

Golia, Julia and Robin Katz. “Our Teaching Philosophy” TeachArchives.Org. AND Athena Devlin: “Why Less is More” 

Prom, C. (2004). User Interactions with Electronic Finding Aids in a Controlled Setting. The American Archivist,67(2), 234-268.

Roe, Kathleen D. “Why Archives?.” The American Archivist79, no. 1 (2016): 6-13.

Schaffner, Jennifer (2015) “The Metadata is the Interface: Better Description for Better Discovery of Archives and Special Collections, Synthesized from User Studies.” OCLC Report. 

Schmidt, Jeremy and Jacquelyn Ardam. “On Excess: Susan Sontag’s Born-Digital Archive.” Los Angeles Review of Books

Yakel, E., & Torres, D. (2003). AI: Archival Intelligence and User Expertise. The American Archivist, 66(1), 51-78.

Be aware of, but not necessary for in-class discussion: 

Digital Public Library of American “Primary Source Sets”


Guest Speaker

Topic: Administration 

Bailey-Hainer, Brenda, and Richard Urban. “The Colorado Digitization Program: A Collaboration Success Story.” Library Hi Tech 22, no. 3 (2004): 254-62.AND either listen to  interview with Liz Bishoff or review transcript:

Greene, Mark A. “Useful and Painless Strategic Planning” in Management : Innovative practices for archives and special collections. ed. Theimer, K. (2014).

NISO Framework Working Group. “A framework of guidance for building good digital collections.” 2013-08-15]. (2007). Review all “Collections,” “Objects,” “Metadata,” and “Initiatives” principles’ text. No need to read in more depth, but be familiar with the principles.

Williams, Stacie. (2016) “Implications of Archival Labor.” Medium. 

Vinopal, Jennifer. “The Quest for Diversity in Library Staffing: From Awareness to Action.” In the Library with the Lead Pipe. (2016)  

Refer back to “More Product, Less Process” from Week 5 (this is an optional reading to discuss again this week) 


Topic: Values, Ethics 

Drake, Jarrett (2016) “I’m Leaving the Profession: It’s Better This Way.” 

Greene, M. (2015). A Brief Preliminary Comment on “Being Assumed Not to Be” 1-And a Pledge This Will Not Become Ad Hominem Ad Infinitum. The American Archivist, 78(2), 599-601.

Punzalan, R., & Caswell, M. (2016). Critical Directions for Archival Approaches to Social Justice. Library Quarterly, 86(1), 25-42.

Ramirez, M. (2015). Being Assumed Not to Be: A Critique of Whiteness as an Archival Imperative. The American Archivist, 78(2), 339-356.

You can also revisit Terry Cook’s “We Are What We Keep” from Week 4 for this discussion. 


Wrap-Up & Final Exam