Intro to Archives and Records Management – Syllabus

LIS 4800 Introduction to Archives and Records Management

3 Credit Hours
Winter 2021

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 related courses, explain how components of archives and records administration fit together, as well as how archives and records administration relate 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 and related assignments.


Your health and your family’s health should be your priority. If you are dealing with illness, sick family members, quarantine or isolation, a bad internet connection, increased anxiety, childcare challenges, or any other issues, please reach out and we will figure out accommodations.  If some aspect of this class is not working for you, we will work together to find a solution.

It is possible that the course calendar or other aspects of the course may be adjusted due to COVID-19 and other contingencies at DU. Any changes will be posted to Canvas, so you should be sure to check your announcements and Canvas messages frequently.


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

  • Define the basic terminology and concepts used in records management and archival administration. See A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology:
  • Describe the evolution of methods and technologies used to create, store, organize, and preserve records.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • Describe and discuss legal and ethical issues surrounding archives and records administration.
  • Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of current issues in the archives and records management professions.
  • Articulate your relationship to archives and archival theory as an emerging information professional.
  • Discuss and learn about archival topics in an online environment.  


All readings/course materials are listed below. The selected readings and videos are not anywhere close to 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. To say that this academic year has been challenging is an understatement, and I will give as much leeway as I possibly can if you can’t turn in assignments by the due dates. Please take into consideration that I am teaching this class on an adjunct basis (i.e. in addition to a full-time position as Curator of Special Collections and Archives at DU), and I also need enough time to thoughtfully grade what you turn in. Exceptions to this rule will be considered on a case-by-case basis, and very late assignments may be graded with no feedback. I will make every effort to not grade you down for late assignments.

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
Post-Lecture Quizzes 100 points Throughout
Participation (Group Discussion) 100 points Throughout
Assignment 1 150 points Week 3
Assignment 2 (Place-Based) 150 points Week 6
Assignment 1 (Rewrite) 150 points Week 8
Final 300 points Week 10
Total 1000 points


A core component of this course is the discussions we will have in class. Attendance in class is important for the anticipated learning and outcomes. If you are unable to attend more than 1-2 classes, I can work with you individually to make up necessary discussions, as your attendance will be a factor in the Class Participation grade. See COVID-19 section earlier in the syllabus; you and your family and loved ones’ health and well-being are paramount, and I will work with you if you aren’t able to attend for any reason.


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. 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.


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. 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. The Zoom chat and reactions are perfectly valid ways to participate!


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

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. Note: Anyone engaging in deliberate and bad-faith misinformation or oppressive behavior will be addressed on an individual basis; this behavior will not be tolerated.

Accountability to each other. Being accountable means examining our words and actions and considering how we can be aware of and accountable for any harm that we may do. We are all on our own lifelong learning journeys and will almost certainly say or do things that harm others Part of maintaining a healthy professional community is learning how to address harm you or others may have caused. Not sure what this looks like? Please read Mia Mingus’ excellent “How to Give an Apology (Parts 1-4)” to learn more about apologies and accountability.

“Curiosity and judgment can’t coexist.” – Mariame Kaba. Let’s be curious (and brave) together.


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

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 have adjusted the “usual” reading load to account for this being anything but a “usual” academic year.  I expect you to be prepared for class by being up to date with the readings, therefore, plan your time wisely.


My goal is to make this course as accessible as is reasonable and feasible, and I will endeavor not to require medical documentation to meet your needs. Any participant who feels they may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability may contact me privately to discuss his or her specific needs.

[Univ of Denver MLIS program-specific language]


I will gladly honor your request to address you by a name other than the one that is in Canvas. We will do some “getting to know you” during class as well, but if you’d like me to know your name, pronouns, or anything else specific about how you’d like to be addressed before class begins/early in the quarter please always feel free to send me an e-mail or a message via Canvas.


Your (DU) 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 (see also: I have another job that has a very high volume of e-mails!). Basically, remember that I am an adjunct with another full-time job, so I ask that you give me at least 24-48 hours to respond.


[Univ of Denver MLIS program-specific language from policy manual]

Grades can be counterproductive to the learning process. They can undermine learning and creativity, teach us to avoid challenging and important work, and to value them over learning and the knowledge I hope we’ll co-create. They can also reinforce a “banking” model of education, where students are vessels for a teacher to place knowledge into, rather than active participants in the learning process.

I will endeavor to make my grading process as transparent as possible, as well as provide detailed comments. That said: your grades are not you. They are not a numerical indication of your self-worth or value. They are determining factors in things like financial aid and course credit, so I take them very seriously – but I ask that, beyond this, you try not to assign additional importance to them.

Readings: Week 1 (Introduction) 

Caswell, Michelle. “The Archive” is not an Archives.” Reconstruction 16.1 2016: (read the section “Archival Studies: An Intellectual History,” p. 4-10).


Readings: Week 2 (Records Management) 

Atherton, Jay. “From Life Cycle to Continuum: Some Thoughts on the Records Management-Archives Relationship.” Archivaria (1985): 43.

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

Bruner, Mia Eloise. “Documenting ICE.” Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies. Spring 2019. DOI:

Cox, Douglas. “In the Trenches.” Journal of Information Ethics 22.2 (2013): 90-101.

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

Readings: Week 3 (History of Archives) 

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.

Oneida Digital Media. “Wampum Belt 2019.” October 30, 2019. (4:05)

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

National Geographic. “Threads That Speak: How the Inca Used Strings to Communicate.” March 10, 2017. YouTube. (4 min)

Zhang, Wenxian. “Dang An: A Brief History of the Chinese Imperial Archives and Its Administration.” Journal of Archival Organization 2, no. 1-2 (2004): 17-38. (Conclusion only)

Readings: Week 4 (Appraisal and Acquisition) 

Cook, Terry. “Evidence, Memory, Identity, and Community: Four Shifting Archival Paradigms.” Archival Science 13.2 (2013): 95-120.

Laura Uglean Jackson, and D. Claudia Thompson. “But You Promised: A Case Study of Deaccessioning at the American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.” The American Archivist 73.2 (2010): 669-85.

Jules, Bergis (2016) Confronting Our Failure of Care Around the Legacies of Marginalized People in the Archives Medium.

Smith College Libraries, Special Collections. “Collection Development Strategy.”

Tansey, Eira. (2020). “No One Owes Their Trauma to Archivists or the Commodification of Contemporaneous Collecting.” (blog post)

Readings – Week 5 (Arrangement and Description) 


Describing Archives: A Content Standard, Version 2019.0.3.1, “Statement of Principles.” and “Crosswalks.”

Gilliland, A (2008) Setting the stage in Introduction to Metadata v. 2.0  (p. 1-19).

Luster, Dominique. “Archives Have the Power to Boost Marginalized Voices.” TEDx Pittsburgh. June 29, 2018 (8:23 min)

Matienzo, M. (2015). “To Hell With Good Intentions: Linked Data, Community, and the Power to Name.”

Use ArchiveGrid to locate a collection that documents a place that is of interest to you and/or that you have some connection to. This will form the basis of part of the discussion for this week and for the “place-based” assignment due in Week 6. It’s not required, but the assignment is more fun if you select a location that you either have visited or can visit (COVID-safe only, please – i.e you can visit it and remain in a well-ventilated, socially distanced location, preferably outdoors). Note: the website’s map function only shows the location of the archival repositories, not the locations that are documented by collections-you’ll need to do keyword searches to find collections that document places/locations.

Readings – Week 6 (Preservation, Conservation, and Disaster Planning) 

Jane Henderson (2020) Beyond lifetimes: who do we exclude when we keep things for the future? Journal of the Institute of Conservation, 43:3, 195-212, DOI: 10.1080/19455224.2020.1810729

Laerte Pereira da Silva Júnior, Maria Manuel Borges (November 2016) “Fundamental Concepts in Digital Preservation.”

Mazurczyk, T, Piekielek, N, Tansey, E, and Goldman, B. “American Archives and Climate Change: Risks and Adaptation.” Climate Risk Management 20 (2018): 111-25.

Northeast Document Conservation Center.  “Preservation 101: Section 1 (What is Preservation?)” (2015). Note: you don’t need to read the rest of it, but it is a good, basic, freely available overview of major preservation/conservation issues you may encounter. This is also true for their “preservation leaflets” series.

Williams, Stacie. (2017) “Sustainable Digital Scholarship: Shrinking Our Footprint, Broadening Our Impact.” Medium 

Readings – Week 7 (Reference, Access and Outreach) 


Barton, Melissa. (August 2019) “Practical How-To Guide: Communicating and Collaborating with Faculty Instructors.” TPS [Teaching with Primary SourcesCollective

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

International Council on Archives, Section of Professional Associations “Advocacy” (brochure). The last 3 pages are about advocating for the Universal Declaration of Archives in Catalonia; you can skip ‘em.

Schaffner, Jennifer (2009) “The Metadata is the Interface: Better Description for Better Discovery of Archives and Special Collections, Synthesized from User Studies.” OCLC Report.

Readings – Week 8 – (Administration)

Hillel Arnold, Dorothy J. Berry, Elizabeth M. Caringola, Angel Diaz, Sarah Hamerman, Erin Hurley, Anna Neatrour, Sandy Rodriguez, Megan Senseney, Ruth Tillman, Amy Wickner, Karly Wildenhaus, and Elliot Williams. Do Better – Love(,) Us: Guidelines for Developing and Supporting Grant-Funded Positions in Digital Libraries, Archives, and Museums (January 2020).

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

Kendrick, Kaetrena. “The Low Morale Experience.” Presentation for the South Carolina State Library. YouTube. March 16, 2020. (59:14). You can listen to this without the visual aid of the presentation.

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.

Ray, Victor. (November 2019) “Why So Many Organizations Stay White.” Harvard Business Review.

Readings – Week 9 (Values & Ethics) 

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

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

Jules, Bergis, E. Summers, and V. J. Mitchell. Documenting the Now White Paper: Ethical Considerations for Archiving Social Media Content Generated by Contemporary Social Movements: Challenges, Opportunities, and Recommendations.” Documenting the Now (2018).

Society of American Archivists. “SAA Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics.” Approved by SAA Council February 2005, updated August 2020.

Solis, Gabriel. “Documenting State Violence: (Symbolic) Annihilation & Archives of Survival.”  (2019). Medium. CW: contains some graphic descriptions of state violence.

No Readings – Week 10