Intergenerational Conversations: Reflecting on the Work of John Fleckner

By Rose Buchanan, John Fleckner, Rand Jimerson, and Stephanie Luke [PDF Full Text]

Since the American Archivist Reviews Portal was established in 2011, it has served as a forum for archivists to discuss the software, digital collections, media, and best practices that impact their daily work. In that time, contributors have reviewed over eighty archives-related resources, reflecting on the many ways in which technology, texts, and platforms have impacted the archives profession and how archives, in turn, have influenced society. 

We are excited to introduce a new series to the Reviews Portal, one that will expand the Portal’s focus and make the most of its dynamic format. Intergenerational Conversations will foster ongoing dialogue between new voices in the archives profession and authors whose work shaped the professional literature years ago. Reviewers will provide critical evaluations of specific articles from the literature along with personal reflections on the major themes of these works and their relevance today.

In our inaugural year of the series, we will focus on the work of archives scholar, practitioner, Society of American Archivists (SAA) Fellow, and former SAA President John Fleckner. Fleckner’s writings span forty years and have shaped both archival theory and archival practice. As he remarks, “Nearly all began as talks to in-person audiences and addressed a range of topics that seemed, to me, important at the moment. Today, I expect, they will evoke somewhat different but also illuminating reactions from new audiences in very different settings.” 

Rand Jimerson, another archives scholar whose work has shaped the profession, proposed the theme of this series. As he notes, bringing together voices from across generations “will enhance conversations and analysis of the impact of archival concepts on the profession, showing what aspects of [past scholars’] writings have remained significant, proved prophetic, or require reconsideration from a more contemporary perspective.” Fleckner likewise remarks that “engaging generations of archivists in conversation about the profession reminds us that we are in a very long-term enterprise, not only preserving records and papers for the future, but changing and adapting our knowledge, education, perspectives, and practices over time. Seeing ourselves in this continuum enriches our understanding of our work. It also aids us in communicating our mission to the wider society, a vital obligation for a profession in which so much social, cultural, and civic trust has been placed.” 

As archivists reconsider many aspects of our work—from appraisal to access—and wrestle with challenges seen and unforeseen—from budget cuts to pandemics—we hope this series will provide a timely way to reflect on the enduring values of the archives profession and spark new conversations about our collective future.

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