First European Conference for Archival Educators and Trainers
Margaret Crockett, London
Account of Proceedings
This was the first in a projected series of conferences in different parts of the world being run by the ICA Section on Archival Education and Training during the current Medium Term Plan. It was aimed not just at archival educators in universities and other higher education institutions, but at trainers and training procurers such as national archives, professional associations and training providers. It took place in Germany in the beautiful medieval town of Marburg on the 24th and 25th September 2001. The venue was the German Archive School’s brand new home and the rooms set aside for our use were wonderful - modern, with lots of natural light.
There were about 31 participants. They had come from as far away as Australia, China, Japan and Canada as well as Europe from the Baltic to the Balkans and West Wales to Eastern Poland. Although the conference was small, this only enhanced the opportunities to get to know each other and share experiences.
The first day was dedicated to the Keynote address, getting to know each other and the highly successful workshop sessions. The conference was opened by Angelika Menne-Haritz, Director of the Archivschule which was hosting the event and Karen Anderson, President of the ICA Section on Archival Education and Training.
We were very lucky to have Theo Thomassen, from the Archiefschool in the Netherlands and the previous President of the Section to deliver the Keynote Address, “Modelling and Re-modelling Archival Education and Training”. This was a very thought-provoking paper which explored developments in archival education and training from the perspective of two contrasting paradigms: the old industrial model contrasted with the new knowledge paradigm of the organisation and transfer of knowledge. Theo’s paper sought to demonstrate that within the industrial paradigm the four major tendencies in archival education and training - expansion, innovativeness, integration and professionalisation - have met their intellectual and physical boundaries. He argued that a new electronic open sourced and student-centred learning environment for archival education and training might be developed, in which these four major elements could be redirected into appropriate channels.
Once the Keynote address had set a challenging and stimulating tone for the conference the delegates were asked to introduce themselves to the conference. This proved to be a lengthy but worthwhile exercise - it was fascinating to learn what our counterparts in the rest of the world were doing in our field. The introductions took so long that the panel debate, “to train or to educate?” (included in the programme to ensure that people felt comfortable and started talking to each other) had to be abandoned but the morning accomplished the same goals nevertheless.
During the afternoon of the first day we had scheduled workshops which were led by participants and intended to focus on techniques, skills and knowledge that would be useful and interesting to colleagues in the field. The topics covered were: Teaching Tools; Distance Learning; Research; and Curriculum Development. It is probably true to say that these were the most successful and popular items on the programme and the participants got stuck in and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
The team which organised the conference had taken care to plan some very pleasant social activities and the evening of the first day was spent taking a tour of Marburg with a very knowledgeable tourguide. This was followed by a delicious meal in a fine old Marburg restaurant, der Alter Ritter.
The next day began with Nils Brübach, of the Archivschule in Marburg, presenting a case study titled “Electronic Records - Preparing Future Archival Professionals for New and Dynamic Tasks”. He gave a thorough overview of the two programmes of study, undergraduate and postgraduate, concentrating on the electronic records management elements. He asserted that re-modelling paper-based systems 1:1 in an electronic environment is not a viable solution and described an interesting initiative that the Archivschule has of cooperating with the computer industry so that students get hands-on experience of the construction of computer systems which engender records.
Jozo Ivanovic of the Croatian State Archives delivered what proved to be the most controversial presentation, “Archival Education and Information Management: Rivals or Allies?”. He put forward some arguments which challenged the premise that archivists and records managers form a discrete information management profession. There were heated exchanges in the question and answer session following his paper.
The Estonian government archives service provides an interesting case study which covers the issues of the relationship between archives management and the history discipline as well as the issue of the different approaches to archival education: should it be an academic education or a practical training. In addition, Estonian archivists have been further challenged by the Communist history of the Baltic region which meant the archives and records management profession stagnated for several decades. This fascinating presentation, “Archival Education and Training from Ground Zero: the Estonian Experience” was given by Priit Pirsko, Director of the Estonian National Archives.
The Archive-Skills Consultancy, run by Margaret Crockett and Janet Foster, presented a case study which focused on training for archives and records management staff. They drew on their experience of delivering training at home in the UK as well as in an international environment in Hungary, Estonia and Mongolia. Their session, “Training: the Art of the Possible” ended with a web presentation of the Mongolian Photo Journal.
Ann Pederson of the University of New South Wales and a long serving member of the SAE Steering Committee delivered a paper on “The Role of Research in Academia and the Profession”. Ann has been studying this subject for some time and her paper provided an interesting insight into this topical issue. She drew on the results of the Research Workshop that she facilitated earlier in the program, drawing attention to barriers and drivers to research activity in academia.
A series of showcases had been scheduled to bring participants up to date with significant international developments in archival education and training. Karen Anderson, the Section President, presented the ICA/SAE Medium Term Plan so that participants would know which projects they could expect to see completed by 2004. Theo Thomassen reported on the activities of the newly formed ICA Training Committee of which he is a member. Finally we were fortunate to have the Project Manager of e-TERM, a European project to develop teaching tools for managing electronic records - Peter Horsman delivered a report on this project which will be very useful to archival educators.
The final session was a facilitated discussion intended to focus our thoughts on “a Checklist for the Future”. The conference was very enthusiastic about maintaining contact and having more conferences like this in the near future - and we were immediately issued with an invitation from the Netherlands Archive School for 2003, although there is a prior offer from Harnosand in Sweden already on the table. The checklist will be published on the SAE website (http://www.ica-sae.org/). Let’s hope that this will be the first of many European conferences and that we will be welcoming colleagues from all over the world for stimulating and challenging debate that will help the profession of archival educators and trainers to develop and strengthen.
Margaret Crockett, Conference Organiser
London, January 2002
e-mail to Dr. Karsten Uhde, Date: 14.01.2005