notions of knowledge sharing in archival access

Download the full poster (.pdf)!

Open Access is…

  • a foundational value of library and information science.
  • a value that is not shared by all cultures.
  • especially important to keep in mind in the digital context.

There are different cultural values of knowledge sharing.

  • Respect the heritage of the materials and the context of creation.
  • Be cautious; don’t provide open access without first thinking about the implications. You can’t take knowledge back once it’s been shared, especially in the digital world.

Make decisions about access based on those cultural values.

  • Restrictions based on these cultural values are not in conflict with archival ethics. Restrictions already exist for medical and privacy reasons – while some of these may be for legal compliance, they are based on cultural values.
  • SAA Code of Ethics states: “Archivists strive to promote open and equitable access to their services and the records in their care without discrimination or preferential treatment, and in accordance with legal requirements, cultural sensitivities, and institutional policies.”

One size doesn’t fit all.

  • There’s no easy answer, and one solution won’t work for every situation.
  • If you have materials in which you are unfamiliar with the context and heritage of creation – do your research: talk to the donor, talk to the communities, and read the academic literature.

Recommended Readings

  • Brown, M. F. (1998). Can culture be copyrighted? Current Anthropology, 39(2), 193-206.
  • Brown, M. F. (1998). Cultural records in question: Information and its moral dilemmas. Cultural Resource Management, 21(6), 18-20.
  • Brown, M. F. (2003). Who owns native culture?. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Hodson, S. S. (2006). Archives on the web: Unlocking collections while safeguarding privacy. First Monday, 11(8), Retrieved from
  • Kukathas, C. (2008). Cultural privacy. The Monist, 91(1), 68-80.

Want to learn more?  Read the paper.

This topic is one I am interested in pursuing further, and the poster is based on a research paper I wrote for a library school class.  Please keep in mind that the paper is an introduction and early exploration of the topic.


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