On Friday, archivist Kate Theimer posted on her ArchivesNext blog a post that she titled "Why we need to find a term to replace “citizen archivist.” The discussion relates to my earlier posting this week that discussed the need to think about our terminology and its evolution. [Blog Versus Diary: Just New Technology or a Whole New Way of Thinking?] Please see Kate's original post. I've pasted the response that I made on her site below:
I don’t find the use of the term “archivist” by non-professionals objectionable, but I think there is a need to raise awareness about exactly what a professional archivist does. I don’t think “citizen archivist” helps raise that awareness and I agree with Kate that the term muddies the waters. In my upcoming book “Cultural Heritage Collaborators: A Manual for Community Documentation” I discuss Cultural Heritage Collaborators as those working to preserve cultural heritage and the documentary record. This group includes professionals in the LAM and quasi-professionals who are required to care for records, but who may not be as concerned about the cultural nature of items. This group includes people such as some records managers and municipal clerks. I identify a final group that I call the Non-professionals. These are people who have some interest in records or history, but who may not have the training or background to properly care for archival materials. This includes volunteers, civic association secretaries, business administrators and the like. I would like to see the development of “sexier” terms to describe each collaborator, but I also want to see the emphasis on partnership heightened. (I’m lack of a better term than sexy on a Sunday afternoon, so please forgive me.) If we can come up with terms that balance the idea of needing professional expertise to care for records for posterity with the idea that records are important to everyone, I think it would be a great service to our profession and would make great strides toward more effective outreach. “Unmudding” our terminology, as I discussed on my ArchivesInfo blog earlier this week, can only help us and lead to better care of archives in general.