Archives in the Life of the User: What Archives Can Learn from User-Centric Museums

Jason P. Martin


Library, archive, and museum convergence is still a topic of much contention in some academic circles. However, resistance is perhaps most entrenched in the archival discipline. This article attempts to briefly examine why that might be the case, and then asks the question: What can archives learn from museums' relatively-new increased focus on being user-centric?

The author uses the extraordinary scholarship of authors such as Paul F. Marty, W. Boyd Rayward, and numerous others in order to examine changes in libraries and, most specifically, museums, as well as the creation of the museum information professional role and the use of museum informatics. From this examination, the article suggests that archives and archivists could indeed benefit greatly from further explorating into, and adaptation of, the museum world's increasingly user-centric approach. It is furthermore suggested, following in the prior steps of libraries and museums, that the focus of archives should move from a "user in the life of the archive" to an "archive in the life of the user" mentality.


LAM, archives, archivists, museums,

Full Text:



Buckley, Karen. “The Truth is in the Red Files: An Overview of Archives in Popular Culture." Archivaria 66 (Fall 2008): 95-123.

Craig, Barbara L. “Old Myths in New Clothes: Expectations of Archives Users.” Archivaria 45 (Spring 1998): 118-126.

--- "What are the Clients? Who are the Products? The Future of Archival Public Services in Perspective." Archivaria 31 (Winter 1990-91): 135-41.

Doucet, Michelle. "Library and Archives Canada: A case study of a national library, archives and museum merger." RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts and Cultural Heritage 8, No. 1 (2007): 61-66.

Douglas, Jennifer. "Innovative practices: reference and outreach in the digital environment." Lecture, ARST 540 - Archival Public Services, University of British Columbia. March 16, 2015.

Duranti, Luciana. "Origin and Development of the Concept of Archival Description." Archivaria 35 (Spring 1993): 47-54.

Eastwood, Terry. "Public Services Education for Archivists." The Reference Librarian 26, No. 56 (1997): 27-38.

Elings, Mary W. and Günter Waibel. “Metadata for All: Descriptive Standards and Metadata Sharing Across Libraries, Archives, and Museums.” First Monday 12, No. 3 (2007): n.p. (Last accessed April 9, 2015).

Gelfand, Aleksandr. "If We Build It (and Promote It) They Will Come: History of Analog and Digital Exhibits in Archival Repositories." Journal of Archival Organization 11, No. 1-2 (2013): 49-82.

Gross, Charlene Hsu. "Keeping CALM - Cooperation, Collaboration, Convergence." New Members Round Table 39, No. 4, (May, 2010). (Last accessed on April 6, 2015).

Hensen, Steven L. "The First Shall Be First: APPM and Its Impacts on American Archival Description." Archivaria 35 (Spring 1993): 64-70.

Kalfatovic, M. R., E. Spiess, K. Kapsalis, A. Van Camp, and M. Edson. "Smithsonian Team Flickr: A library, archives, and museums collaboration in web 2.0 space." Archival Science 8, No. 4 (2008): 267-77.

Marty, Paul F. "The Changing Nature of Information Work in Museums." Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 58, No. 1 (2007): 97-107.

--- "Digital Convergence and the Information Profession in Cultural Heritage Organizations: Reconciling Internal and External Demands." Library Trends 62, No. 3 (2014): 613-27.

--- "An Introduction to Digital Convergence: Libraries, Archives, and Museums in the Information Age." Archival Science 8 (2008): 247-50.

--- "Museum Informatics and Collaborative Technologies: The Emerging Socio-technological Dimension of Information Science in Museum Environments." Journal of the American Society for Information Science 50 (1999): 1083-91.

Pugh, Mary Jo. Providing Reference Services for Archives & Manuscripts. Chicago: Society of American Archivists (2005).

Rayward, W. Boyd. "Electronic information and the functional integration of libraries, museums, and archives" in E. Higgs (Ed.), History and electronic artefacts. Oxford: Clarendon Press (1998): 207-25.

Scott, Peter J. "The Record Group Concept: A Case for Abandonment." American Archivist 29, No. 4, (October 1966): 493-504.

Timms, Katherine. "New Partnerships for Old Sibling Rivals: The Development of Integrated Access Systems for the Holdings of Archives, Libraries, and Museums." Archivaria 68 (Fall, 2009): 67-95.

Usherwood, Bob, Kerry Wilson, and Jared Bryson. "Perceptions of archives, libraries, and museums in modern Britain." Library & Information Research 29, No. 93 (Winter 2005): 50-7.

Yakel, Elizabeth. "Listening to Users." Archival Issues 26, No. 2 (2002): 53-68.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2016 Jason P. Martin