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Unruly Records: Personal Archives, Sociotechnical Infrastructure, and Archival Practice

Gunn, Chelsea (2020) Unruly Records: Personal Archives, Sociotechnical Infrastructure, and Archival Practice. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Personal records have long occupied a complicated space within archival theory and practice. The archival profession, as it is practiced in the United States today, developed with organizational records, such as those created by governments and businesses, in mind. Personal records were considered to fall beyond the bounds of archival work and were primarily cared for by libraries and other cultural heritage institutions. Since the mid-20th century, this divide has become less pronounced, and it has become common to find personal records within archival institutions. As a result of these conditions in the development of the profession, the archivists who work with personal records have had to reconcile the specific characteristics of personal materials with theoretical and practical approaches that were designed not only to accommodate organizational records but to explicitly exclude personal records.

These conditions have been further complicated by the continually changing technological landscape in which personal records are now created. As ownership of personal computers, access to the World Wide Web, and the use of networked social platforms have grown, personal records have increasingly come to be created, stored, and accessed within complex socio-technical systems. The infrastructures that support personal digital record creation today precipitate new methods and strategies, and an abundance of new questions, for the archivists who are responsible for collecting and preserving digital cultural heritage.

This dissertation considers how both the history of excluding personal records in the archival profession and the socio-technical systems that support contemporary personal record creation impact archival practice today. This research considers archival approaches to working with personal records created within three environments: personal computers, the open web, and networked social platforms. Ultimately, this dissertation seeks to reevaluate the role that personal records have previously occupied, and to center the personal in archival practice today.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Gunn, Chelseacmg100@pitt.educmg100
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLangmead, Alisonadlangmead@pitt.eduadlangmead
Committee MemberWood, Stacysewood@pitt.edusewood
Committee MemberPutnam, Laralep12@pitt.edulep12
Committee MemberSutherland,
Date: 26 August 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 27 July 2020
Approval Date: 26 August 2020
Submission Date: 7 August 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 241
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Computing and Information > Library and Information Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: archives, personal archives, digital archives
Date Deposited: 26 Aug 2020 16:01
Last Modified: 26 Aug 2020 16:01


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