Working with Knowledge Conference - theme explored
Some notes on the theme of the conference penned by Gavan McCarthy -
"Working with Knowledge" has three distinct meanings and many levels of
meaning for the archivists at this conference:
A - "Archivists work with Records" and records are a vehicle for the
transmission of knowledge through time - of course this has particular
meaning to the practice of science where the whole activity is consciously
based on the creation and transmission of knowledge.
So for science, technology and medicine archivists we are not only
attempting to preserve records that capture knowledge (content) in transit
but also to capture the process of scientific knowledge creation (context).
Without the context, the content has little hope of succesfully being
transmitted through time and / or space so that it can be understood in
different contexts. This indeed gets to the core of the archivists role -
the maximisation of the capture of context to facilitate the transmission
Prior to the explosive development of the Internet very few, other than
archivists, would have understood the importance of the above statement but
now the importance of context and metadata are the catch cries of the
Information Technology industry.
B - Archivists also must work with a knowledge of the broader contexts and
environments in which records exist as it is through this knowledge that
sensible and meaningful decisions can be made as to their on-going value.
1 - for archivists to make useful and meaningful decisions in relation to
the management of records they need to work with a clear and comprehensive
knowledge of the environment in which those records were created.
2 - for archivists to assign historic value to records they need to work
with a clear and comprehensive knowledge of what similar and related
records are already held and where, they also need to have a knowledge of
similar and related records that have been destroyed.
New information technologies have brought with them new tools that can
enable archivists to work with knowledge at all levels. However there is
much to learn:
* old practices have to be critically examined (and many discarded);
* old concepts that helped us understand our work in the analogue world
have to be discarded and new ones found;
* fundamental principles have to be restated in terms that are not
* we must strive for a new level of international and cross cultural
understanding and interoperability.
C. The Users of Archives use the knowledge of records and the knowledge
transmitted via records to create new understandings and new knowledge and
to communicate these to the wider community. We have two very significant
examples of this in Session 6 of the conference - Coming Back to and using
the Information held in Records:
Jennifer Learmont, who used records created as a result of scientific work
on AIDS to facilitate a significant break-through in the research and
indeed change the direction of the research effort.
Bridget Goodwin, who used extensive and broad multiple media archival
resources, held in both private and public hands, to compile her
documentary "Keen as Mustard" (screened on ABC TV Tuesday 21 April 1998,
8.30pm) which examined chemical warfare research in Australia during the
Second World War.
Australia has much to offer to the broader international archival mission,
particularly through its work on the archives of science, technology and
medicine, and it is through this conference that we hope to share and
develop this understanding.
For further information on the Working with Knowledge Conference contact
the Conference Organiser.
Updates on the conference are available on the conference web site at
Project Archivist/Conference Organiser
Australian Science Archives Project
203 Bouverie Street
Carlton, VIC 3053 Australia
Phone: +61 3 9344 9287 Fax: +61 3 9349 4630
ASAPWeb! on http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au
-----> ASAP - Recovering Australia's Scientific Heritage