Jenny Hon Sec: This was a really interesting discussion of professional and personal ethics and the impact on archival collections and access. His talk was on access, accountability and social justice and he opened by mentioning the controversy surrounding the release of the Lockerbie bomber and the decision taken to publish correspondence relating to the decision-making process.
Professor Jimerson also gave us a new view of the archive as a temple of objects to be worshipped, a prison with guards, or a restaurant with exciting menus. The other scenario he discussed was a selection of journalists asked to find out what archives were all about. They all visit different types of repository and come up with completely different answers: a place to ensure the rights of citizens are upheld, a place to preserve the collective memory, a place of learning materials for the public. None of these – they only serve the organisation they belong to. Or do they belong to everyone and create a more cohesive society?
The importance of the decisions we make when we appraise records was also discussed – we decide what the future will know and what will be forgotten. Nelson Mandela had also noted the importance of archives in redressing the balance and ensuring that memories of forgotten sections of the population. He said, the youth need to know where we have come from.
Professor Jimerson argued that archivists cannot and should not be neutral collectors and gatekeepers. The archival process is intrinsically political and archivists cannot stand aside as neutral and dispassionate : to do so is an active statement benefiting the oppressors and not the victims. Archives need to be for the people and by the people with a commitment to democratic values to stand against misuse of power.