I am reading and re-reading the literature on archival description for a variety of reasons that I won’ t bore anybody with. But I came across this definition of what makes an effective archivist at the end of an article by Jennifer Meehan.
“To negotiate the leap from what is known to what is unknown about records takes not only well-developed research skills and subject knowledge, but also a nuanced understanding of archival principles, critical and creative thinking, and, perhaps more than anything, an imaginative frame of mind.” (from “Making the Leap from Parts to Whole: Evidence and Inference in Archival Arrangement and Description“)
Thank you Jennifer Meehan for providing what, I think, is the best summary of the qualifications of an effective archivist I have ever read! It would be good for the profession if more archivists would acknowledge, reflect upon, and discuss openly the extent to which what they do, namely “negotiate the leap” from present to past (though records), is a creative and imaginative act. I am all for archivists owning the fact that their imaginative and creative abilities stand at the center of the archival enterprise.