Elisabeth Kaplan

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    Realizing the Concept: A History of the Charles Babbage Institute Archives
    (Association for Computing Machinery, 2001) Kaplan, Elisabeth; Bruemmer, Bruce
    In this essay, CBl's former and current archivists reflect on the history and evolution of the CBI archives. Bruce H. Bruemmer, CBl's first professional archivist, served in that capacity from 1984 to 1997. Elisabeth Kaplan was appointed CBI archivist in July 1999.
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    Sources for ACM History: What, where, and why
    (Association for Computing Machinery, 2005-05) Kaplan, Elisabeth; Seib, Carrie; Haigh, Thomas
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    "Mind and Sight": Visual Literacy and the Archivist
    (1997) Kaplan, Elisabeth; Mifflin, Jeffrey
    Abstract: Contemporary culture is increasingly captured by and reflected in visual materials. Preserving and providing intellectual access to visual records will become an increasingly important aspect of archival work as such materials proliferate and are widely available in electronic form. Visual literacy, an evolving concept best defined as the ability to understand and use images and to think and learn in terms of images, is an essential skill for archivists and researchers using visual materials. Archivists of all media should strive to increase their visual literacy because of the complex ways in which visual and "traditional" textual documents interrelate. Archivists can approach visual literacy by becoming familiar with levels of visual awareness; participating in the ongoing discourse about the nature of literacy, including the relationships between visual and textual literacy; and increasing understanding of the special characteristics of image-creating technologies as well as the conventions and modes of expression associated with particular media. Expanded visual literacy will help archivists to understand and better describe visual resources as well as traditional documents and other materials of record. The results, improved finding aids and catalog records, will keep pace with anticipated expanding requirements of the research community.
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    Practicing Archives with a Postmodern Perspective
    (2001) Kaplan, Elisabeth
    Despite the near ubiquity of so-called postmodern discourse in the social sciences and humanities over the past two decades, the archival profession has in general been loath to reconsider its self-image as objective guardian of a naturally occurring historical record. The “myth of objectivity and neutrality, “ as Joan Schwartz and Terry Cook have termed it, stems from pioneer archives theorist Sir Hilary Jenkinson, whose 1922 textbook asserted that archivists are the passive, impartial “keepers” of “disinterested” or “innocent” documentary residue inherited from the past. Recently, a growing number of archivists have begun to question this view and have called for the profession to reconsider this naïve, unexamined faith in its own objectivity. Non-archivists, too, have argued provocatively and persuasively on the nature of archives and the role of archivists.
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    'Many paths to partial truths:' archives, anthropology, and the power of representation
    (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002) Kaplan, Elisabeth
    Ever since the 1970s, movements in the social sciences and humanities s have encouraged an increasing epistemological scrutiny of such concepts as representation, authenticity and objectivity, and their relationship to matters of power and authority. Archival thinking, however, has remained largely isolated from the broader intellectual landscape, and archival practice has remained curiously bound up in modes of thought and practice distinctly rooted in 19th century Positivism. Archivists have even resisted the efforts of those within their own ranks to challenge this isolation and re-situate the premises of archival identity in a larger intellectual context. This essay suggests that archivists can draw meaningful comparisons by reading outside their field in disciplines, such as anthropology, with which archives shares key features, such as a central concern with issues of representation and description. In this essay, key anthropological writings throughout the last century of anthropology are examined against a backdrop of trends in archival thinking, contrasting the tumultuous epistemological debate within anthropology with the relative calm in the archival profession. This contrast is strikingly embodied by the coincidence of the publication, in 1922, and both in London, of leading theorists from both fields: Bronislaw Malinowski and Sir Hilary Jenkinson. The essay suggests that, in order to remain relevant and conversant with our partners and stakeholders, archivists must take the matter of their isolation seriously as an exercise in self-reflection. More important, archivists must devise practicable ways to continue to do archival work without the positivist blinders of the past.
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    Developing electronic records capacity in the small collecting repository: the Documenting Internet2 Project
    (OCLC/RLG, 2006-08-15) Akmon, Dharma; Kaplan, Elisabeth
    What options are available to a small scale collecting repository when the core documentation in its primary subject area is no longer created in traditionally manageable formats? How well do traditional methods for appraising institutional records, which were developed in the context of stable, structured organizations, adapt to increasingly distributed, dynamic organizations whose records are primarily born-digital? For a collecting repository whose subject area is high technology, the problem feels particularly acute: the irony of trying to capture adequate documentation of developments in information technology in paper only is ever present. These questions were at the core of a collaborative project, funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and administered by the University of Minnesota’s Charles Babbage Institute (CBI) Center for the History of Information Technology between 2003 and 2005. In this article, we describe a few of the methods, findings, and ideas for further exploration generated during “Documenting Internet2: A Collaborative Model for Developing Electronic Records Capacities in the Small Archival Repository.”
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    We are what we collect, we collect what we are: Archives and the construction of identity
    (Society of American Archivists, 2000) Kaplan, Elisabeth
    This essay considers the role of archives and archivists against a backdrop of the contemporary debate on identity, illustrated by research on the establishment and early years of the oldest extant ethnic historical society in the United States-the American Jewish Historical Society-and the construction of American/Jewish identities. Recent intellectual debate has examined questions of national, ethnic, gender, class, and community identities, of individual and group identity, and of the formation of identity. A spectrum of positions has emerged from this debate. On one end, identity is viewed as "real," intrinsic to individuals and communities or even biologically based. On the other, identity is conceived of as social fiction, constructed culturally for political and historical reasons. On the whole, serious scholars have rejected the former view. Archivist5 should be cognizant of this fact because they are major players in the business of identity politics, whether they are conscious of it or not. Archivists appraise, collect, and preserve the props with which notions of identity are built. In turn, notions of identity are confirmed andjustified as historical documents validate their authority.