Diversifying the Archival Record: A Call for Case Studies

The Society of American Archivists is publishing a series of case studies that illustrate diversity in the archival record and/or unique efforts to collect and document a variety of individuals, groups, and organizations.  Case studies will be peer reviewed using a single-blind process. They will be published electronically and distributed through the SAA website under a Creative Commons license, with copyright retained by the authors. Suggested use for these case studies includes as teaching tools in graduate archival education programs and in continuing education workshops, as well as generally by archivists to stimulate dialogue and thought.

The issue of diversity has long been central to the archives profession. SAA's Strategic Plan (2013‒2018) thoroughly embeds the concept of diversity:

  • MISSION: SAA promotes the value and diversity of archives and archivists. We are the preeminent source of professional resources and the principal communication hub for American archivists.
  • CORE ORGANIZATIONAL VALUES: The Society of American Archivists is committed to ensuring the diversity of its membership and leaders, the profession, and the archival record.
  • GOAL 1: ADVOCATING FOR ARCHIVES AND ARCHIVISTS. Society values the vital role of archivists and archives: SAA will provide leadership in ensuring the completeness, diversity, and accessibility of the historical record.
  • GOAL 2: ENHANCING PROFESSIONAL GROWTH.  Archivists have access to the professional resources they need to be successful and effective in their careers: SAA will deliver information and education via methods that are accessible, affordable, and keep pace with technological change.
  • GOAL 3: ADVANCING THE FIELD.  Professional knowledge expands to keep pace with an increasingly diverse archival record: SAA will participate actively in relevant partnerships and collaborations to enhance professional knowledge.
  • GOAL 4: MEETING MEMBERS’ NEEDS.  SAA is an agile association that delivers outstanding service and fosters a culture of inclusiveness and participation: SAA will continue to enrich the association and the profession with greater diversity in membership and expanded leadership opportunities.

SAA’s Core Values Statement also reflects the Society's commitment to helping to diversify the archival record:

"Archivists collectively seek to document and preserve the record of the broadest possible range of individuals, socio-economic groups, governance, and corporate entities in society. Archivists embrace the importance of identifying, preserving, and working with communities to actively document those whose voices have been overlooked or marginalized. They seek to build connections to under-documented communities to support: acquisition and preservation of sources relating to these communities’ activities, encouragement of community members’ use of archival research sources, and/or formation of community-based archives. Archivists accept and encourage a diversity of viewpoints on social, political, and intellectual issues, as represented both in archival records and among members of the profession. They actively work to achieve a diversified and representative membership in the profession." 

Examples of diverse projects and collections include:

Developing an Idea

The successful case study will present the problems in ways that explore and analyze a situation but without pointing the reader in the direction of a particular solution or set of solutions. If you have an idea for a case study and would like feedback prior to writing it, feel free to contact Diversity Committee Chair (see the roster). It is not necessary, nor does it guarantee publication, to contact the chair prior to writing a case study. Rather, it is an option if you would like to discuss an idea and receive informal input before you begin writing.

Elements of a Case Study 

  • Introduction and Institutional Context: Identify the key ethical issue or issues presented, the reason for the case, and key challenges involved. Set the stage by providing institutional context such as the  ethical environment and/or general milieu of the organization. As appropriate, refer to previous publications or resources that may shed light on this topic. 
  • Narrative: Present the story of the case. Describe what happened and how the events created a problem or dilemma. This should be written in the third person and in the past tense, generally using full names of the individuals involved. If the case needs to be anonymized, this should be stated explicitly in the introduction. Direct quotations may be used to enhance the flow of the narrative and to develop different perspectives.  There are many ways to write the body of a case study. In one example, the narrative leads to a decision point and ends with a series of questions, potentially used for discussion, that crystallize those points of decision. In another, the story may be presented completely—from start to finish—with the aftermath of the events forming the conclusion. In this type of case, the analysis involves an examination of the various event elements.
  • Conclusions: Tell how the case ended. Explain what happened. Was there resolution or are there continuing issues? Did policy at the organization change? How did the organization and/or major players in the case react?
  • Discussion: Raise a set of questions useful for group discussion or self-reflection. Another option is to  analyze the case in narrative fashion. The nature of the ethical issues and how they are presented dictate the best format for the discussion section.   
  • Keywords: A list of optional keywords to describe the themes of a study are offered in the submission form. If applied, these will, in part, provide ease in searching among multiple published Case Studies in Diversifying the Archival Record.

Submitting a Case Study

To submit a case study, please use the SUBMISSION FORM. Include all of the required information—such as institutional identity, authorship, and case summary—in the order that it is requested. Suggested case study length is 2,500 to 5,000 words. Authors are responsible for understanding and following the principles that govern the “fair use” of quotations and illustrations and for obtaining written permission to publish, where necessary. Accuracy in citations is also the author’s responsibility.

Review Process

All submissions will be reviewed by two members of the Diversity Committee and evaluated according to a RUBRIC. The reviewers will return the case study and completed rubric within three weeks of receipt to the Chair of the Diversity Committee, who will then review the feedback and make a publication recommendation to SAA’s Publications Editor. Within five weeks after submission, the case study author will be notified of the publication decision.

A submission will not be considered if is being reviewed by another publishing outlet at the same time, nor if it has been published previously in a similar form.

Publication Process  

Once accepted, case studies will be submitted to the SAA Publications Editor and Director of Publishing for light copyediting. If major changes are needed, a version tracking those changes will be sent to the author for confirmation. After the author signs off on a final version, SAA will format the case study and post it to the website as a PDF. 

Copyright of the case study will remain with the author, and SAA will acknowledge this in the copyright line that appears with the case study. Authors will consent, grant, and assign to SAA the non-exclusive right to publish and/or distribute all or any part of the case study throughout the world in electronic or any other medium. In return, SAA agrees to publish the work under a Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives license.