Comma

Active encouragement of accessing archives: a prerequisite for democracy

Comma (2015), 2015, (2), 21–26.

Abstract

How do archival institutions organize themselves actively and systematically to encourage and inspire citizens to use their right to access official documents? 2016 is the 250th anniversary of the Swedish Freedom of the Press Act. Archival institutions are key to enable this Act and its principle of public access to official documents. However, the public role of archival institutions is not something commonly discussed or prioritized – either in practice or in legislation. This article introduces a model describing different functions within the public role of archival institutions. The roles of the archivist and of the archive learning officer are analysed as mutually supportive and beneficial. Both roles are equally crucial to the public but have differing points of departure and focus on different needs and prerequisites of the users and of potential users of archives and records. To achieve the mind-set manifested in the model, both the staff of archival institutions and the public need help to change existing ideas and attitudes, but help is also needed in the form of legislation and professional training which prioritize these issues. Being a democratic institution means taking an active stance towards accessing archives in order to facilitate learning and development for everyone.

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