There is a contemporary battle raging in the ranks of librarians and archivists. As scholars like Terry Cook (2001) and Isto Huvila (2008) have pointed out, this set-to focuses on traditional positivist understandings of archival science and its failure to account for and exploit the successes of Web 2.0 collections like YouTube and Flickr, repositories that exist online, that are to some extent generated by, and shaped by, users, and, in these important respects, escape the control of professional archivists.

One result of this war, for instance, was a conference sponsored jointly by the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change at the University of Manchester and the Archives Hub entitled  “Archives 2.0: Shifting Dialogues Between Users and Archivists.” The polarized terms and their positioning in this title—archivists and users—are revealing.

More traditionally minded archivists, for example, continue to view their collections and their management of their collections in a positivist light, understanding archives as collections constructed, described, managed, and controlled by specialist archivists who identify and build collections, who manage and control access to them, and who are experts in the science of diplomatics, the of the genesis, inner constitution and transmission of archival documents, and of their relationship with the facts represented in them and with their creator.

"Genesis and Preservation"


At the heart of the new paradigm is a shift away from looking at records as the passive products of human or administrative activity and towards considering records as active agents themselves in the formation of human and organizational memory; a shift equally away from seeing the context of records creation resting within stable hierarchical organizations to situating records within fluid horizontal networks of work-flow functionality. For archivists, the paradigm shift requires moving away from identifying themselves as passive guardians of an inherited legacy to celebrating their role in actively shaping collective (or social) memory.

(Cook, 2001, p. 4)