A Review of The American Archivist

Twice a year, the Society of American Archivists releases The American Archivist, which boasts on its website that it’s the best publication of its kind in its field. Their website design is thoroughly middle-of-the-road; it’s functional and clean, with a basic, text-heavy layout. I found this to be appropriate for what I know of the archives world. The priority is placed on preservation, organization, and content rather than on display or user-friendliness. I think it would be a good challenge for the publication to be a bit more sophisticated and current with their interface and display, but I think the presentation is more bland than bad, and the functionality that is there is far more important, so overall, my qualms in this area are asides and do not prohibit me from enjoying the work.

It’s easy, once you land on the page, to find out what the publication is and who puts it out. The text on their homepage reads thus:

This refereed journal seeks to reflect thinking about:
-theoretical and practical developments in the archival profession, particularly in North America;
-the relationships between archivists and the creators and users of archives; and
-cultural, social, legal, and technological developments that affect the nature of recorded information and the need to create and maintain it.

I wanted to see if I felt these goals were reflected in the journal, and it was easy to see where to click to access the content online.

I clicked into Current Issue, and I was brought to the page below. This page makes it very easy to see what level of access I can get to which content. Even though I was taken to the link for the most recent issue, it’s very simple to get to past issues here, too. I like this, because it could have been very frustrating to find something only to be told that I can’t access it. The key up top makes it simple to tell at a glance what I can see.

I clicked into Issue 2, Fall/Winter 2014. I didn’t like how each individual article is a separate link. I’d have enjoyed a single file, though I do see how separating everything makes it easier to hide/show content based on copyright. (Note: even older issues which were open access were presented in this separated way.)

The content in this issue does have a good spread of discussions around cultural, social, legal, and technological issues in archives. I wondered if it was intentionally Twitter-focused, as the last three articles were all about Twitter and Tweeting. I also found the articles to be a nice collection of industry talk, case studies, and archiving tips. There did seem to be a prevalent theme of past to future, leading me to believe that the archives industry is experiencing a strong amount of turbulence and transition. This makes sense, given that the digital era is still unfolding, and new technologies, like tablets, are emerging, which disrupt any progress made, or at least pile on the amount of work to be done.

The articles I clicked into were simple web articles—black type on white background—though they were PDFs, so I wonder if this is the same presentation for the printed content. While I’m forgiving of the websites design, I do think the printed version should have more appeal. This one, too, I’d be interested to see in print for this purpose.


The American Archivist. Society for American Archivists. Web. 5 November 2015.

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