| Access to archival records: A review of current issues: A RAMP study |
|3. Enhancing awareness of archival holdings|
3.5 The basic familiarity with archival operations that awareness activities provide are not sufficient to enable participants to become experienced users. It is not enough to know that there may be pertinent or interesting information in archives; potential users must learn in more detail what that information is and how to retrieve it. Archives therefore have a responsibility to teach, at least in a basic way, the central principles upon which archival work is based and upon which retrieval of archival records is dependent. In so doing, archives provide researchers with the intellectual tools with which to attack their research problems.
3.6 The chief objective of archival education programmes is to instruct actual and prospective users in research strategies and techniques. These can include introductory sessions or videos on archives and special "how to do archival research" seminars for advanced university students, to name just two, or may involve explanations of other archival functions, such as appraisal. Users should not only learn how to consult finding aids; they must understand the process by which records are created, organized, and find their way into a repository.
3.7 It is also crucial for users to know how to best select the information they need from among the multitude of sources available to them. Archival research must not only be inclusive but effective. After all, of what use is a CD-ROM containing a number of multi-media fonds if users do not know how to identify and retrieve the information they require? Education programmes, consequently, must be devised in such a fashion that they can feed the research process at its different stages and under different conditions. Products must not only be available to prospective users before they arrive at an archives, they must support them throughout their search in the institution and afterwards.
3.8 Image building, awareness, and educational programmes, consequently, help people learn of the usefulness of archives. Often, such a level of involvement in the archival process is sufficient as it provides adequate exposure to archival information and operations. And even though not all individuals will become regular archives users, they will have acquired an understanding of the role of archives and an appreciation of how archives may be of service to them. For others, however, these forms of indirect access are but a first step towards actual use of the holdings.