Richard J. Cox


Is Professionalism Still an Acceptable Goal for Archivists in the Global Digital Society?

In this paper I will revisit my essay, “Professionalism and Archivists in the United States,” American Archivist 49 (Summer 1986): 229-247, drawing upon sociological models of the traits and characteristics of professions as a means of drafting an agenda for developing the community of archivists and their status within society. Written in the midst of an intense period of professional planning and self-scrutiny, this article presented the normal call for improved disciplinary knowledge, education, and public awareness. However, in the thirty years since, with the emerging digital society, disciplinary convergence, increased cultural sensitivities and self-awareness, growing community and indigenous archives, and networked social media, does such a traditional view of professionalism still remain relevant as a discussion focus? If not, how should we now view what we do and explain our mission to the world? Suggestions will be offered about what we should now be saying about the essential tenets of the archival mission.


Richard J. Cox is a Professor in Archival Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Sciences, recently appointed as Chair of the new Department of Information Culture and Data Stewardship. Dr. Cox has served as Editor of the American Archivist and the Records & Information Management Report. He has written extensively on archival and records management topics and has published numerous books and articles in this area, winning the Society of American Archivists’ Waldo Gifford Leland Award for the best book on archives three times. Most recently, he co-edited with Alison Langmead and Eleanor Mattern selected essays from the 2014 Archival Education and Research Institute (AERI) conference published by Litwin books. Dr. Cox was elected a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists in 1989.