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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Archival Consent

  • Author(s): Botnick, Julie
  • et al.

The idealized value of “open access” to information in traditional Western archives is grounded in a right to property based in a racially and gender biased jurisprudence, and thus legal arguments for “open access” replicate those same privileges and harms. Rather than rely on legal frameworks for decision-making around access and use, this paper argues that adopting consent-based models of self-determination would shift the paradigm of archival policies and practices around use and access from one based on individual property rights to one based on relationships, autonomy, and prioritization of record creators and subjects. To deconstruct these systems of privilege and actively bring forth the voices of non-homogeneous archival subjects will require not just advocating for small reforms, but for entirely new ways of thinking about and doing our work. This paper uses Critical Race Theory (CRT) to question Western jurisprudence and deconstruct the assumed neutrality of Intellectual Property (IP), the legal basis for the archival tenet of open access. Next, the paper offers three non-legal or extra-legal models of consent which serve as examples for thinking beyond status quo assumptions of archival practice. The three models explored and evaluated are indigenous protocols, feminist affirmative consent, and Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). Instead of seeing this process as restricting or censoring, the adoption of these protocols would lead to increased trust, more accessible archival description, and a more pleasurable archival endeavor.

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