Connecting the Disconnected: Designing Socially Inclusive, Integrated, Archival and Recordkeeping systems and Services

Through a series of co-design workshops and related activities, the aim is to explore how digital and networking capabilities, rich recordkeeping metadata, and the expertise of impacted communities can be harnessed to develop systems configured around community information, self-knowledge and memory needs and contribute to transformative changes in archival access and other recordkeeping services.

Research activities

Through a four year ARC Future Fellowship (2015-19), Dr Joanne Evans is investigating a participatory recordkeeping and archival design methodology to tackle these challenges. Over the past two decades a number of inquiries into Australian communities facing identity, memory and accountability crises – Stolen Generations, Former Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians and Forced Adoptions – have highlighted the dysfunctional and fragmented nature of recordkeeping and archival access systems.

They have documented the damage these systems can inflict on members of these communities looking for records to make sense of past experiences, re-connect with family, assert rights and seek redress. Growing awareness of these problems has led to a range of individual project-based initiatives, but we are yet to see substantive and sustained progression of the integrated recordkeeping and archival networks the reports from the inquiries have recommended.

A key lesson from responses to date is that we can only get so far in tackling this kind of community engagement and participation onto existing frameworks. It is perhaps not so surprising given the technology (paper), the audience (for recordkeeping systems organisational accountability and for archival access systems principally academic researchers) and the times (information scarcity) they have been designed for. Fundamental reform requires a re-think of how recordkeeping and archival systems are designed; not just for whom but also by whom.


See the Archives and the RIghts of the Child Research Program.