The intersection between museums and archives is a topic pertinent to both professionals and academics, and one that deserves further attention. Both museums and archives share a dedication and commitment to collection development, advocacy, interpretation, and public engagement. Mutual understanding, sharing skills, and developing new areas of expertise are crucial to staying current in a world of constant change.

There were very few professional associations of archivists before the Second World War. Today there are more than 1,300 worldwide. Whether local, national, regional, or international, large or small, associations contribute significantly to the development of the profession. What do they do? What are their primary contributions to the profession? What is their role? This article addresses these questions by exploring one such association in Puerto Rico, ArchiRed, to show the power that can come from working together in our field.

Similar to other countries in Latin America and in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico has an association that brings together the archivists of Puerto Rico. Known as the Puerto Rico Archives Network (in Spanish, Red de Archivos de Puerto Rico; ArchiRed) the main purpose of this non-profit association is to establish a coordinated system of support among the various and diverse archival entities in the country. Its primary objective is to rescue and preserve the documentary heritage of the island and place the wealth of documentation and information at the disposal of the researcher and the community in general. ArchiRed is committed to promoting the important role that archives must fulfill for the benefit of society, and building solidarity in the fields of archives, documentary heritage, and the recovery of historical memory. 

There are many types of different archives in Puerto Rico. They include private and public entities that are located both in government spaces within the municipalities or in museums around the island. While unrelated to each other, they share the same goal of stewarding the historic memory of Puerto Rico. ArchiRed recognizes the urgent need to implement a common standardized process that facilitates recognition of and access to documents and aspires to connect the island’s archives in a formal association governed by basic rules. The association’s priorities include “moving towards an enrichment of the documentary heritage and the full development of the archives; obtaining greater protection for what constitutes an irreplaceable cultural heritage; ensuring greater resources (human and economic), and sharing knowledge and skills through training and continuing education of the personnel who work in these entities”, spokesperson Jose Ortiz explained. 

The result of this reciprocal and coordinated effort, in which the constitutive and functional characteristics of each entity are respected, is of great benefit to the Puerto Rican community. As a result of this approach, the rich documentation will be preserved for future generations. 

ArchiRed provides a space where archivists can reflect, support each other, and jointly build products that develop and improve their operations; discuss all kinds of questions; contact each other; publicize the activities of their work centres. This forum aims to decrease the isolation of the archivist who typically works alone, having no contact with colleagues in their organization or their field.  

The network’s membership includes Puerto Rican archives, libraries, cultural centres, collections, and museums, as well as individuals who share the interest in preserving history. Currently, there are 24 registered active members. However, participation in ArchiRed’s educational activities far exceeds their membership. For this reason, they know that they impact a large part of the library and archives community in Puerto Rico and that there is an interest in and need for relevant professional training. This motivates them to redouble efforts to attract and retain new members. 

In order to amplify knowledge among their members, ArchiRed stimulates the formation and consolidation of support networks by creating working groups among its members. They also promote comparative research on topics relevant to the archival society, search for solutions, contribute to the promotion and renewal of critical thinking, and study and compare the issues and realities of archiving in Puerto Rico. The aim is to produce critical knowledge at a theoretical and academic level, which can have a real impact on working processes. Findings are disseminated as articles published in the association’s annual magazine, ArchiDATA.

ArchiDATA, also serves as a means of dissemination to spread information related to archives, libraries, and information centres. The main topics covered revolve around archival science, preservation, conservation, document management, experiences of researchers in archives, exhibitions, documentary, proposal writing, ethics of managing documentary resources, and storage of resources, among other themes.

ArchiRed’s current and future projects include expanding their membership base, enhancing its presence amidst other like-minded professional regional and international networks, librarians, and museologists, and publishing additional resources for its members. They will hold a talk in 2022 about Archives and Research. 

What does the future hold for ArchiRed? 

José Ortiz, a spokesperson for ArchiRed, explains: “Analysis is one of the most pressing projects for the Board of Directors. During this year, we will be carrying out an evaluation process of the organization, so that we have a clear idea of ​​the strengths and challenges of ArchiRed, its validity among the community of information services in Puerto Rico, and how it can be adapted to the needs of its partners. In the coming years, we see ArchiRed as an organization that:

  • Increases its relevance for our partners/members
  • Actively carries out educational, cultural, and professional improvement activities associated with the specific interests and needs of our members.
  • Participates in public affairs related to the creation, management, conservation of, and access to documents and other materials that form the historical and cultural heritage of Puerto Rico.
  • Facilitates opportunities for members and the archives they represent.
  • Promotes new knowledge and new methodologies on archiving in Puerto Rico.”

Special thanks to José Ortiz (Director, Archive of the Sila M. Calderón Foundation Center for Puerto Rico), Hilda Teresa Ayala-González (Director, General Archive and National Library of Puerto Rico), and the ArchiRed Board of Directors for providing information for this article. 

For more information: 

Facebook: @ArchiRed Archivos 

Twitter: @archiredpr