The MPWARA Project

The MPWARA Project seeks to collect, share, and learn from the lived experiences of archivists who are (or have been) the first formally-trained person to manage archival functions for organizations where archival tasks were previously performed by others, or not at all.

I am interested in exploring the gaps between formal training and the needs of the working archive; in documenting how those gaps affect practitioners, especially those early in their careers and those working in community-based archives; and in using this information to formulate actionable suggestions for improvements to professional education and more inclusive practice.

Want to share your own MPWARA experiences? Take the online survey.

What does MPWARA stand for? MPWARA stands for “my predecessor wasn’t a real archivist”–a phrase that kept cropping up in conversations with recent MLIS graduates, as well as with more senior practitioners who were bringing their archival training to bear in new settings. While this phrase definitely begs the question of what qualifies as a “real” archivist (a topic I’ve addressed elsewhere), it also clearly and concisely indicated that the people who used it were encountering a common and recognizable set of on-the-job difficulties.

How is MPWARA pronounced? You can say it any way you like, but em-pee-wah-rah seems to work well enough for most.

Who is conducting this study? Snowden Becker is the lead investigator. She has over 20 years of experience as a practitioner in the museum, archive, and library community, and has taught graduate students in LIS, Public History, and specialized AV archiving and preservation degree programs since 2006. She has experienced MPWARA Syndrome more than once in her career.

What steps are you taking to protect participants in this research? Has it received review and approval from a research board? This research is being conducted by an independent scholar who has received prior training and certification in human studies research best practices, research ethics, and data privacy and confidentiality.

Although this project has not been vetted by an institutional review board (IRB), the investigator has followed similarly rigorous practices for peer review and vetting of survey instruments prior to circulation. A committee of advisors with human studies research experience is also in place for consultation in the event that ethical, privacy, or safety concerns arise in the course of the research.

Research data, including survey responses and interview notes and transcripts, will be preserved following best practices for social science research data. Shared data sets will include de-identified and/or aggregrate data only. All survey responses will remain anonymous, will be securely stored, and will only be accessible to the project investigator. Although selected respondents will be contacted for follow-up interviews, survey participants are not required to provide contact information. Information provided in text responses will not be quoted verbatim in publications based on this research if there is a likelihood that details will be personally identifiable.

Have other questions? Please reach out directly! You can email the project investigator: snowdenbecker (at) gmail (dot) com, or DM @snowdenbecker on Twitter.